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Is your CMS multi-site capable ?

Posted 16 April 2011 by Sean Fishlock (Datalink)

A recent survey by CMS Wire found that the majority of content management systems (CMS) out there, particularly the popular open source ones, are single site oriented.    What does this mean for marketers, public relations and webmaster?  Well it severely limits what they can do with their public and intranet websites.  

Often they will be forced to build, manage, maintain, update/upgrade and host several individual websites and install plugins or implement cludges to share data between them.

Who needs a multi-site capable CMS?

New trends are giving rise to micro-sites and search engine targeted landing pages which require more flexibility to run many sites.

Content is still king on the web.  Still, large information rich sites are giving way to smaller, more bite sized chunks - even one pagers - focused on specific audiences with short attention spans and increasingly using mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. 

For many enterprise sized websites a multi-site capable CMS can mean significant cost reduction in software licencing, maintenance and support.  The return on investment can be enormous.

What makes a good multi-site capable CMS?

The critical elements of success of large scale multi-site systems are:

  • easy to setup sites
  • easy to share content
  • workflow capable
  • search engine friendly technology
  • delivery to multiple platforms

Ideally these are run from the same CMS or dynamic database but run on separate domains and have their own graphics, styles, information architecture and navigation models.  For larger organisations, they would offer methods for content and data sharing and interoperability with social media and policies and workflows to support a large number of distributed authors.  They may also support accessibility standards.  

How do we know?

Well we've had plenty of recent success in deploying website software solutions that are multi-site capable.  

We've also integrated the functionality into Zeevo CMS software to meet the needs of customers.

Not only does it support the addition of unlimited websites from various templates, but it also allows multiple data sharing models between them. The National Tertiary Education Union operates over 70 websites and publishes its blog articles between multiple of them using various workflows for suggestion and approval of contributions from hundreds of authors.  This allows messages to filter down the various levels and branches of the organisation with different levels of control at each stage of the organisation heirarchy.

Multi-site management at the NTEU

We've also been running multi-site on this website, currently powering over 10 websites from the same system.  Several websites in development are using the technology specifically to gain an edge with search engines like Google using established search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques.  The progressive design standards ensure that the site templates run from the CMS are not only delivered to iPads and iPhones but work well out-of-the-box with their smaller touchscreens.

Content can be tagged and suggested between sites.

Info sharing, tagging and suggestion

An approval system for suggested content makes it easy to publish information shared by other site webmasters.

Content suggestion and sharing

With Zeevo a micro-site or mini site can be up and running in less than a couple of hours using a decent template.  

I gotta get me one of those ...

Zeevo CMS is available now from Datalink.  Stay tuned for walkthrough videos and a step-by-step example of how to create a new site.

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