Tips for Choosing the Right CMS for Your Business
by Mark Duncan
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 23 seconds
Choosing a CMS can be overwhelming. It seems like there are so many choices and factors that go into planning a website in the first place, let alone a Content Management System (should you decide you need one).
Having developed for a handful of CMSs over the years, it is safe to say that not all CMSs were created equal, or created for the same purpose. Some will fit individual needs better than others. So how does one go about the process of selecting the CMS system that is the best fit for your business?
To help with this process, I have come up with five criteria that can help when filtering through the various CMSs out there. These criteria are by no means exhaustive, but are primarily meant as basic guidelines that will hopefully go a long way in preventing a regrettable choice.
1. Determine the primary function of the site
Clearly defining what content you are going to be showing and managing on your site is a key first step when choosing your CMS.
• Are you primarily showing blog posts or do you need to support a wide array of different content, each with unique properties?
• Does your site require more complex functionality like interfacing with another web service or API?
• Do you need e-commerce support and/or payment processing?
As these questions are being answered, the list of suggested CMSs begins to narrow down to a few good candidates. The key here is to avoid shoehorning functionality into a CMS that wasn’t really designed for it, which can introduce a slew of complexity and associated problems itself.
2. Managed or Open Source?
Another important consideration is if you want your CMS to be “managed” or “open source.” Some Content Management Systems are only available as a hosted solution, while others can be both. A managed solution would take care of most of the technical aspects of setting up your site and keeping it running smoothly, but it will typically cost more. An Open Source CMS would allow for installation on your own hardware and network, but your company would be responsible for the hosting and infrastructure support. An example of this when selecting an e-commerce CMS would be Shopify for hosted, and Drupal Commerce (a Drupal module) as an open source option.
3. Scalability and Maintainability
There is a known phenomenon in software development that the longer something exists, the harder it is to maintain. In order to combat this “atrophy” as much as possible, we need to consider how well our CMS of choice will accommodate new functionality and changes down the line.
• Will the CMS allow for dynamic creation of content or content types and different designs or layouts, or will it require a “demolition” of sorts to accommodate such changes?
• Does the CMS separate content from presentation? This decoupling is important so that content and layout changes can be easily modified.
• Does the CMS have a sizable amount of extensibility via plugins and modules so functionality can be quickly added or removed?
• Is it “developer” friendly, i.e., is there a sizable community of developers willing to work on the CMS to add custom functionality?
• From a performance perspective, can the CMS scale to handle the amount of content you will need to publish in the future?
4. The Learning Curve
Undoubtedly, some Content Management Systems have a smaller learning curve than others. This should probably be prioritized less in the overall scheme of determining the right CMS, but it is still important. Some Content Management Systems may have a larger learning curve, but will pay dividends when accomplishing more complicated tasks with the content. Others are easier to learn but are more limited in terms of overall control of how content is organized and displayed. Finding a middle ground with your content will yield the best option, even if a little more learning or training is involved. You will want to avoid choosing a CMS simply because it is more familiar to you, as you could be missing out on a CMS that will fit your processes and content much better with a little bit of learning.
5. The Community
Every Content Management System has a following, and the disparity of community size from CMS to CMS can be dramatic. For whatever CMS you choose, it is important that the community of developers, modules/plugins and themes is alive and well. “Good” CMSs have a solid support team that is able to assist with any development or functionality questions. In researching this step, you may discover the CMS that you thought was well equipped to handle your content actually pales in comparison to other solutions because of poor planning or support. You should also try to find the “roadmap” (list of future features) that are planned for the application, so you can get a feel for where the CMS is headed in the future.
With these steps in mind, your business will be on the right path for choosing a successful CMS. To see how the HCK2 Interactive team can help throughout the CMS process, visit here: http://www.hck2.com/services/interactive.
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