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A CFML-based product that really gets how to win customers, and what we can learn from it

Note: This blog post is from 2008. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
Do you offer a product or service, or find yourself considering them? Here's a CFML-based product that really gets how to win customers. The other day, Ben Forta blogged about the new CFML-based Sava CMS. (Update: since this entry was written in May 2008, the product has been renamed to Mura.)

While looking into the Mura web site, I came away so impressed that I wanted to write about it: not the tool, but the site! (Update: Again, I have updated all references and links below for the new site, but otherwise everything--my text and the resources I highlight--are the same as when I wrote this in May 2008.)

This is an example of an organization that really gets things right, not only about making their tool seem appealing but making it easy to evaluate it without having to first install it. So often, I look at various other products/projects that bury or hide key info to help me decide whether I want to bother considering it at all, let alone downloading or even installing it first. (So often, we're forced to download the product and either install it or at least read a readme. Some people just won't be bothered, so the site really can be key to winning customers.)

The Mura site does thing so well. I felt it was a real breath of fresh air, and I really hope others will consider adopting some of their approaches, which I'll talk about here.

First, I'll note that I have indeed added it to my list of CF-based CMS's. I think some would be surprised that this now makes 24 of them, at least per my listing (some free, some commercial).

What they get so right

Here are just some of the stellar features they employ on the site:

  • an attractive site interface, with a real fresh look and feel (bright, colorful, easy on the eyes, lots of pictures of real, happy-looking people)
  • a "quick tour" set of edited screenshots showing highlighted key features, in an easy to use slideshow interface
  • a set of "" pages tied separately to marketing, IT, and design folks (see the left nav bar)
  • high-level features page and separate list of all features
  • Quick start tutorials
  • their download page explains that they offer the tool in 2 forms. The "standard" flavor is simply the source code (like you'd expect for any project, though they note that it runs on either CF7+ or Railo 2.0+). The "express" flavor is a complete bundled edition that is easy to install onto a machine not running CF (or that is but you don't want to tinker with it). It runs on Railo Express which offers a totally self-contained environment to run a CFML app like Mura, with the Railo CFML Engine, Jetty Application Server and WebServer, and H2 Database. See the download page for links to those parts.
  • Of course, they have all the other expected things: FAQs, forums (as well as paid support), and nice docs in the form of a user guide, developers guide, and component API.
  • I mentioned the paid support page, and I'd say that and the services page are just another example of refreshing transparency: lots of other projects/companies kind of hide their services, as if they don't want to offend people that they're willing to take money to help users make the most of their tools. It seems a missed opportunity.
  • They also offer a list of clients, to help you feel more comfortable knowing others have gone before you, and they have a blog, which is of course a great way to keep people updated on things.

Great first impression, and a model

It's clear that these folks have put a lot of effort into the site and wanting to make the tool appealing. (If it reflects the level of care they put into the tool itself, that certainly bodes well too, and I'm sure the site could lead some to feel that way, at least on the surface, so great way to make a good first impression.)

All this is just such a rarity in my experience, and I just find it so very refreshing. I wish them well, and hope these thoughts may help some others.

I'm not knocking any others in particular

Indeed, let me add that I don't say all this to embarass anyone in particular about their site. If you think I'm talking to you, that's just your conscience, not me. :-) I have no one in mind. And I'm not limiting my thoughts to only open source projects: there are just as many commercial product sites that drop this ball, too, which just blows my mind. I do realize that open source projects (especially if they have no paid support model) often feel constrained to "afford" the time to make such a nice site. Still, this is one open source project that just gets things so right.

Who else do you think "gets it right?"

I realize, too, that there are others that do things well. I mean no slight by not mentioning them, nor highlighting them earlier. In fact, feel free to list here in the comments any other sites you think get things right. I suspect one that some would think of immediately is ColdBox, and its site, both of which Luis Majano has clearly put a lot of effort into.

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Comments
Charlie,

Thanks for the amazing review of our product site. It was very kind of you and we appreciate it very much.

Regarding your comment about the Documentation landing page...you're right on track with your feedback about that. Somehow that one slipped past us. We'll be revising that page within the next few days.

Hopefully you'll like Sava CMS itself half as much as the product site. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on that as well.

Thanks again for the kind words.
# Posted By Sean Schroeder | 5/24/08 12:13 PM
Hey Charlie,

I totally agree with your review. I too was impressed. Most sites for open source projects look awful and just don't present it well. Few go as far as the Sava team did to present their project right and encourage people to use it and improve it.

I'll definitely be looking forward to more news from that group.

