Website development. Or a website refresh? Find the right CMS.

Digital360 on 1 June 2017

A CMS is a software application designed to facilitate website development and help manage digital content. Broadly, a CMS will allow individuals and businesses to edit, modify and publish content to the web, with or without an extensive knowledge of code. That means a CMS can make, or break, the effectiveness of your website content and development.

Depending on what your business does, digital agencies can help business owners and managers to choose the most suitable content management system. Here are some great questions to ask digital agencies when selecting your content management system.

1. What level of technical knowledge is required?

A preliminary question in determining which CMS is right for you, is ascertaining the technical level you will need with each platform. Will you need an expert to manage the software for you? Will you need training? And will you have access?

If you have a sound knowledge of code such as HTML, CSS, PHP or JavaScript, then platforms like Magento, SilverStripe or Drupal could be right for you. These open source CMSs give tech-savvy individuals and developers the ability to fully customise a website, offering more flexibility through customisation.

For those without access to custom web development expertise, an 'out-of-the-box' CMS like Squarespace or Shopify might be a better fit. WordPress is another option, balancing the line between ease-of-use and customisation. Speaking with a digital agency will help you to make an informed decision about your limitations when it comes to choosing a content management system.

2. Is there an eCommerce capability?

If your business intends to sell online – whether that's retail goods, or managing a booking system, then your needs demand specific functionality from your CMS. Essentially, your CMS will need strong eCommerce functionality and integration with your desired payment system.

As it stands, the two best CMSs for eCommerce are Magento and Shopify. These platforms focus on online retail and eCommerce, offering great features such as product variances, pricing options, shipping models, return management, and security. However, despite their strengths in eCommerce, they do lack in other areas, such as content workflows.

Both Magento and Shopify are working towards better integration with other CMS platforms that make up for their shortcomings in content management. For instance, WordPress now has Magento and Shopify integration plugins.

3. Is it open source or closed source?

Closed source content management systems are owned by companies that sell or licence their software. These companies offer their software as a service (SaaS), and will sometimes include a range of other website services, including domain name registration and hosting.

Generally speaking, closed source software has less of a learning curve than open source. The features and functionality of the software are usually fully-developed, without the need for further customisation. Closed source providers will often also provide support and training materials.

On the other hand, there are open source content management systems. This software is free to use, and is predominantly developed, supported and maintained by a community of developers and collaborators. That means the level of customisation for open source is virtually limitless with the help of a quality web developer or digital agency.

4. Are there blogging or publishing tools?

Publishing content via a company blog or resources centre is a central part of both SEO strategy and content marketing. And to be found by your customers and earn their trust as an expert, your business needs the right CMS to publish the right content.

Blogging integrations are incredibly important because that is where much of this content marketing and SEO material will be published. The most widely-used CMS for blogging is WordPress, which has a good standard of publishing tools, as well as a large ecosystem of available themes and plug-ins from third-parties.

WordPress is followed closely Squarespace as the next most popular blog-based CMS. Then there is the other end of the CMS market, such as SilverStripe and Magento. These platforms are also excellent for publishing, however custom web development is often required to get the most out of these powerful platforms.

5. How SEO friendly is it?

It is important to your business that your chosen CMS is SEO friendly. For beginners, properly indexing a website will help Google find and navigate your site. While most CMSs have been developed with search engines as a central consideration, some CMSs are noteworthy as being better for SEO.

Generally speaking, an SEO-friendly CMS system should:

  • Allow you to customise page metadata – This includes page titles, meta descriptions, headings and image alt text.
  • Assist in best-practice internal linking – Allow for drop-down navigation menus and efficient internal link structures, such as clear page hierarchies.
  • Be responsive and mobile-friendly – With the proliferation of mobile devices, websites must be mobile friendly. A CMS needs to manage content to work over all devices.
  • Have integrated analytics – Analytics is essential in knowing if your SEO strategy is paying off. Most CMSs have some web analytics functionality, or will integrate with other services such as Google Analytics.

Getting the right advice

When choosing a content management system, you need to weigh up the needs of your business with the strengths and weaknesses of each option. Be sure to shop around, ask questions and get the right answers, so that your business has a CMS that is right both today and tomorrow.

Get a powerful website for your business. Speak to a website development specialist about your business needs.