By Alex Walker

Spin the Bottle with CMS Matrix

By Alex Walker

Clients are definitely becoming more sophisticated. Three years ago every initial client meetings started with an explanation and demo of a content management system — “So,… I can change this at our office, then ?“. Now they more often arrive with a feature list in hand asking if our CMS has ‘friendly URLs’, ‘plugin gateways’ and ‘infinite subcategories’. This is a good thing in general.

I think this has been one of the great side-effects of the ‘rise of blogging’. Although most of these clients aren’t running their own blog, most seem to have a friend or colleague who is, or, at least, have placed comments on other people’s blogs. Essentially the whole process has helped to create the new concept for them that websites aren’t static bill posters, but live, editable spaces that reflect whatever’s going on in their life/business/world.

So, if you’re a small team/sole developer looking to offer your clients a customized CMS, where do you start? — even if you limited your list to only open source PHP/MySQL products, you might still be looking at hundreds.

CMS Matrix websiteCMS Matrix is a nice place to start narrowing your list. Although it has been around for a long time now, I’m always surprised at how few developers have used it. The site contains information on over four hundred commerical grade systems (419 at last count) and allows you to perform feature comparisons between any number of them. It will even let you generate a short list of candidates by searching on specific server requirements, operating environment, features, commercial licencing agreements, and latest update.

A great service and very worthwhile bookmark if you’re considering a fresh look at CMS offereings.

  • drakke

    Another place to get CMS information is to join CMPros

  • Ryan Wray

    A good place to try-out open source CMS’s is at This allows you to test the CMS you have interest in without downloading, installing it, configuring it, etc. Useful if you choose to use a open source CMS.

  • Sadly, CMS Matrix is often quite inaccurate in its feature lists and is PHP/MySQL specific.

    As starting points for evaluation they’re good, but ultimately you really need to do a better comparison than they provide.

    I would recommend looking on CMS Matrix to get an idea for what systems are out there on your platform/license terms, then install the CMSes you’re interested in evaluating further on a test box.

  • All good points. Certainly, you do have to rely to an extent on the honesty of the vendors that enter the information into the system at Matrix. Some things can be fudged slightly — “Does your CMS having caching? … well kinda, so yes”

    But many important questions are more ‘unfudgable’. Is it free? What platform does it run on? etc

    Still, as a way of culling a huge list of potential candidates down to a more managable proposition it’s a nice start versus typing ‘CMS’ into Google.

    I think in an ideal world, you would create a shortlist at CMS Matrix, demo it (if possible) at OpenSourceCMS (or elsewhere) and then actually get it running somewhere.

  • TheLunchBox and are great resources too. One problem with sites like cmsMatrix is that they only list features, you can’t really find out much about stability, reliability and implementation issues.

  • It’s hard to beat recommendations from people who have actually used these products, particularly if you have to do any migration work.

  • Mike Johnston is also a good resource

  • Mike Johnston is also a great resource

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