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CMS (Content Management System) : Accessibility [10/030/08]


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Typical CMSs have been notoriously not Accessible. This has changed a bit, so here I will be posting some of the more accessible versions of CMSs.


This list will therefore be growing so keep an eye on it.


What is a CMS for? Well anyone can use them, but they are meant for larger complicated sites, or sites with many people accessing them. Say a organization with many offices or departments and each group has their own information areas they update. But also if your customer wishes to care for the site themselves. You spend allot of time making the site accessible and error free, then your customer messes it up some how, then visitors think you messed it up.


Best is to create the site from the ground up within the CMS. However in some you can insert sections of your already made site as well, but that is more troublesome. Another advantage is extensions like search scripts, calendars, guest books etc. that you can add more easily.




Free (mostly GNU license)

  • Typo3 - This is a German CMS, but the main language is English and it supports over 20 languages in the Back end. It is GNU and based on PHP. It is a highend professional CMS with a steep learning curve, but it also has a large support community and lots of good extensions to it. It sells itself as accessible and is one of two CMS suggested by a German Accessibility group.
    [Comments: I spent over a week on this system. It has a steep learning curve. It also uses it's own language which you need to learn to really work with it. In the end it is to complicated for the simple sites I needed a CMS for. It seems to be a good corporate CMS, but be prepared to learn for quite a while first.]
  • Papoo - Another German CMS (supports English as well) claiming accessibility. This one is rather new so the support community and extensions are not so large yet. The back end is much more simplified and better for private sites and I will be using this one next.
    [Comments: This has a very simple background and is easy enough to set up and the back end is simple. However you really need to use a variation on the Papoo design, I was not able to easily carry my design over into the script so I dropped it as a possibility for my projects.]
  • Plone - this is the second CMS suggested by the German Accessibility group. It is powerful and easily extended to meet your needs. One possible drawback is that it is based on Python which is not as widely supported, so be sure your server supports Python first.
    [Comments: I never really worked with Plone so not much to say. I installed it while not really looking for one. It took over my server so I removed it again. It's use of Python may hold it back as few people really know the language.]
    [Comments from Stefan: I don't think Plone would be a good choice for most (though it is powerful,) because it requires massive server resources that most people simply don't have. This is direct from the Plone website:
    Plone is much heavier on RAM and CPU usage than your run-off-the-mill web system. It's built to do a lot of different things, and should preferably be hosted on a dedicated server if possible.
    The most important consideration when building a Plone server is to have enough RAM. To take plone.org as an example, it uses about 500-700MB of RAM fully cached. It is a very busy site, though - so you will get by with less, normally. For basic usage, you can get away with about 100MB RAM usage. You should have at least 512MB RAM]
    [Comments: Considering that standard hosting plans give you between 64 to 128 megs of ram - Plone simply doesn't fit.]
  • PHP CMS - This is another German system (in English) I am looking at now. Sounds good, but am having a devil of a time with the installation. Sites made with it have tested well for accessibility by a leading German organization (of course a web sites accessibility still depends on the designer)
    [Comments: I never even got this running right on my local server, then when taking a break and trying to blend the template into the frame work..... I gave up. What goes where is not clear to see at all. It may be easier if you have experience with SmartyTemplate which it uses.]
  • CMSimple - this came into a quick consideration as a tool but we never followed up on it, not fitted for our project, but may still be good for you.
  • Textpattern - this was brought up in another forum when discussing CMSs and the poster claimed it is accessible, glancing around the web site it does claim to be standards compliant, I did not specifically see a claim for accessibility, but that does not mean that it is not. It does look interesting and maybe of interest to some of you. It also comes in multiple languages and is said to have a good community behind it, but the documentation is said to leave something to be desired.
  • Joomla! - [Edit: It would seem that Joomla! has once again began working on accessibility and the member quoted before is once more involved with the development.]
  • MKDoc - this one doesn't really even claim to be a CMS, but does much the same. I have no experience with it.
  • CMS Made Simple - This is a new one to me. I was suggested in a forum and a member I respect said it looks good but was not fitting his project. It is not claiming to be accessible but would seem to be easily modified. I hope to check it out in the near future.
  • Umbraco - This is an open source ASP.NET based CMS with good references for it's accessibility. Once again it seems to be the Europeans leading the way as this is one of the few CMS not based on PHP and is from Denmark.
    [Comments: No experience with this system]




