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Support and community

Evaluate the level of community backing your chosen CMS. The number of active developers in the community will directly influence the quality of the CMS, as they will be able to add features, fix bugs and provide some level of support. A good CMS should have valuable support channels like official forums, mailing lists, wikis and knowledge bases. In short, the bigger and more active the community, the better the CMS.

Users and clients

See who's using your chosen product. Some users have added their support to CMS communities through donations, which can help promote growth and maturity; others have contributed to development, testing, translations, themes and skin design, or simply promoted and spread the word.

Documentation

If and when something does go wrong, often the fastest way to solve a problem is to check out the documentation rather than wait for a quick response from the community. Documentation - installation and upgrade guides, user manuals, and administration and developer manuals - should be so simple that non-technical staff should understand them, yet detailed enough that every step can be followed easily.

Age, simplicity and complexity

Maturity matters. Forget a CMS with a version number less than one, as this is a good sign of its stability and completeness. The CMS that's been on the market more than eight to ten years might also have problems, because it can become very big, and start to pack in too many features and add-ons for your needs. However, more features may be what you want - it just depends on your requirements: a simple website with just news, event and pages support versus a portal with membership, discussion board, photo gallery, blog, auction and payments.

Conclusion

Open source is opening up CMS, putting the ability to filter and serve information in the hands of more developers and organizations with big plans but tight budgets. Hopefully, this guide will have given you some helpful tips when it comes to choosing the open source CMS that suits your needs.

A specialist in Java, .NET and open source for distributed online development, Bayarsaikhan Volodya blogs frequently about his experiences while providing comparative analysis at www.plentyofcode.com

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