A content management system (CMS) is a database that usually works to organize, edit and update web applications or websites. It stores all the data that is needed to run a business. CMS is often preferred over traditional HTML web programming because after it is set up, website owners, employees and anyone who is assigned administrative or editorial controls can update it.
The CMS is all the data that makes a company and website work, which is then plugged into a well-designed template. The template can either be made by the CMS vendor or by an independent web/graphic design firm. The CMS market has boomed and there are hundreds of open source programs and companies that can provide your business with a CMS database. You should do plenty of research, and choose the program that is best for your needs. Read more to find out how to choose a content management system.
Identify your cms needs
- Call a meeting of the website users, editors, designers and marketing department, to make a list of what the business needs from its CMS. For example, businesses often look for web interactivity, an intranet for employees, branding options, an attractive website template, online sales, search engine optimization (SEO) features, social media integration, and multi-channel publishing. Decide what functions your website must provide, so that you know what you are looking for in a CMS.
- Now that you have your list, do some research to find out what other options are available that might suit your needs. Look for feature lists and see if anything slipped your mind. The goal here is to create two lists. The first should be a list of “Wants” and the second a list of “Needs”. The Wants are bits of functionality that would be nice to have but are not necessarily musts. The needs are items that absolutely must be included for it to be deemed a worthwhile investment.
- Decide on a budget for changing to a CMS. Although some CMS are open source and do not cost anything for the program, it will cost money for installation, training, technical support and more. You may choose to hire a company that includes all of this in their monthly or yearly fee.
- Assign a person or a team to lead the search for the business’ CMS. Although it may be helpful to have someone adept in IT help out in the search, they should not take the lead. Assign someone who represents the average user of your database, to ensure they will choose something that everyone can use.
CMS Operations inquires
Ask your CMS vendor how they can meet the website, database and budget needs you have outlined. If possible, arrange a meeting where they can show you how their CMS works. If they cannot do this, make sure to ask for sample websites in your industry, then schedule a conference call to talk about the most common CMS company mistakes and weaknesses.
Ask how easily and quickly the CMS can be installed and switched over from your current system. Then, once it is set in place, ask how often it will be updated. This is a 2-part question because updating of a system to provide new features is a good thing; however, extensive website maintenance time is a bad thing, especially for e-commerce sites.
Ask how many options there are for customization on the front end. The frontend is the website’s appearance when all of the information on the CMS is loaded into the designed template. Many companies need to brand their website specifically, so make sure the CMS either works with your current template, or you have options to customize the template options that the company has.
CMS Backend services
Ask how easily changes can be made on the backend. The backend is where the data is entered, usually by company employees. There is also a balance to strike with the backend of a CMS. For example, each business needs a certain number of changes to be made without having to call for technical support or web developer assistance. However, making too many fields editable by too many people also opens up opportunities for mistakes. Ask how permissions are assigned for CMS changes.
Ask about the functionality of the intranet. Most companies need to store data that is accessible to employees, but not published for the public. Make sure your employees can sign in easily to get the information they need.
Ask how progressive the vendor is toward developing new features. CMS is constantly changing, as is Internet commerce. The vendor’s CMS must be able to support changes, plugins and possibly even customized functions as your business and customers grow and change.
Ask about the marketing options for your company. Even if you are not using them now, you should be able to add SEO and social media functions. For example, your URLs should be customizable, and they should lead back to your main website. Ask about tags, keywords, breadcrumb navigation and other features that will help your site list highly on an Internet search.