Which Content Management Systems Do Canadian Universities Use?

image of Canadian flag

Content Management System Survey Sample

In this post we summarise the results of investigating which Content Management Systems (CMS) are used to support the main websites for Canadian universities and colleges. The current post follows on from similar reviews of UK and US universities and their Content Management Systems.

In the post covering US universities we noted the acute problem of using a representative sample of universities. In the end we picked the top 135 (to match the earlier UK sample) universities as ranked in in The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016. Fortunately, Canada has far fewer post-secondary institutions than the United States, being more in line with the UK. We used the close-to-100 members of Universities Canada and added in additional degree-awarding colleges to assemble a similar-sized sample of 135 post-secondary institutions.

Research Approach

Some institutions have gone to great lengths to remove identification of the CMS being used – likely to reduce the threat of hackers using known vulnerabilities to attach a site.As a result, a combination of diligence and detective work is needed to determine which CMS is in use. About 10% of sites will not yield their CMS to 'casual' inspection and we have elected not to go beyond normal inspection of a site to determine the system in use. There are four main methods for finding the CMS:

  • Often a site’s metadata yields the CMS, showing up in source code as:

meta name="generator" content="Name of CMS Here"

meta content="Name of CMS Here" name="generator"

  • Other sites reveal their CMS through source code clues;
  • A small group of sites set cookies identifying the underlying CMS; and,
  • The remaining sites discuss their CMS in on-line documentation.

Content Management System Survey Observations

We describe our 'non-intrusive' approach to identifying which content management systems are in use below, but in the course of carrying out the work we can make a number of observations.

  • The results shown in the graph below represent the Content Management System used on the main landing page or gateway site at each university or college. In practice, the larger the institution (as measured by number of different faculties, departments, locations or students), the more likely it is that multiple CMSs are in use across the organisation;
  • A small group of universities have implemented one CMS across the entire organization – with the attendant benefits of standardisation, control over brand identity, simplification of end user support and development and availability of organisation-wide analytics;
  • A much larger group has implemented a more functional CMS for the main 'gateway' website, but offers 'self-service' solutions for other units of the organisation or staff to use.From an end user perspective, it is not clear that there is any material difference between this approach and a single system. However, the latter approach brings improved analytics and more sophisticated tailoring of the visitor experience; and,
  • On-site Google Custom Search implementations typically yield fewer relevant results than using Google Advanced Search and specifying the relevant domain name.If on-site search is important (as measured by Google Analytics), the visitor experience could be markedly improved by 'tweaking' Google Custom Search implementations.

Content Management System Survey Results

Here are the results from the main (gateway or main landing page) websites for the 135 Canadian universities and colleges. Our results reflect data collected in late-September 2016.

  • Canadian post-secondary institutions collectively use a greater number of different systems (30 different CMSs) than the US (16) or the UK (20) to manage their main websites;
  • As in the US and UK, Drupal has the greatest 'market share';
  • The principal US CMS suppliers to higher education (Cascade Server & OmniUpdate) are present in the Canadian market, as is SiteCore, which suggests a focus by some institutions on managing the 'customer experience' rather than just generating web pages;
  • There are a relatively large number of one-off or two-off CMS implementations spread among the different post-secondary institutions in our survey group. Solutions with relatively small customer bases raise issues of expert support resource availability, the ease with which content contributors can use an application and the ability of these solutions to evolve and deliver new functionality.

You can find the suppliers as follows:

If you are interested in the data behind the chart, would like to see a regular survey of this type or are interested in the results for other geographical markets, please comment below.

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