In simplest terms, a Content Management System (CMS) is software that enables you to manage and maintain content in your website without having to rely on Web development or coding skills.
As with most things about the IT industry, everyone has their own interpretation of standards and definitions. As such, no two CMS platforms will be the same, work the same or deliver the same degree of functionality equally. So how do you know which CMS is best for your business? One particular website (Top Content Managemnt Software (CMS)) listed 329 choices which left even me dumbfounded.
There are CMS platforms and there are CMS platforms; knowing how to distinguish between the good, the bad and the downright ugly is a challenge. The most widely known CMS is WordPress, however I would argue that this is not a true CMS. This view is somewhat supported by the fact that there are now products that position themselves as a CMS for WordPress. Other established CMS platforms include Joomla, Drupal, Kentico, Sitecore, SquareSpace and Concrete5. Some of these, like WordPress, are open source platforms.
There are commercial CMS platforms available from selected software vendor s. The majority of these are pitched at the corporate level requiring substantial investment in technical skills, infrastructure and ongoing learning. There is a second tier of commercial CMS platforms that are less sophisticated (in comparison) and more widely utilised by Web agencies. These are less demanding of the developers and end users’ skill set sets and offer a much lower entry point by way of infrastructure required to support them.
The last group of CMS platforms fall into the category of proprietary CMS systems usually developed by web agencies in-house for developing websites use by their developers with the rights to use these systems heavily restricted. Only the owner and possibly a small, select group of sub licensees or franchisees will use these systems for developing websites. This last group is diminishing in number due to the restrictions placed on clients seeking solutions that are more flexible.
At the end of the day, it is very confusing for business owners. With literally hundreds of choices where do you turn? Many are very good and even more are not such good choices. Some are excellent in certain regards but weak in others. One thing I have come to learn from my time in this industry is that no single piece of software suits everybody in all situations all the time – no matter what the vendor's would have you believe themselves.
Choose your CMS based on how well it meets your business needs first and foremost. The trouble for business owners is that they also need assurance that the software is technically capable of doing what it says it will do and that it does this in the correct way.
The technical aspects of the software are difficult for business owners to assess because they simply lack the skills to make such an assessment and the possible bias in any advice they receive if coming from another Web agency.
It is important that you evaluate any CMS within the right context. Using something such as Wix or Weebly might suit a small hobby-based start-up venture as an exercise in "feeling out" what you really need. These solutions are not, in our view, suitable to commercial businesses.
So where might you start.
- That there is a readily available pool of developer resources you can use other than those available directly from your Web agency.
- The CMS product exhibits continual updates and feature upgrades from the vendor.
- The CMS includes features for managing your business requirements beyond simple page presentation such as:
- An online store.
- Event bookings.
- Secured access to content areas within your site.
- Simple integration with payment gateways.
- Determine what integration is possible with third-party applications such as accounting system, CRM solutions or in fact any other computer based systems you already are using.
- Look at how easy you can import and export information into and out of the CMS
- Does the CMS support SFTP and FTP transfer of site content?
- How flexible and easy it is to change your site layouts and content within your site.
- Look closely at the hosting requirements and what sort of administrative overheads are required to manage that hosting and apply CMS updates – remember the cost of this will be borne by you in some way or another
- Understand the total cost of ownership (TCO) for your entire solution including any additional services required such as e-mail marketing, e-commerce, SSL certificates, blogs etc
- How scalable is the solution – will it meet changes in your business as it grows or morphs into other markets
- Understand the weakest point in the delivery model. Which part of the solution is most critical to your site’s ongoing existence and what is the level of risk associated with that.
- Understand the security measures in place that not only ensure you can control changes to your site, but also attack of your site by hackers with malware, ransomware or other hacking techniques.
- What support mechanisms are in place for resolving problems, ongoing product training, reference sources and pay close attention to the quality of these resources
The above list was the basis of our own CMS evaluation before we took up a Premium Partner licence with Business Catalyst. Suffice to say we also consider quite a large number of other aspects. At the end of the day we wanted to be sure that not only did we have a product that was good for us as a web agency, but of equal importance, that the solution was an ideal fit for our clients that they could use comfortably with peace of mind. There are situations where Business Catalyst offers no advantage. On occasion, it is not the right fit and we will advise clients of such and assist them in finding an agency who can deliver the right solution.
If you would like to know more about Business Catalyst then we are quite happy to discuss the advantages offered over any of the choices you might currently have. All we ask is that you consider the differences with an open mind.