Managing the Web

The original Web challenge was to get the right information up on the site. The amount of information on sites continues to grow. It’s getting increasingly difficult to keep that information current and consistent. Web sites with out of date and inconsistent information broadcast a strong message, … and it ain’t positive!

Increasing the number of people dedicated to the care and feeding of your Web site is one response. It can get expensive. It’s too expensive many non-profit associations. And it’s too expensive for many smaller firms. What’s needed is a cost-effective way to manage Web content.

A way must be found for people within the organization to directly manage “their” information. But providing open access to the Web doesn’t work. People don’t know enough to limit themselves to only changing content that is safe to change. Navigation gets broken and format corrupted.

What’s needed is a Web content management system. The system must separate content from presentation. Responsible users can then be given permission to change “their” content, but not to change other parts of the site. And before the changes take effect, they can be reviewed.

There are a number of Web content management software solutions. The problem is that many of these solutions come with high price tags, or are so limited that they can only meet the needs of the simplest Web sites. This is a real problem for smaller firms and for non-profit associations.

There is a way around the high purchase price for content management software. There are respectable and established open source alternatives. The software is free. You pay only for the help you need to install, configure, and adapt the system. It can be an attractive proposition.

I went looking for open source content management software that could meet the needs of a local non-profit association. What I discovered may be of interest to others. The first observation was that most of the open source “packages” were really just promising bits and pieces.

One alternative stood out as the most promising choice for the association. Zope ( has a number of attractive features. It will run on most platforms and can be selectively applied to portions of a Web site. I have proposed a Zope pilot project to manage the events portion of the association’s Web site.

The Zope architecture is particularly appealing. It takes an object oriented approach. Content, presentation, business logic, and users are all objects to Zope. Users can play different roles with view, edit, create, and publish rights to selective content, presentation, and business logic objects.

Zope (Z Object Publishing Environment) was given to the open source world by Digital Creations ( It is used on thousands of Web sites, and there are hundreds of contributed open source add-on’s. Digital Creations makes a comfortable living by providing Zope consulting.

There is no dominant proprietary content management solution, especially not for smaller sites. In this kind of market, it’s just not safe to trust any single vendor. You have a responsibility to own the solution. Open source helps you do that. It’s the kind of deal that needs to be considered.

Fabian is an established Canadian management and system consultant ( who has always been fascinated by technology.

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