The University of California, Davis has been tinkering with the idea of implementing a Web content management system since 2005. To help decide which road to take, the school initiated a survey of what other campuses were using. The results were published this week and offer valuable insight into who is currently winning the Web CMS war. The results also betray how universities, which face among the greatest content management challenges of all, cope with web content issues.

Highlights of the survey

* Over 60 percent of respondents are in institutions currently using a Web CMS * Open source or custom-developed solutions are more popular in universities than off-the-shelf proprietary products * Most instances of Web CMS use are small: deployments of fewer than 40 sites, and 40 or fewer total users * Over 75 percent of adopters provide formal training to users * Most adopters are happy with their system, and would choose the same solution again * There is no clear leader in terms of which Web CMS product campuses are using 129 survey submissions were processed, and two-thirds of these respondents were employing a Web CMS solution. The largest single group (18 users total) used a custom built Web CMS. Of the products available commercially or open source, there is great diversity in what campuses are using. Outside of custom built products, Plone is the most popular Web CMS product in the survey (13 users), followed by Drupal (10), Joomla (8), ZOPE (8), RedDot (OT) (6). MS SharePoint attracted only 4 customers (beaten by dotCMS, with 5) and WordPress only 1.

Budget

Universities can implement such solutions for a fraction of the cost of commercial organizations. Indeed, the vast majority of universities spend less than a thousand dollars on their software. But when forced to tip the coffer for licensing fees, they typically spent between US$ 10,000 and US$ 50,000. Hardware costs were mostly less than US$ 1,000. And very few had to spend over US$ 10,000. These institutions being universities, consultancy fees were typically US$ 0 to US$ 1000; and maintenance and training were similarly low.

Implementation

Implementation of Web CMS architecture across campuses appears generally haphazard. Nearly half of responding institutions used their Web CMS on fewer than a quarter of their websites, and hardly any employed the solution to more than 40 domains. Nearly half of responding institutions got their Web CMS up and running within three months, with around 10 percent admitting to spending more than a year in the implementation stage. Around two-thirds said that the level of customization was either 'Very little' or 'None.'

Support and Training

More than 90 percent of respondents had fewer than three, and most often zero, dedicated staff supporting the Web CMS. Formal training is almost always offered to users, invariably by technical staff. Only two respondents had a Project Manager to oversee support of the system; support staff were overwhelmingly technical/system admins. Meanwhile, two-thirds were using products with no technical support services from the vendor/developer side.

Evaluation

This section of the survey examines respondents' product choice. Those who picked Plone did so mostly because it was open source, was perceived as easy to use, had a strong user base, and was renowned as stable and scalable. Alfresco users were particularly enthused about their product's ease of use and workflow features, but admitted that it took a bit of getting used to. Joomla users were in love with the user interface, stability, and templates, but thought workflow features were non-intuitive. Drupal users raved about the ease-of-use and flexibility of their product but complained about a steep learning curve, and again about workflow interface being non-intuitive. But in spite of gripes, most were happy with their product, and in fact very few said they wish they'd picked a different solution. Examine UC Davis' results in full.