How to select a content management system (CMS)?
In the What is a content management system (CMS)? paragraph, we discussed what a CMS is and briefly mentioned some of the most popular content management solutions out there, such as WordPress and Yoomla.
In this chapter, we will talk about how to select a right CMS for your needs.
Now, the core principle of choosing a CMS is having a clearly defined set of requirements beforehand. Different CMSs have different functionalities, and enterprise-level systems that are worth tens of thousands of dollars have a completely different package than, say, a free blogging tool like Blogger, for instance.
How do you establish the list of requirements? Even though that mainly depends on your individual goals and circumstances, there are a few criteria that are of particular importance. Such as these 7 essential features:
It is important to understand that not all CMSs have the same type of functionality. For example, not every platform allows the user to organize pages into a “tree hierarchy”, offering the "individual posts” structure instead, which is automatically organized according to date or category. Admittedly, this can be a frustrating limitation in certain situations. However, in other cases, this limitation might be considered as an asset since it keeps the interface simple and easy to understand.
Therefore, you should carefully consider every basic functionality that you might need, researching in advance if the CMS of your choice allows you to complete these core activities.
When looking at functionality, one of the important things to keep in mind is the usability of a CMS — such as its editor, for example.
The majority of CMSs have a visual editor, which means that content has a finished look inside the editor, giving a clear preview of how the post will look once it is published.
In some CMSs there is only an HTML editor, which requires working with code.
In other CMSs, however, there are both versions implemented, making it easy to switch when necessary.
While for some users, visual editor might sound like an elegant solution to design issues, for others it means giving up some of the control to the content provider.
Another point that the editor deals with is handling external assets, such as images and PDF files. Which brings us on to the next point of the CMS selection process: asset management.
Asset management is differently handled by different CMSs: some of them have a basic image editing tool (such as crop, resize and rotate), some of them do not. Some of them allow to attach PDFs, Word documents, SlideShares and other files, and then again, some of them do not have that feature in the editor.
Therefore, it is worth researching in advance whether the CMS of your choice covers this point.
According to Cludo more than half of all users use with internal search when looking for content value, which means that a search function is vital for a CMS. However, often CMSs have different search set ups in regards to:
- Content freshness
Consider finding out how often does the search engine index your site, as this will highly influence users’ capability to discover newly published content on your website.
- Search completeness
Does a search engine leave out attached assets, such as PDFs and images, when people attempt to make a search?
How much time does it take for a search engine to return results?
- Content ranking
How does a search engine determine the ranking of those results?
For this reason, it is vital to have a proper understanding of how you imagine your readers discovering the content on the website, in order to ensure the best search solution possible.
Some of the CMSs have a very inflexible presentation, meaning that technology is dominating the design of your website. While this might be a big pro for somebody looking for an easy way to display content, for most users customization limitation places serious constraints on the look and feel of the website.
If your goal is to build a community on your site, then it is important that the CMS of your choice supports things such as chats, forums and ratings. As a minimum, you will want your readers to at least be able to leave a comment on your website and share your content on social media.
Roles and permissions
As you grow your business, you will want to have more control over who can edit what. For instance, HR should be able to post job offers on a specific section of your website, but not be allowed to add any content on the homepage. This means, that the CMS should support permissions, allowing certain users add and edit certain pages.
Choosing a CMS can be a long process, since there is no such thing as a perfect CMS unless it is custom-built for your individual goals and needs. There will always be important features to consider, in addition to those discussed above, such as multilingual support on the website, security, licensing — the list can go on and on.
However, at the same time, keep your eyes on the future and make sure that when the time comes and you want to grow, the CMS will be able to provide you with that opportunity.