Choosing the right content management system (CMS) for your website can be difficult, especially if you’re not entirely sure what to look for.
Without a clearly defined set of criteria, you could find yourself falling for fancy functionality that you may never end up using. Obviously different businesses will have different requirements when it comes to choosing the right CMS solution, so the most important thing is to choose one that works for your website and its specific target audience. But if you’re not sure where to start, here’s a list of 7 things you should consider before making a decision.
1. Intuitive/Easy to Use
The whole point of employing a CMS is to make your life easier, so usability is first and foremost. If even the simplest of tasks, like adding a new page or rearranging your site’s structure prove to be a challenge, it may be a good idea to explore other options. And if you’re part of a larger organisation, remember that you may not be the only person who ends up using the software, so basic tasks like editing a paragraph of text should be simple enough that virtually anyone can perform them.
2. Core Functionality
It may sound obvious, but another important consideration should be functionality. Not all CMS’ are equal, and while most people associate “content management” with creating, deleting and organising pages, not all systems will support even these basic functions.
Instead of signing on the line for the first system you see, consider carefully what your website needs to achieve, both now and in the future. Are you intending on uploading frequent blog posts and articles? Will you need the ability to add new pages of information? Are you going to be selling products online and are you therefore in need of an eCommerce solution? As straightforward as it sounds, it’s essential that you know exactly what you are expecting of your website, so that you can choose a CMS based on its strengths being aligned with your needs. Remember, some platforms are better suited to deal with certain tasks than others.
3. Content Editor
The content editor is the interface through which text, images, videos and documents etc. are added to or removed from a page or post, and it’s something I’d recommend paying particular attention to.
Most CMS’ employ “WYSIWYG” (what you see is what you get) content editors that enable you to visualise what you are producing on-screen. Traditionally, they have enabled users to select and apply various different styles and formats, such as typeface and colour, but developers have begun to move away from this type of editor in favour of something more simplistic.
The danger of traditional WYSIWYG editors is that they can offer too much control over design; users are given so much freedom with the customisation of articles and pages that they can risk diluting or even damaging the brand’s overall image and messaging.
The new generation of editors takes a different approach, still providing the ability to change headings and body text and add images and documents, but without specifying how the elements should appear. This is instead handled by predetermined CSS styles and classes.
When weighing up the options, consider those who will be using the software; are they experienced enough to take care of the pages’ design, or might they need a little more guidance? Then pick a content editor to suit.
Your website’s design and presentation is integral to your business’ overall branding strategy. It shouldn’t be dictated by technology, but by your designer or developer. Now that we have the techniques available to separate technology and content, it’s simply not necessary to compromise design for functionality, yet some content management systems remain completely inflexible when it comes to presentation.
Not only should your CMS enable you to do whatever you desire by way of design, it should also allow you flexibility in the way that content is presented. For example, does your blog module allow you to display articles in chronological order, by author or category? Can you monitor comments or prevent them from being posted altogether?
5. User Roles and Access
As mentioned above, another thing to consider is who will be using the software. As the number of content editors on your website increases, you may want to assert more control over who can edit what, especially if your users are of differing abilities and have different levels of experience or seniority within your organisation. To do so, you will need to employ a CMS that supports user roles and permissions. Permissions can be assigned to individual user accounts, and will usually enable you to specify whether a particular user can edit modules only, entire pages, or even entire sections of the website. Some CMS’ will even enable you to assign somebody to review and approve content before it is pushed live, so that you can ensure accuracy and consistency in tone.
6. SEO Friendly
If you’ve had the chance to take a look at some of our other posts, you’ll know that Google’s search algorithm is immensely complex, so it’s important to tick as many boxes as you can if you want to earn yourself a place on its first page.
Although many DIY website builders claim to be “SEO Friendly”, you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV; some won’t even allow you to edit the most basic SEO elements such as your meta data without purchasing a plug-in first.
But being “SEO friendly” is more than just being able to edit meta data. You should also be able to automatically generate clean URLs that work for both your users and search engines, format headings properly, add alt tags to images and properly manage any page redirects. Although much of what constitutes search engine optimisation happens off-site, making sure your website is properly optimised and easily accessible for both your users and the search engines is a good place to start.
7. Social Media Integration
Social media remains one of the most important tools in online marketing; it’s a great way to get your brand name out there, and enables you to engage with a circle of consumers that may never have heard of you otherwise. Not to mention, each profile you create provides you with another platform on which you can build links back to your website, increasing your potential volume of site visitors.
And since social feeds and widgets are usually fairly easy to plug in to a website, there’s not really any excuse for any CMS’ that don’t allow you to do so.
Even if you’re not an avid social networker yourself, you should at least provide your visitors with the opportunity to share your content with their friends and followers. This is even more important if you have a blog or news section on which you post regular updates.
So there you have it. While the process of choosing the right CMS solution can be overwhelming, if you can get your hands on one that contains the above features, you’ll be well on your way to a great content management experience. I hope this hit list will give you some indication as to the kind of CMS you might need, and will give you some things to look for and consider when making your selection!
But remember, there is no “one size fits all” option. The CMS that you choose should be the one that’s best suited to dealing with both your own and your target audience’s individual requirements today, but also have the flexibility to adapt when your company grows tomorrow. So, make sure you do all of the necessary research before committing to a CMS, and have a read back over some of our recent posts for some more useful information.