Content Management Systems 101 - How to pick a CMS

6/1/2014

Content Management Systems 101 How to Pick a CMS

You need a business website with a content management system (CMS). Where do you start?

You have numerous options to consider. You'll need to make a list of desired functionality and budget available. Features vary between CMS tools; your needs will help dictate viable CMS options for you. I hate to break the news to you, but unless you are planning on spending more than six figures and are willing to invest months of time, you will more than likely not be able to get the most robust, properly planned, and fully implemented website and CMS available. That being said, you should be able to get something that meets your basic needs for the low-to-mid 5 figures. Here is a short list of some of the things you should consider before selecting a CMS.

  • First off, do you even need a CMS? If you are creating a small microsite or landing page that will only be live for a few months and will need only a few updates, you don't need to invest in a CMS you won't use. Save that money for other projects and any minor updates you may need your developer to make.
  • Multiple websites. Are you building multiple websites or sites which need to share content? Some CMS tools are built for single-site use only.
  • Mobile strategy. If you follow trends in mobile technology, you already know that mobile browsing is on the rise. You'll need to evaluate if the CMS can support a mobile experience. Whether your mobile strategy includes building a separate mobile site or displaying your main site in a mobile-friendly way, the CMS will need to allow you to reuse and repurpose content in your mobile site, or at minimum style it to display for your mobile visitors.
  • Multiple countries or regions. You will need to determine how you need to handle your site's content and the servers that host that content around the world. Your content may exist in different sites or it could be contained in one site, with different pages for each region. Certain countries like China may block your site if it is not hosted within the country. Does your site need to be responsive to audiences on both sides of the ocean? You will probably need multiple servers serving your content.
  • Multi-lingual. Every CMS will treat languages differently, some not at all. Do you need translation services built right into your CMS? Will you have multiple sites—one for each language—or one site with all of the languages? Does the CMS interface need to be in a localized language for each of your users?
  • Integration with your company's CRM software or other external tools. Do you need to access your Sales Force or other CRM data? Some CMS tools have integration points built in, other systems can be customized to accommodate them, while others don't have these programs integrated at all.
  • Scheduled content. Do you need a page to go live or be taken down in the middle of night? During a holiday or weekend? Do you want to manage these changes while out of the office? Scheduling page updates is a higher level function available in some CMS tools.
  • Email integration. Do you intend to send emails using your CMS? Few CMS tools include email integration and fewer execute it to an acceptable level. To have a good email and list management tool you will need to use a separate service. However, if you only need basic email abilities you should be able to find a CMS tool to meet your needs.
  • Surveys and polls. Similar to email integration, some CMS tools will allow you to create surveys and polls. This is great for quick simple surveys, but you might consider using a third-party tool that is solely devoted to creating in-depth surveys and doing it well.
  • Forms management. Over time, are you going to need to create a number of forms for your site? The ability to develop custom forms depends on the CMS. The ability to handle and process form data also varies. Know what you need before selecting a CMS.
  • Workflow. Do you need approval at various levels before taking changes live? Do you need groups of people to approve an item or at least one individual from a group to approve it? Consider what approval processes are needed in your CMS.
  • Servers for development, staging and live content. How many servers do you need for your organization? You might need a development or sandbox server, a staging server for changes that go live and the live server itself. Or maybe multiple servers are overkill and one server is all you need.
  • History and versioning. Will you need to return to an older version of a web page? Do you need to comply with Sarbanes Oxley? Your choice of CMS may impact your ability to roll back or store changes.
  • Customization capability. How much freedom do you need in your CMS? Are you willing to take what it gives you out of the box or do you need to modify it to meet your goals? Not every CMS can be easily customized and most of our clients eventually want or need customizations.
  • Complexity of content. Do you need to reuse or display content in different areas of your site? CMS tools work with content differently. Some group content into one large block and others break it apart into reusable chunks.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is more important today than ever. Do you want to increase your organic traffic? Make sure the CMS you select supports basic SEO needs like page names, keywords, description, URL naming and redirects.

About the Author

Brian Wanger
Manager, Software Development
Godfrey

My team meets complex challenges with simple solutions. Digital marketing doesn’t have to be rocket science. 

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