If you are creating a website, then one of the first decisions you will need to make is which content management system you should use. Here’s our advice on what to look for.
First of all, let me start by saying that this article isn’t a sales push trying to lead you on to a certain platform. I say this because there are plenty of articles out there that will list and compare a range of content management systems, but their goal is to drive you to the platform they are promoting. That’s not what this is.
Simply, this is a list of the criteria you need to consider when you are looking at content management systems, with an explanation into why those criteria are important. You can then use this information in your decision-making process.
We know first hand that there are too many options available when it comes to platforms to build your website on. We encounter this through our customers who have usually inherited whichever Content Management System it is that their web developer uses.
Businesses likely choose their developers based on the look and functionality of websites that they have built in the past (or sometimes based on one of the worst criteria – because they are the cheapest!), and the CMS often doesn’t come into the reckoning.
Your CMS is the foundation on which your website is built. If it’s lacking key components then your website may not deliver what you need. Likewise, there is no benefit in paying extra for a platform that is more than you will ever need. Here’s how to choose the right foundation.
10 Criteria to consider when choosing a Content Management System
1. What is the goal of your website?
Identifying the end game when a user comes to your site is the first step. Consider what path you are going to lead them down and what actions will you need them to take along the way.
You then need to check which Content Management Systems offer this functionality. This is especially important if you sell your products online and need a user friendly platform to work with. Common conversion goals are:
- Link clicking
- Digesting content (text, images or video)
- Content Download
- Blog subscriptions (like this one, hint hint)
- Email sign ups
- Phone calls
- User accounts
Hot Tip: Customisation is often just a fancy word for breaking the system! Okay, that may not be the case in all circumstances, but if a developer is telling you that they can make a content management system do something that it doesn’t offer natively then this should raise alarm bells for you. This may mean that they are going to have to build custom code to create the functionality you need. You then have to consider what impact that customisation will have on the performance of your website, and how your next developer or website administrator will get on when they need to make changes.
2. What type of content will your website present?
This one is closely linked to number 1. If the goal of your website is for users to digest or download content then you need to make sure that the content management system delivers that content seamlessly, and in a user-friendly manner. This will also mean that hosting is important. If you are offering video, then it needs to load quickly with no lag.
2. What type of content will your website present?
Before you commit to any CMS, find out what your hosting options are.
A number of platforms such as Wix, Squarespace and WordPress all offer to host as part of their CMS package, others will require you to provide your own hosting options (while this is more technical to set up, it does offer other advantages).
Where your CMS is hosted will impact the time it takes for content to load. If your users are in Newcastle, and your hosting is in Melbourne then there is likely to be little impact, but if your users are in Dubbo and your hosting is in Greece then content could be slow to load.
If you are stuck with no option but to host overseas, then look at utilising a Content Delivery Network which will store content temporarily on local servers to speed up load times.
The other reason you want to look closely at the hosting location is for the security of your user’s data. How reliable is the hosting provider? Check their reviews, where the business is based and how long they have been operating.
4. Who will be using your site?
Consider the demographics of users on your site. Things like age (user-friendliness), location (load times and internet speeds), and language may impact your decision making. Using a platform with features that users and search engines are familiar with will benefit usability and SEO performance.
5. Are users going to be storing Digital Assets with you?
Businesses who build their product around online storage need 4 things:
- Space – and lots of it
- Security, to protect their users content
- System Reliability
The last thing you want for your users is that they can’t upload their content, access their content, or they find out someone has access to it that shouldn’t.
6. Who is going to be managing the site?
Many of our clients don’t have an IT team to manage the updates and changes to their website. They either do it themselves, or they have delegated the task to any member of staff who has the slightest amount of knowledge about using technology!
There are some super user-friendly platforms available which make creating and managing sites as simple as drag and drop. From an SEO perspective, there is a lot more to making a great site besides drag and drop but it does give you the ability to make changes once the site has been built. That means less reliance on vendors and suppliers.
For us, this is really important. We don’t want any customers to feel they are locked to using us because no one else knows how to update their site. We want our users to be with us because they enjoy working with us and we deliver great results. That makes it really easy for us to recommend the best CMS.
If you do have an IT team, or you plan on engaging a vendor to provide you with these services on an ongoing basis, then your options are more open in terms of which platform you can choose.
7. How mobile-friendly is the CMS?
Content management systems offer varying levels of ‘mobile-friendliness’ when it comes to websites. Getting one that does all that you need can be tricky because the mobile web is ever-evolving.
Because mobile phones are now part of everyday life (and because 52.2% of websites were served to mobile devices in 2018), search engines now favour mobile platforms over desktop. In Google terminology, it is a mobile-first approach.
What does a good mobile site need? Well according to Google:
- Clear and simple page and site navigation
- Site search functionality
- User-friendly commerce and conversion flow (don’t make users sign up before they can browse or buy)
- Use click to call
- Streamline form entry with things like pre-fill, visual calendars and clear labels
- Usability and form factor, i.e. make it readable without having to pinch and zoom, summarise content rather than provide ‘full site’ levels of information
This all means that mobile sites and desktops site can be two quite different looking beasts. Using a CMS that makes it really easy to optimise, add and exclude content based on the user device will make your life a lot easier.
8. Does the CMS provider offer training and support?
If you are committing to a subscription service, or if you are paying for a user licence, then what level of support is given? This has helped us plenty of times when we have encountered the unexpected!
The CMS we currently use has outstanding customer support. I have worked with many different platforms over the years and I value the support I get as much as any of the factors on this list.
In terms of training, take a look at what resources are offered for learning. I find it best using how-to guides that offer a blend of video and text, but that could just be what’s god for me. You need to find what is right for you.
9. Will your CMS need to integrate with your other systems?
Do you need your CMS to speak to your billing systems, your product software or your customer relationship manager?
If you do then this can become quite complicated. If you are doing e-commerce then some systems offer some basic integrations, but for the more complicated stuff, it can become quite timely and expensive.
Our recommendation in this instance would be to engage a specialist. They will be able to recommend the best system for you but be warned, it won’t be cheap.
It reminds me of a saying that I used to hear a lot when working as the marketing manager for a trades company – “Good developers aren’t cheap, and cheap developers aren’t good!”
10. Are You Future Proofed?
Last of all, where is your business going to be in 12, 24, 36 months time? The plan that you start out on might not be the plan you end up on.
Make sure you are future-proofed based on your business goals so that you aren’t locked into something you regret down the track.
Think about scalability, technology changes, and costs among others.
NewyMedia is a digital marketing company based in Newcastle, Australia. We’ve built websites for dozens of clients and we would love to help you with yours. You can contact us here, or sign up below to join our mailing list for more great tips and advice.