Choosing the right CMS for your organization can be a complex and confusing process, especially if you aren't particularly tech savvy. In part, this is due to the number of good CMSs that are available today, making choosing one that’s suitable for your business a potentially difficult decision. In this post we'll consider some of the key areas to focus on.
These days, the main function of many CMS’ is to build and maintain even the most complex websites with ease, as well as the ability to quickly add optimized content.
To start with, let’s pin down what a CMS, or content management system, actually does. A CMS is an application to create, edit and manage content. It can be web-based, depending on the industry that’s using it, and the ‘front end’ will be what the user sees when they access a site, with the back end being where all of the work goes on.
However, just to further muddy the waters, some CMS are intranet-based, so that employees of a large organization can manage documents, bookings and more. Saying that, it isn’t restricted to larger concerns as some small companies such as real estate use a CMS in order to manage properties.
Why invest in a CMS
There are several reasons a company may choose to implement a CMS, the first of which is the time-saving aspect. A CMS automates a lot of the workload, allows for collaboration and generates reports, depending on the business you’re in.
For websites, a CMS is used to make the creation, editing and publishing of content a simple process, which doesn’t require any specialist technical knowledge, such as that of a developer.
This content can include a variety of things, not just blog posts and similar, such as content forms, images, processing sales and credit cards, videos and even user authentication. Not all CMS are created equally, of course, and some have far more functionality than others.
The first thing to consider when choosing a CMS is its ease of use. Many developers seem to forget that CMS are created for end users with less technical know-how than they have, so some CMS can be complex to use. A good CMS should allow you to spend time productively, without the need for further development to add functionality.
This means that the first thing on your CMS planning checklist should be a simple user interface which allows workers to dive in and create great content.
It will depend on your industry and individual working practices if you want a cloud-based CMS. These are invaluable if you have remote workers, or would like to offer telecommuting, as they allow employees to connect from home, rather than just at the office.
It is also vital to consider the company that builds & supports the CMS. Some points for consideration include::
- The company has a proven track record in providing CMS to various industries
- They offer support and flexibility so that the CMS can be upgraded if necessary
- The payment plan suits your company – ie: will they let you pay monthly if required or is it an up-front investment
- Training is offered to your staff
This is really necessary so that you are to some extent ‘future-proofing’ your purchase. It’s important to know that you will be able to upgrade the product in the future, add further modules as business grows, get support when things inevitably go wrong and have a solution which can be used for years to come. A CMS is an investment into a company’s future and as such, it’s important to get this right.
Whilst it’s tempting to skimp on costs, especially with the global economy being what it is right now, it could mean reduced functionality if you go with a product which is cheap. It’s vital to check that they have everything you need or you could find yourself having made a wasted investment. Or you could become frustrated with a user interface which is confusing as it seems to be directed at developers, rather than end users.
This brings us onto the most important aspect to choosing a CMS; research. When looking at CMS with a view to investing, it’s important to have a good look around at what’s on offer.
Any company you approach should be able to offer:
- A full demonstration of the software
- Complete transparency on pricing structures – for both now and the future
Once you have established this, next it’s important to look at functionality, which should include as basics:
There are plenty of other options when it comes to what’s included in the CMS you choose, but these will depend on the level of functionality you require, as well as the industry which you’re in.
For example, the smartphone explosion has meant that many companies are now designing mobile websites, as well as traditional ones and as such, it’s important to them that they have a CMS which allows them to create mobile compatible content from a universal template.
This can be a built-in part of the CMS, or added as a module, or even written especially for your company depending on specific requirements.
Choosing a CMS can and should be a process, not something that you have had hard-sold to you, which has been purchased hastily. This is because in order to really maximise the ROI, the CMS needs to work well for a company, so it has to be looked at in depth to ensure that it matches the company needs.