  • QnECMS - This one does cost money. This is a development of GAWDs (Guild of Accessible Web Designers). This would be my No. 1 choice if not for the English Back end.
    [Comments: This is the CMS I have settled for. It uses no Back end, the administration links are hidden and appear at the bottom of the site after you sign in. It is built in the style of a Blog. All articles and pages you create can be set to allow comments by the user, your choice. Plugins include a newsletter and a Pole. It has a built in RSS feed, all your newest postings to your site are automatically fed into the RSS and your subscribers can follow what has changed. Anyone can join your site and depending on how you set it up create their own pages that naturally will only be posted after you OK them.
    What I had not managed in any other CMS, I carried my template into this CMS in one day and was able to keep the design exactly as I wanted it. You simply copy and paste your HTML sections into a template and upload your CSS. It is not cheap, but the price is in my mind worth it. You can purchase a multiple license, then sell as many as you like or simply build it into your future projects and add it to the project cost, after say a half dozen uses, you have recovered the cost. There is a Demo available at the web site and I will likely allow a Demo from my DarkShadow-Designs when it is finished so you can see how I modified the CMS and blended my Template into it. The multilingual support is being developed and I am doing the German Translation which will be the first offered.]
  • LiveStoryBoard - Subscription. Claims to be Standards compliant. No experience with it, but it is in my Bookmarks so someone must have suggested it to me at some point.
    [Comments: No experience with this system]
  • Libertas-Systems - Offers a CMS, they are members of the Accessify Forum and I know they are interested in accessibility as well.
    [Comments: No experience with this system]
  • Colony CMS - A Standards based Accessible CMS brought to my attention by Richard Conyard who is involved and I know from Accessify as well. Once again someone I know is interested in accessibility.
    [Comments: No experience with this system, Richard Conyard is however a developer I respect.]
  • NQContent - this is new to me. However as you will see reading the main page many UK government councils and some organizations have chosen it for it's flexibility.
    [Comments: I have no experience on this CMS nor will I due to the Price. You must also expect to re-pay the licensing fee every 1 or 2 years. I have yet to note where it claims accessibility, however many choosing it fall under UK Government Guidelines so it clearly can not be unaccessible and is flexible enough to really tweak it to make it so.]
  • Polopoly - this is a Swedish CMS for larger comapanies and corporations. There is no price to bee found easily when scanning the site but I assume it is not cheap.
    [Comments: No experience with this system. It has a rather impressive customer list. Many which come under the UK's DDA accessibility law, so it is said to be good as far as accessibility is concerned.]
  • NQcontent - This one makes many claims to accessibility compliance. Again it is a CMS for larger organizations.
    [Comments: No experience with this system]
  • Subdreamer - Not sure who suggested this one, nor do I see any apparent claims to accessibility. However it does look promising and has a price tag a normal person can swallow with a little struggle. Also offers a Photo Gallery ad different skins.
    [Comments: No experience with this system]
  • Defacto - This is as I understand it a Hosted service, so on their servers and it does cost money. However their accessibility is said to be very good and they offer different account types like, Non-Profit, Educational, Corporate and Public Sector.
    [Comments: No experience with this system]



I have also come across one named CMSimple.


But keep in mind, a CMS is only a tool to help speed up site creation and maintenance, accessibility is still a matter of common sense, you have to change things by hand still sometimes.


You may also find OpensourceCMS.com useful.


Lastly, Mambo is well known but not an alternative in my mind if you wish accessibility. Although far from the best, if you want Mambo I would at least stress that you consider Drupal as the better of the two.





Those of you into blogging have likely heard of WordPress as one of the best programs for it. However be default WordPress is not specifically Accessibility targeted. [There as been a major release improving Wordpress and a update of that a week later. It is sweet, we are using it at the paper for our blogs. 02/28/07]


A web developer I know and respect has created a WordPress theme that you may find interesting and that will improve the accessibility of your site. Beast-Blog theme for WordPress


You can learn about Wordpress right here at killersites in our Wordpress section.




Since the publishing of this thread there seems to have been some movement and a few more products have come to light... all of which I have not used. So I offer to you two more links, a piece on CMS accessibility from 456 Berea Street with allot of CMS suggestions in the comments and some CMS Test results from Juicy Studios.


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Guest pavarolar

I would like to make a comment on Wordpress and using it as CMS.


This can be done quite easily and the result site can be a very accessible and easily manageable website. Thanks to an active Wordpress development community to come up with endless supply of useful plugins that are free to download and use. I have now build nearly 10 websites (not blogs) all using Wordpress. It never been easier to manage all of the content on these websites with Wordpress.


I think Wordpress is worth a look if you are considering a CMS.

Edited by pavarolar
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