CMS 101: How to Choose a Content Management System

Like all things in life, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to technology, and definitely not when it comes to choosing your content management system, aka your CMS.

Without understanding all the factors, it’s easy to either be swayed by fancy features you’ll never use or end up stuck with a CMS that makes your life harder.

It’s also easy to end up spending tens of thousands on an enterprise-level system when a free open-source option is really all you need.

Our team is certified in a number of different systems and we deal with a lot of different products so we can help our clients choose the best product for them.

This in-depth article will take you through how to figure out what you need to consider when choosing a CMS; demystify some of the jargon and bust some myths along the way.

Do you need enterprise-level or open-source software?

An open-source CMS is usually supported by a community of developers and is typically free. You won’t have to pay for a license but you may pay managed services hosting costs. Big names here are obviously WordPress, along with Umbraco, Drupal and Magento.

There’s a huge amount you can do with open source products, from gathering insight to personalisation and even the big name brands use them.

The major downside is that they’ve been known to have security issues. But with good technical design, they can also be safe and secure.

Enterprise-level CMS systems are those you pay a license for. Big names here are Episerver, Sitecore and Adobe AEM.

The major positives for these are that they’re feature-rich and support complex content management, e-commerce and omnichannel marketing functionality. They’re also hot on security and fixes.

The downside is that they’re expensive and prices can vary vastly for licensing and support.

Just because you’re an enterprise with heavy traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you need an enterprise-level CMS.

However, you’ll probably need one if you’re after particular features or if you want to host it in-house and need a CMS that your in-house team has experience with.

Who owns it internally?

This might seem an obvious point, but it can be a real pitfall.

Naturally, different stakeholders will want different things that may influence which direction you go in.

For example, if you’re a CTO you may want a CMS that fits your current Microsoft infrastructure stack whereas your marketing department may prefer a simpler solution or specific feature.

Typically CMS are a marketing tool, so marketing’s feature wish-list is crucial. However, if IT will ultimately be responsible for maintaining the CMS, they also need to be involved from the start.

Ideally, you need a tool that will meet everyone’s needs but you also need to determine who has the final sign off.

Once you understand who your internal - and potentially external - users will be, it’s time to gather your use-cases and feature requirements list.

What are your users’ skill sets?

It’s important to choose a CMS that your team can actually use – both your content editors and your developers. The latter being more important if you’re choosing an on-premise solution.

Any technology is only going to be successful if it’s adopted by the people who need it. A plethora of features won’t be any use if no one can use them.

Make sure you don’t overlook ease-of-use in your CMS decision-making process.

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