Mike.
# Posted By Mike Kelp | 5/24/08 12:20 PM
I agree that it's a nice site but I was disapointed that it lacked either a Flash video of the product in action or an online demo that I could play with. I'm not sure why you're praising a list of features and some screenshots so highly.

It definately looks like a polished product with tons of features and I'll download and install it next time I consider a CMS. But it would only take them 20 minutes to record a video and put it on their site. I appreciate there may be security issues letting the world play around with an online CMS, but other sites have managed to do it.
# Posted By Gary F | 5/24/08 12:22 PM
Gary, you're not wrong that some sort of video walkthrough would be yet another nice addition. I could have knocked them for not having it, but I felt that the slideshow feature (with edited screenshots) was far better than nothing. (And judging from the quick response of Sean S above, I would imagine a video walkthrough may not be far behind.)

And as for why I'm praising it so much, I almost feel like you didn't read my entry carefully enough. I didn't praise it just for "a list of features and some screenshots". It was the attention to detail in offering info that met different levels of interest (from management to developers, or from those willing to install it to those who would prefer to know more before doing so, and so on).

That's cool if you don't see it as being as compelling as I do. But when I saw Ben mention that there was "yet another CF-based CMS", I had pretty low expectations. When I found it to not only meet but exceed those, it just compelled me to write.

If you're familiar with my list of 700+ tools that I mentioned in the entry, you can imagine then that I have visited a LOT of sites while exploring the tools, just to get even some basic info. I can tell you it's been like pulling teeth sometimes. It shouldn't be that way. The Sava people simply show a worthy example of how to get it right. That's all I was trying to share.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 5/24/08 12:49 PM
Charlie, you are correct...Videos showing Sava in use are in the works and will be added as soon as they're finished.

Gary, I agree with your assessment of our current evaluation mehods (a video walk-through would definitely be helpful, as would an online demo) please keep in mind that we launched Sava officially just a few days ago and that it was only made public a month ago. The dust is still settling. You may not want to take the time to download Sava Express (44MB OSX, 64MB Windows), but it really is an easy way to evaluate the product. In any event, as I mentioned, videos are forthcoming.
# Posted By Sean Schroeder | 5/24/08 1:06 PM
I too visited the site after reading Ben's note and was very impressed.
That is exactly what is needed to get CFML-based open source applications accepted by the world. I would definitely consider their product when I need a CMS.
This isn't a rule, but I often judge a product or service by the quality of a web site. I believe that the care and feeding of a web site will flow into the product that is being offered.
I see many of the CFML open source offerings that seem to be targeted to CF developers instead of the world. Blog apps are a classic example of this, although I think Mango is one that is trying hard to overcome this.
# Posted By Terry Schmitt | 5/24/08 3:28 PM
I agree that the website looks great, but I was more impressed by the fact that I got not one but two non-canned responses to the feedback I sent them earlier today (the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend).

A pretty website can pull customers in, but responsiveness is the best way to keep them around.
# Posted By Brian Swartzfager | 5/24/08 8:12 PM
HI There,

Like their beautifully designed site, their product 'Sava CMS" is also good one. I evaluated it last week and Iam so impressed that I started my new CMS project development using it. The great thing is that it integrate well with custom ColdFusion apps built on my favoriate framework Model-Glue.
Like Charlie said, documentation needed to improve and Iam certain that they are working on it now. BTW their forum is very active one as I got fast response from them to my queries .
# Posted By Shimju David | 5/25/08 2:12 AM
I couldn't find any note about Bluedragon. I'm guessing it doesn't work?
# Posted By ziggy | 5/25/08 4:41 AM
@Ziggy, while I noticed that too, I didn't explore it any further. Perhaps someone else can/will report. (And though I don't think you were necessarily asking me personally, I'll clarify for anyone reading this that I no longer work for the company that makes BlueDragon, since April 2006.)
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 5/25/08 8:01 AM
Considering the fact that they don't have an online demo, I was VERY impressed with their express download. If you look at the other CMS tools on Charlie's list, very few of them have ways to evaluate the product that come close to how well this one works! I wish all good tools had a self contained, easy to use demo like this. :-)

Setting up their full version is a little more complicated and would benefit from a little more polish in their read me file, but otherwise, it's super-simple to at least give it a whirl.

They're technical documentation is pretty sparse right now, but the in system help is not bad. It'll be interesting to follow this one.
# Posted By Dan Sorensen | 5/25/08 11:59 AM
Charlie - You're post was great. I agree that other sites should adopt the same strategy. The main reason I just downloaded Sava was because I was convinced through their site. I am about to install it now!
# Posted By Graham Holtshausen | 7/25/08 5:58 PM
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