Content Management System (CMS) Report on Alternatives to Back-End



August 10, 2007

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), a long-time client, recently approached OpenConcept about content management systems (CMS) and the potential transition from what they are using now. CUPE’s website is currently running on a highly customized version of the Back-End (BE) CMS. BE’s existing, extended functionality is based on several modifications made by CUPE staff and contracted developers over the past few years. However, BE as an open-source CMS is no longer being developed – meaning that no additional features or updates are being provided by the open-source community, and external technical support is limited. As a result, OpenConcept is investigating potential alternative CMS’ for the future of CUPE’s web presence.


This report looks at CUPE’s current BE content management system as a benchmark, and then considers three alternatives: WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal. Each CMS is examined in terms of three of CUPE’s most important criteria: (1) multilingual capabilities (also called internationalization or i18n); (2) end-user usability; and (3) developer usability. We’ll be using the default installations for each CMS (along with the minimum amount of add-ons as possible, except where necessary). Additionally, we take a brief look the CiviCRM customer relationship management system and investigate its capacity for integration into the alternative CMS’. CUPE’s current equivalent to CiviCRM is called “Luiz.” All alternative CMS’ examined here are part of the open-source community, and are based on PHP backed by mySQL. Sample default installations are available as indicated. The report is written for a semi-technical audience, and concludes broadly: in terms of CUPE requirements, there will necessarily be customizations made and new modules developed for which ever CMS is selected. Given the broad-based community dedicated to open-source, and the quality of the codebase, Drupal seems to be the most likely candidate for CUPE’s future web presence.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.