Top 5 things to consider when choosing a CMS
Your website is the shop window to your business. There’s no doubt it needs to look enticing and convince people to buy your products, but behind every website is a content management system (CMS). Making sure the shelves are stocked, the promotions are live and the customers can make a purchase.
So just how do you decide which CMS is right for your business? Do you choose an open source CMS, a hosted solution or a bespoke platform? With over 100 to choose from, it can be a daunting task. Especially when you have to decipher technical sales jargon and boil the information down to cold, hard facts. Shopping on impulse could mean you end up with the bells and whistles you don’t need, or could cost you an arm and a leg before it’s even live. So before you begin your CMS journey, read our top five considerations to help you make the right decision.
1: First things first, functionality
Ask yourself, why are you building the website in the first place and what do you need it to do?
This might sound simple: we need to upload new content, we need more enquiries, we need an online shop. However, by breaking down your requirements into specific detail, it will help weed out the CMS systems that don’t fit the bill. Some functionality to consider:
- Integration with third party systems e.g. CRM or ecommerce platform
- Data feeds e.g. Google Shopping and affiliates
- Newsletter sign up
- Log in area for customers
- Social media sharing
- Contact and enquiry forms
- Whitepaper downloads
- Event booking system
2: User interface
Make sure that whoever manages the website can easily add and edit content. The CMS should be simple to navigate without too much instruction. If it takes hours to update content, your website manager will get frustrated and it will cost you valuable time and money to maintain. Try to watch a live demo of different CMS systems to give you a feel for the user interfaces.
3: Planning for the future
The CMS you choose will dictate how easy it is to add new features and functionality in the future. We’ve heard horror stories of clients who chose a bespoke, in-house system only to be told the website had to be built from scratch when they needed extra functionality. This is where open-source CMS systems win hands down.
“Open source” means the CMS has a free license and is constantly being improved with new functionality by a community of dedicated developers. This means that when the time comes to add that new booking system or slider gallery of images, chances are it has already been created and can be plugged into your CMS much quicker than a bespoke platform, so there’s no need to start from scratch! Open source CMS systems we would recommend you take a look at include WordPress, Joomla or Concrete5, as they really will make the long term costs of your website much cheaper.
4: Budget and licensing
As with anything, your budget will play a big part in your decision. This includes the initial set-up cost as well as any ongoing license costs. Lots of business are choosing the open-source CMS route because of the cost saving and the freedom it gives you to customise and add more functionality in the future. Whichever CMS you choose, it’s always important to consider the costs of initial set up, hosting, licensing fees and future development.
The last consideration is support. What will happen should something go wrong? Many open source CMS systems have an abundance of support communities and forums online. However, there is not always somebody you can call. That is why it can be beneficial to partner with a digital agency who provides a support package to ensure the CMS is in optimal working order and not vulnerable to security attacks.
A quick summary: 5 things to consider when choosing a CMS
Choosing a CMS can be a minefield. There’s so much choice and so much to consider. Here is a quick re-cap of the top 5 considerations when selecting a CMS:
- Functionality: make a list of exactly what you need before you start shopping around.
- User interface: make sure it is easy to manage content.
- Planning for the future: consider what you may want the website to do in the future. Find out the typical costs and ease with which you can make functionality changes. Can the CMS grow and adapt with your business needs?
- Budget and licensing: set aside a realistic budget for initial costs and ongoing fees. Use this to guide your decision and help find something that doesn’t break the bank but delivers what you need.
- Support: nothing is perfect and sometimes websites incur problems. Make sure you have a level of support you are comfortable with should the worst happen.