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How to Choose the Right Content Management System (CMS)?
Choosing the right CMS for your next site or project is going to save you time, money, and headaches down the road. In this guide we'll show you the what to look for when choosing the best CMS solution
Choosing the right CMS for your next site or project is going to save you time, money, and headaches down the road. Here’s what we’ll show you in this guide to choosing the best CMS solution:
A quick reminder about what a CMS platform is.
Who to consider when choosing a content management system.
Three main types of content management systems
After that, we’ve got 10 pro tips for choosing the best CMS for your website, people, and project.
What Is a Content Management System, and Why Do You Need One?
A content management system (CMS) allows you to create, manage, publish, edit, and delete content on a website. Most digital experience platforms support drag-and-drop functionality, allowing users to perform actions without needing specialized technical knowledge.
Many CMS solutions, like WordPress and Wix, allow you to develop a website, create web pages, and manage the entire infrastructure of your website.
A CMS allows you to add pages, posts, and media to your web pages. You can use themes to change the appearance of your website and plugins to make your site more functional and accessible.
Let’s look at some important features available in all CMS platforms.
Content creation and editing
Content organization, workflows, communication, and reporting
User-based and role-based administration
Scalability, flexibility, and performance
Ability to publish multilingual content
Analytics and personalization
Plugins and integrations
Who Is the Primary Decision-Maker in Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)?
Over 40% of CMS implementation initiatives fail because of the unfavorable political or corporate culture. Choosing a CMS might seem easy, and it is easy if you’re the only stakeholder and decision-maker. However, as the stakeholders increase, the decision-making becomes more complex.
You also need to consider the requirements of certain teams and departments. For instance, the marketing team will prefer a CMS that supports their marketing and sales efforts. The IT team will prefer a CMS that fits in their infrastructure.
To overcome this confusion, decision-makers need to identify all the stakeholders and prioritize their requirements. You need to determine the goals of having a CMS and the department that will play the most important role.
Based on those requirements, you need to identify the following set of features.
Essential features (must-have)
Important features (should-have)
Nice-to-have features (could-have)
Would-have features (would-have)
Types of Content Management Systems and Which One to Choose
Like any software solution, a CMS is also available in three types: on-premise, cloud-hosted, and SaaS. Each CMS type has its set of pros and cons, and decision-makers should understand them well before deciding.
Let’s evaluate the differences between the three CMS types.
An on-premise CMS solution is installed on your hosting provider’s server, and they are solely responsible for maintaining and updating the system. When you host a website on an on-premise CMS, you only need to handle the infrastructure updates. The CMS provider manages everything else.
Some popular on-premise CMS systems are:
Cloud Hosted CMS
With a cloud-hosted solution, you pay the licensing fee to buy the software and then install it on a server or data centre of your choice. The only difference between an on-premise and cloud-hosted CMS is that a cloud-based CMS is hosted on a third-party server, whereas an on-premise server resides on the hosting provider’s server.
Some popular could-hosted CMS servers are:
A SaaS CMS is like a cloud CMS with only one difference. In a SaaS CMS, the cloud service provider hosts the CMS and takes care of the maintenance and updates. It works similarly to other SaaS tools like Salesforce and Zoho that you can access on your browser from any device.
You don’t need to pay a license fee for SaaS CMS solutions. Instead, you need to buy a monthly subscription, and you can cancel it at any time.
Some popular SaaS CMS solutions are:
How to Choose a CMS Product: Top 10 Tips
By now, you probably have identified your CMS requirements, important stakeholders, and the CMS type you need. Now, let’s delve into ten important tips on choosing the right content management system for your business needs.
1. Choose a CMS that Requires Minimal Coding
The ultimate objective of using a CMS is to make web content management easier. A CMS that requires extensive coding and technical skills will negate that purpose. Your IT team could adjust to a developer-reliant CMS, but your marketing and sales teams will have difficulty using it.
Therefore, avoid choosing content management systems that require too much coding, and stick with easy-to-use solutions.
2. Ensure Seamless Scalability
A CMS should be scalable. Your business might be in the initial phase, but it will grow someday. You need to have a CMS that scales up as per your business needs. Therefore, on-demand scalability is an essential feature to look for in a CMS.
3. Find a Platform with Top-Notch Customer Service
Some business owners make the mistake of putting software over support. You can have the best software with top features, but if it doesn’t have a good support team, you’ll face issues in the long term. Regardless of how good or easy-to-use a CMS is, you’ll run into issues at some point in time.
You may overlook the support aspect if you have a skilled in-house IT team. If not, be sure to pick a CMS that offers best-in-class post-installation support.
