The Insider’s Guide to Content Management Systems
August 7, 2014
If you’ve been tasked to find the best Content Management System (CMS), you may have been given a checklist similar to this one:
- Tech-inexperienced content managers must be able to use it.
- It has to support every possible view on every device imaginable.
- Your IT team must be able to develop on it and deploy changes rapidly.
- It must generate so many leads you need to hire more sales staff to handle the load.
- You must be able to track every click, blink, and sniff of every site user AND generate beautifully created pie and bar charts for your executive officers to see with a single click of a button.
- And finally…it has to be free.
As great as those things sound, meeting those requirements isn’t usually feasible. There’s an old saying in software development: “You can have it fast. You can have it cheap. You can have it right. Pick two.”
Choosing a CMS, especially when there are so many available with similar features, can be a bit of a nightmare. To help you narrow things down, here are some things to take into consideration before making a decision:
1. “Cost Savings”
Many people experience sticker shock when they start obtaining bids, so they lean towards open source/community-driven solutions. Unfortunately, they end up spending considerably more because of the custom development needed to get the features they need. This isn’t a knock against open source. (We’ve implemented countless open source solutions and will continue to.) Rather, it’s a suggestion to “keep an open mind” as you may save money by spending more money up front. It really depends on your feature list in the end and what the solution needs to support.
2. But… It’s A Marketers Dream!
You’ve been wowed by all the bells and whistles that xCMS has to offer and you’re ready to make a selection. Your marketing team is now going to be able to see every move your site users are making and be able to create new campaigns on the fly geared towards bringing each user to your checkout process. Afterward, you’ll be able to view/generate some awesome colorful charts that you can use in your next awesome colorful PowerPoint debacle presentation showing your +50% conversion rate.
I admit, I’ve been wowed by what these CMSs have to offer, too. But, the marketing tools require a lot of planning, preparation, and configuration to be useful. If no one knows how to use them, or understands how much it’s going to cost to configure them, your team may end up frustrated and give up. And that’s after the money’s been spent. Be sure you understand what it’s going to take to use the tools.
3. Development & Deployment
What is xCMS like to develop on? How easy is it to install/setup? How long does it take from initial install until a developer can start working on your site? How well does it support team development? Do developers have to work connected to a shared database? How do developers sync changes between environments? If you don’t understand some of these questions, I encourage you to bring in an IT resource to help vet your choices.
Also, how easy is it to push changes to an already launched site? I’m not talking about content changes, but new features. Your developer just finished a whole batch of updates and needs to get it up to the live server. How does s/he do that? How does the system handle pushing content and code changes from three different servers? Learn how that’s done before you select a CMS. And talk to people who’ve actually worked on it before. The sales engineers for xCMS will always tell you that it’s easy. Talk to the ones who have been in the trenches and fought the good fight.
4. Maintainability & Support
Who’ll be working on it for the next 10 years? Yes. 10 years. If you’re investing time and money, the solution had better last a long time. It’s important that your developer or development vendor is comfortable and experienced with your selection. After all, they’ll be responsible to take on your demands to magically make xCMS do whatever your business needs. Also, check out their support. Are they responsive? Are they helpful? Again, find out from people who’ve worked with the system before, not from the source.
Other areas that you’ve probably already read on countless sites include: ease of use,performance, SEO, flexibility, and control. All of these are important, but the issues I raise today aren’t really talked about too often. I hope it helps you in your search for the master CMS.
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