Quick Take Review: Clover Content CMS

Their website says it all: Clover CMS is a simple web content management system. Designed to provide basic content management functionality, the intent is to bring content management capabilities to organizations with only minimum requirements and a minimum of appetite for learning new technology.

What Clover Content offers is a straightforward way to create content for your website in a hosted environment, delivered to your website via two simple lines of code.

With this Quick Take Review (see more quick take CMS reviews), we show you exactly what Clover Content CMS is and isn't. Come take a closer look.

Overview

Clover Content CMS is a hosted (SaaS) content management solution. It provides the basic content management capabilities that enable an organization to easily create and modify content for a website.

Officially launched on December 1, 2008, the content management system currently supports over a dozen websites and is growing every day.

CMS Basics

Vendor Factor Three Software
Product Name
Clover Content
Product Category
Web CMS
Typical Scenario
Basic content management for brochure-ware style, small business website; content management back-end solution for a website design company that builds websites.

Company and Product History

Clover Content is owned by Don Fitzsimmons of Factor Three Software. The decision to develop this simple CMS stemmed from an experience Don had in late 2007 trying to help a friend implement content management on their hosted website.

What Don realized is that there are people and organizations out there that need basic content management that is simple to use and can be easily implemented on an existing website.

That's what Clover Content is, the back-end content management functionality that feeds content to websites built on any technology and hosted anywhere.

Marketing and Pricing

There are two primary markets for Clover Content. The first is web design or web development agencies who build websites for other people. Clover Content provides them with pre-built content management functionality that is easy to set up and even easier to modify with their own designs. This enables the design company to focus on their strengths -- the website's user interface and user interactions.

The second market is the small to mid-size business who want basic web content management capabilities for their existing site or for new micro-sites.

Currently, the company has focused on the local market in Arizona, building awareness and establish credibility near homebase.

Pricing

Pricing is packaged based with the ability to customize based on individual needs. The packages are as follows:

Lite US$ 9.00 / month 6 dynamic pages; 1 blog; 1 File Library; 1 Contact Us Form
Standard
US$ 12.00 / month 10 dynamic pages; 1 blog; 2 File Libraries; 1 Contact Us Form
Pro
US$ 14.00 / month 12 dynamic pages; 1 blog; 3 File Libraries; 1 Contact Us Form

All packages provide a 30-day risk free evaluation period. 

It's important to clearly point out that this pricing is for the back-end content management administration capability and does not include the actual website the content is fed into. The website is the responsibility of the organization.

Key Features and Ratings

Core Technology

Clover Content is built on the latest Microsoft technologies. The content administration website is built using ASP.NET and has a SQL Server database to hold the content.

Content is delivered to a website via a SOAP-based web services API.

The entire solution leverages Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), one of Microsoft's latest programming interfaces in the .Net Framework 3.0.

 

Clover web content management architecture

Diagram: Clover CMS Architecture

This is a service-oriented architecture model based on web services. There is no software to install on your servers or host provider.

To get content into your website from the Clover Content Management System, you simply place two lines of code on your web page. The code snippet comes in three languages: PHP, ASP.NET and JavaScript. So even though the content management system is built on Microsoft technologies, your website does not have to be.

Set-up of the code snippets on the website is the responsibility of the organization and since the primary market is web design or web development companies it should not be a stretch to think that they could implement the code snippets fairly easily.

In cases where a client isn't comfortable implementing the code, Clover Content will do it free of charge.

Content Entities

Clover Content currently offers several different content entities. These are as follows:

  • Content Items - such as page or content area (or module) on a page
  • Content Lists
  • Blogs and blog posts

You can have one or more content items or lists on a page. Each content item or list requires a separate call to Clover Content to get the associated content (and as a result, a separate set of code snippets).

Content Items have a title, a body and a footer field. The body can be created using a rich text editor (FCKEditor). You can also add images to the content body. Images are stored in the File Libraries which are easily searched from the editor. The title and footer are straight text (they do not have an editor attached).

 

CC_ContentEdit.jpg

Content Editing with Clover CMS

Content Lists also have a title, body and footer and the body uses the rich text editor.

The blog feature contains basic blogging features including:

  • Displaying a list of posts from new to old
  • Providing permalinks to posts
  • Pagination/archiving
  • RSS feeds

Content Versioning

There is no content versioning with Clover Content. There are plans for a "draft" version to be stored, but currently the only version you see is the one you have on the website. Of course this means you need to be very careful creating and previewing your content before you publish it.