4. Get a Proof-of-Concept First and Approval from Marketers
A CMS is more than just a content repository. Your business’s online presence depends on it. Choosing the wrong CMS can affect the performance and user experience (UX) of your website. Since 57% of customers won’t recommend an unattractive website, you should be extra careful when choosing a CMS.
The best approach is to get a proof-of-concept (POC) of the CMS first and test how your website looks on it. Take feedback from all the stakeholders, and if everyone approves, you can finalize the CMS.
5. Choose a CMS with Top-Notch UI and UX
An intuitive and user-friendly user interface will help your team navigate seamlessly through the CMS. The content management system you choose should be easy to learn and use. Pay attention to the usability factor when testing the CMS. You can even let the stakeholders get hands-on experience and take feedback from them.
6. Prioritize Cost-Effectiveness and Essential CMS Options
Some CMS solutions come with attractive features, such as open-source, headless CMS, built-in content marketing, etc. While these features can be a luxury to have, they shouldn’t distract you from the essential features.
If you ever feel distracted, refer to the must-have, should-have, could-have, and would-have features you determined in the earlier section. This way, you can minimize distractions and stay focused on your core objectives.
That said, you shouldn’t entirely discard additional features. For instance, a CMS offering personalization features can help you improve customer experience. If your marketing strategy relies heavily on content experiences, CMS software with content marketing features can be helpful.
Remember that choosing the best CMS is all about understanding your business requirements really well and considering them throughout the decision-making process.
7. Consider the Needs of Your Development Team
The success and failure of your CMS depend solely on your implementation. If your team doesn’t understand your business operations and requirements, you won’t achieve the desired outcomes regardless of how good the CMS is. Contrarily, if you have an implementation team that understands your company goals, they’ll achieve those goals even with a below-average CMS.
That doesn’t mean you should get an average CMS that lacks important features. The idea is to place heavy consideration on the implementation team and pick a CMS that aligns with your implementation team’s goals, which in turn, are aligned with your business objectives.
8. Keep Security Issues in Mind
The security features of a CMS platform are one of the most vital things to consider during your CMS selection process. A CMS stores a sizeable amount of confidential business information and customer data, making it a lucrative target for hackers. With the US seeing over 1,200 data breaches every year, business owners need to prioritize CMS security.
You should consider two aspects of CMS security:
The security features a CMS offers to prevent attacks. These could include firewall protection, SSL encryption, IP monitoring, etc.
The features a CMS provides if a CMS and user data gets hacked. These include backup, data retrieval, etc.
9. Choose Only the Essential Features
A feature-rich CMS comprises features that your business needs. A feature-bloat CMS has a lot of features with little use.
You’ll find some CMS solutions with many fancy and overwhelming features, which will feel needless after thorough research.
However, features that are unnecessary for your business can be essential for someone else and vice versa. So, a feature-rich CMS for you can be a feature-bloat CMS for some other business owner. It is, therefore, crucial to understand your business requirements and choose the best CMS accordingly.
For example, a CMS vendor may promote itself as a “fully open source CMS.” However, there’s no point in having an open-source CMS if you don’t plan to edit its source code. A custom CMS will be a better option, as it provides you with better control over the interface and updates.
10. Pick User Friendliness Over Features
Choosing features over customer experiences and ease of use can have a detrimental effect in the long run. As discussed, CMS solutions can come with a wide range of attractive features. What you need to ask is whether those features will support your objectives. After all, what’s the point of having a feature-rich CMS if your team can’t use those features?
Selecting the right CMS is essential if you want a powerful website that ensures a seamless customer journey and provides the best experience to end-users.
By following the best practices discussed above, you’ll be able to choose the ideal content management system for your business that fits your budget and technology requirements.
How do I choose the right CMS?
Choosing the right CMS is all about prioritizing requirements over features. Many CMS tools are available in the market, with all offering different CMS features and benefits. It’s essential to cut the noise and find a solution that aligns with the needs of your business and stakeholders.
Which is the easiest CMS to use?
Most people believe WordPress is the easiest CMS to use; however, it isn’t necessarily the case. Many simple CMS systems exist, including WooCommerce, HubSpot CMS, Wix, Squarespace, and BigCommerce. That said, the ease of use of a CMS depends purely on your technical capabilities.
Dave is an Emmy-Award® winning web designer/developer and has worked in the digital media industry in both newspaper and broadcast television since 1999. He has also worked as an Art Director for a medium-sized advertising agency in the South Florida market and TheeDigital's customers' are benefiting from his talent these days.
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