Choosing the right content management system (CMS) can be one of the most nerve-wracking decisions when upgrading your website. There are literally hundreds of choices, all presented on confusing grids and graphs by so called CMS experts. This post is designed to cut through the garbage and assist you navigate your way through a sea of similar looking products, helping you to pick the perfect CMS for your business needs.
Address the needs of your organization
Start by creating a SIMPLE Excel chart. On the left, write down the needs of the business. In the next column create an area for checking a simple yes or no. That’s it. It’s not necessary to make this more complex. Use this to compare base features of each CMS you consider. General features (you’ll want to narrow these down) are included below:
- Work flow management tools
- Content and news management items
- Social Media Widgets
- Editing & Authoring
- SEO features
- Asset management
- E-Mail integration or self-contained features
- Security Features and Settings
- Plugins/ API’s
- Ability to add custom features or connections
- Other important items include: multilingual capability, e-commerce, events & calendars, analytics, big data connections, scalability, multi-site potential
A CMS isn’t perfect at performing all listed items
It’s important to consider that just because an item is included as a “feature” of a CMS, it doesn’t mean that the tool is efficient, well-built, or scalable. Take e-mail for example. You may be considering using your CMS as an e-mail tool. Most CMS tools can handle SOME e-mail. But typically, personalized messages, e-mail automation, large-scale messaging, and complex e-mail analytics are better handled by a dedicated e-mail tool.
If certain CMS features are critical to the organization, then it’s wise to ask deeper questions regarding functionality, capacity and true capabilities. Often sales-people will concede when pressed on these issues. It’s critically important to ask second and third level questions when analyzing these items.
Consider Paying for a CMS
Seriously, consider paying for a CMS vs. trying to make your project fit within the constraints of a free CMS offering. To date, I’ve never had a client pay for a good CMS and then come back later to tell me that they wish they would have gone with a free option like WordPress or Drupal. Never.
A paid CMS offers so much beyond the initial transaction. Typically, paid options offer a year of phone, e-mail & chat support which, if only used once or twice, can be super-valuable in a pinch situation. Paid options also typically offer security patches and upgrades several times per year. One exposed security venerability can literally destroy an organization and its reputation. It’s not worth it to take chances here.
Consider this, paid CMS offerings are normally offered by established companies, public companies, and relatively larger organizations. These companies typically have a board of directors that want to be pleased, owners that are accountable, or shareholders that expect a clean running company that produces results. These organizations pride themselves on good press, great products, and a generally positive buzz surrounding their CMS. I strongly believe that due to the greater visibility of these companies and the significant investment into their products, the end-user inherently gets exactly what they paid for. It’s really a win-win situation.
Remember the Plugins and APIs
Here’s your CMS warning: costs can really add up if you want to connect to outside systems and no pre-built connection exists. The connection will have to be built from scratch or customized to meet your needs. That can often get expensive.
The good news is that established, paid (and many free) CMS’s often have existing connectors that are built as plugins or APIs. Some common website connections include the following:
- CRMs like Salesforce, Zoho, or Apptivo
- E-Mail Systems like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, and Klavio
- ERPs like Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, and NetSuite
- Marketing Automation Systems like Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot
- Member Management for Associations like Member 365, Zen Planner, and Member Leap
You’ll want a developer to take a look at the systems you’d like to connect, read any available technical documentation, and evaluate if an existing connection can be used right out of the box of if custom modifications are necessary. If you don’t have a developer on staff, call a professional for help.
All things considered
Once you’ve checked off the right boxes on your Excel chart, taken a deep dive on the most critical issues, considered paying for a more robust CRM option, and taken into account potential connection concerns, then you are ready to step back and take a more holistic approach.
Look at the big picture. Visualize how your organization is going to use the tool. Think about workflow and inter-departmental use. Consider the end-user — how will they interact with your new environment and who will potentially respond? Will the people who actually do the work have the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively do their job?
Picking the right CMS is a huge, important choice. It’s critical to the big picture of your organization and to the effectiveness of your day-to-day operations. Consider what we’ve discussed here as a starting point and feel free to call me when you are ready to take a deep dive into this complex and confusing world.