Workflow

This is no content workflow capability.

Multi-Lingual Support

Clover Content is English only as their current market does not have the demand for multi-lingual support. They have not ruled out providing multi-lingual content capability in the future.

Editorial Features

As a very simple CMS, there are not many editorial features for the administration. You can view the content items and lists you create, update and/or delete them, preview them, mark them as active and publish them.

 

CC_AdminHome.jpg

Clover Content Dashboard

Marking content as active means it will show up on the website. Unchecking the Active checkbox results in the content not being available.

There are no content start and end dates, no content expiration dates or archiving dates, no task lists or approval features. This is a simple web content management system.

The Administration site also provides a list of contact us submissions that come from the completion of the contact us form on the website.

Managing Multiple Sites: One nice feature is the ability to manage multiple sites from the administration interface. You can switch between sites at the top of the main page for the administration site. So you can have multiple websites located anywhere, but support the content management of them from a single interface.

Support: Support for Clover Content is email based and handled directly by the developers (there are two support persons available). Response times are within 1-3 hours. With a small client base this type of support is fine. But as their market grows, they may need to look to alternative approaches and response time commitments.

Security

There are three security roles for the Clover Content Adminstration Website:

  • Account Administrator: Provides full access for all company websites including the ability to add/remove websites and users.
  • Content Editors: Provides the ability to edit content for a single site.
  • Site Administrator: Provides full access to a single website including the ability to add additional site administrators and content editors.

Content Delivery Architecture

Clover Content is hosted in a secure data center in Delaware. There are currently three servers set up to serve content with the ability to easily add additional servers as capacity requirements dictate.

As a web services based architecture, each client content call goes back to the database. There is no caching at this time.

Future Plans

We asked Don Fitzsimmons about future plans for Clover Content. He told us that version 2 of the CMS will include FAQs and link lists.

A reseller program is also currently in the works. With the reseller program, a white label version of Clover Content is provides to designers and developers who want to manage multiple websites and brand the Clover Content Management application as their own.

Our Take, In Summary

The basic concept of Clover Content is interesting. Supplying a web design/development community an easy to use and implement content management solution is likely to be a strong marketing approach.

This is truly a very basic, simple CMS. When you read the FAQs on the Clover Content Website, they are clear that if you are looking for a CMS that is more robust containing workflows and enhanced security, then Clover Content isn't the solution for you.

That being said, it seems like there should be more functionality in a basic content management solution than is currently provided in Clover Content. Key features that any CMS should provide include some level of versioning (even if it's hidden from the client) and the ability to create start and end dates for content.

Here's a summary table of the review:

Feature Description Rating
Product Core Technology Microsoft, WCF, SOAP Web Services, PHP, ASP.Net, Javascript 4
Content Entities content item,lists, blog 4
Content Versioning no versioning 0
Workflow no workflow 0
Multi-lingual Support no multi-lingual support 0
Editorial Features Nice RTE, but lacks many editorial functions 2
Security
3 levels of security, no ability to secure content entry by content type 2
Content Delivery Architecture secure data center, multiple server architecture, web services 3

 

Almost, But Not Quite True SaaS

When we think of a true SaaS Content Management Solution, vendors like Clickability and CrownPeak, who provide full end-to-end content management and delivery services come to mind. CrownPeak only recently got into the full end-to-end hosted content management market with ContentManagement.com.

Clover Content is only a partial SaaS solution without the content delivery side of the equation. You still have to get your own website set up somewhere (whether in house or hosted). This means you have to deal with two vendors for your website, something that can be painful if not managed carefully.

Similar Solutions Out There

All this being said, there may be other solutions on the market in similar price ranges that offer the same or more content management functionality than Clover Content.

Several other small content management solution providers come to mind when we think about basic content management delivered via a SaaS model. For instance, Cushy CMS also delivers a SaaS-based solution without the need for any software installations or special hosting requirements. In this case they use DOM nodes to indicate editable areas of content on a website.

Another similar solution is Surreal CMS, a relatively new content management system on the market. It connects to the website via FTP, detecting regions of content you have marked as editable.

Is Clover Content CMS the solution for you? If you already have a basic website and want some content management capability that provides basic add/edit/delete capability for a specific set of content types, you may want to look a little closer.