How To Choose a Content Management System
As web technologies evolve, so do the number of choices business owners have in the way they choose to sculpt their brand online. You should have the option to modify the digital face of your brand. It is nearly as easy to make certain changes as it is to conceptualize them. As a whole, websites are complex. However, when broken down into parts, they are simple. There are numerous elements that can be altered with the click of a button. Layout, color, typograpy, sizing, and content can all be changed on the go.
Many of these choices are provided by the use of a content management system (CMS), which provides a foundation for how you control almost all aspects of your website. Content management systems are just that…a system in which content is managed. The overall goal of most content management systems is to provide a user-friendly way for site owners (non-developers) to create, read, update, and delete content. It is important to know the exact types of content you will be adding to your website before considering a CMS. Examples include blog posts, products, categories, related items, frequently asked questions, etc. If you are working with an agency, then it is probable that the CMS will be recommended to you, based on the needs of the website as a whole. You may already have experience with or a preference for a specific CMS that you are comfortable with. That should be taken into consideration in the planning stages as well.
The existence of content management systems can entice people to feel like they must choose one. With modern web practices and standards regularly becoming adopted, web teams have access to tools that allow for the creation of a website without the extra features and bulk that sometimes come with a CMS. While there are many CMS platforms to choose from, your particular site may not need one. Choosing not to go with a CMS could actually add to the performance or overall footprint of the website. Less can certainly be more in this regard. Performance is often overlooked on websites, but it is one of the biggest factors in how your website ranks on search engines. Even more importantly, the performance, or speed in which pages, content, and other assets load for a user determine if they will even want to use your website. As with most things, there are trade-offs to using or not using a CMS. Cost, time to build, and editability are certainly key factors. If there are features and actions that simply must be updated and maintained on a regular basis, you are going to want to have a CMS by your side.
With little regard to direct features and options that one might need for their website, there are certainly many solutions on the market to choose from. The main question many people have surely applies to which CMS they need. Are you selling products? Do you want to write blog content for your website on a regular basis? Does your website need to contain a multitude of forms in which your clients or prospective clients can reach out to you? Do you simply need to broadcast your company’s basic services and contact info? Each of these approaches call for different CMS solutions, or no CMS at all. Inevitably, you will need to make customizations to your website, and even if proper planning is practiced, the reliance on a web development team is practical.
The Purpose of a Content Management System
My favorite analogy for websites is a house. Some houses have a great foundation. Others do not. A website’s foundation does not directly correlate to, let’s say, how many people visit the house. Your house may be very easy to find, not tucked away in the woods. At any point, you can decide to paint the walls a different color, remove the carpet, add some landscaping, install a guest house, or rewire the front porch. When these types of changes occur, you can do them yourself, or you can hire a professional to complete the project.
Knowing the main purpose of your website is the most crucial aspect of charting the proper course for its success. The main reason this decision must be made earlier in the project’s lifecycle is to avoid the limitations or roadblocks of any particular CMS. Returning to the house analogy, if the plan is to eventually have a pool in the backyard, you want to make sure the backyard is big enough. It would be a shame if that beautiful black walnut tree were to stain the concrete, or consistently clog your pool’s strainer after it matures. It is impossible to plan for every scenario, but we can certainly exercise wisdom and experience during planning efforts.
Though identifying the primary goal of your website may be a fairly easy task, choosing the right path for CMS usage (or not) can often be a challenge. This is where the experience of an agency comes into play. Having to solve this problem across multiple industries and categories for multiple clients, helps us determine the best CMS path.
What to Consider When Choosing a CMS
There are a number of metrics to evaluate when deciding which CMS is the best option for your brand. In the broadest sense, those metrics can be narrowed down to four categories:
Committing to a CMS streamlines many aspects of your website after it is built. However, the initial setup and customization that takes place in order to obtain efficiency requires a development team that has expertise building within the chosen CMS. This translates to cost. Building a website for a CMS, when done right, takes time and proper planning. The value a CMS provides in the long run, depending on the needs of your website, is worth every penny. Core features such as user management, content editor toolkits, media management, SEO, and organic content are hard to ignore. Expanding on these features may increase the cost of a website or the ongoing support of it.
Simply put, how often do you plan to output new content on your website? The answer should be easy if you know the primary role of your website. If you sell products, and regularly introduce new SKUs, you will be making frequent additions to your website. The frequency aspect may be the deciding factor for whether your website even needs to be built using a CMS at all. If your website’s primary purpose is to showcase who you are and how to contact you, then you do not necessarily need a CMS. This could also reduce the overall cost.
What business owner doesn’t want to be in control? You also understand the value of delegation. You can’t do it all, but proper planning and architecture certainly go a long way. You want a resource that helps your website adapt and grow as needed. Rarely is a website a “set it and forget it” venture. A content management system allows most people an avenue for logging in, creating, editing, and publishing content. Even the most popular content management systems, such as WordPress, can be a struggle for non-developers, though. Platforms such as Wix, will not allow you to insert a table within the content area, thus necessitating a web developer. The amount of control you have is important in maintaining the CMS as well as adapting to changes and needs that result from business growth. CMS platforms can also be great for controlling specific layouts within your website. Some do this inherently, based on the type of content that is being published, and some must be programmed to have this functionality. Ultimately, use of a CMS provides control where needed, especially when planned for ahead of time.
The success of a website reflects the initial planning. However, systems can be complex and require ongoing maintenance. Though often small, there are many moving parts when it comes to a website. Security is something that should not be ignored. The parts that make up the entirety of the website will need to be updated, patched, and occasionally replaced. In the same way your house will eventually need a new water heater, your website architecture may need adjustments as it grows. If your site is built with a CMS platform, what may be considered a simple tweak could end up being a complex task that requires coding knowledge.
Let Us Prove It
We know a thing or two when it comes to choosing the right CMS. We work with many clients, spanning a multitude of industries. Warren Douglas Advertising would love to guide your website’s success based on our experience, insight, and passion. If you need help in this regard, please contact us.