No CMS offers a perfect solution for a complex business problem. Almost any CMS could, in one way or another, do the job to a degree. We often say:
“There’s no such thing as a bad CMS, just bad implementations.”
This makes it difficult for businesses to choose a CMS because, essentially, the options are endless. When starting your website project, if your first question is - “what CMS am I going to use?” - your project is already at risk of failing. Instead, you should consider three consecutive questions:
- First: What does my business need?
- Second: What does my audience need?
- Third: What technology is best suited to me achieving this?
If you start with the technology first, the first two questions are harder to answer and that increases the chance of you answering them incorrectly.
As a web development agency, we work with CMS’ that provide the functionality to craft a tailored solution geared towards the exact scenario that our client wants to resolve. However, we understand that selecting the right CMS for your business is a difficult decision to make and that’s why we’re sharing our guidance on how you can make this choice.
What do you want from your CMS?
What is it you really want your CMS to do for your business? It’s important to consider your digital ambitions within this and how your CMS is going to support you in reaching your goals. Some questions to get you thinking along the right lines could include:
- Who will be using the CMS in your internal teams?
- What will they be using the CMS for?
- What does the CMS need to be capable of doing – both for the individual users and for the business as a whole?
- Have you considered your CMS in terms of today and in the future?
- What are your long-term objectives?
- What purpose will your CMS serve for your business? Is it a content repository? Is it a more complicated piece of architecture?
- What is your budget?
Prematurely committing to technology only to find yourself unable to move away from it in the future is a difficult scenario to be in. That’s why it’s important to start with these exploratory questions as they are an effective place to kick off your project and can help you select the right CMS.
Consider your site architecture
Your site’s architecture refers to the way your website is structured and how this structure can help users quickly find the information they need. It plays a big role in making your technology decision so it’s important to consider your site architecture ahead of selecting your CMS.
A discovery phase will uncover the answer to question three - what technology is best suited to meeting my business and audience’s needs? Uncovering what makes both your business and customers tick, once the discovery phase is done, you and your agency will be in a more informed position to decide on your technology.
The support of an agency
If you have no idea where to begin with your CMS choice, you may find yourself leaning on the expertise of a web agency to help you make the right decision.
The most important part of engaging with an agency is trust in the people you’re speaking to. We often hear stories of agencies pushing a certain CMS on businesses because it’s what the agency is familiar with rather than what’s genuinely best for the client. When engaging with an agency, it’s important to question if they are really putting that technology forward for your benefit or if it’s simply to win the deal? While an agency should be able to inform and advise, ultimately, the final decision has to be yours.
Test your agency
Web agencies can’t expect organisations to be experts in CMS technology. It is the agencies responsibility to consult with you to help your business reach the right decision. But in order to ensure your agency is doing that, you should test their recommendations by asking questions such as:
- Why have you recommended this CMS over another?
- How will this CMS help me meet my objectives?
- Will this CMS help me solve my business challenges?
Press your agency to demonstrate that their proposed solution is backed by a real understanding of your business needs and not just because it’s a CMS they specialise in.
Demonstrations of CMS platforms are common in the world of web development and we advise you ask for a demo from your agency before selecting a platform. Demos provide high value during the CMS decision-making process giving you an opportunity to get a feel for how the platform works. However, they should be balanced, highlighting both the pros and cons of the platform when it comes to meeting your requirements.
The role of a consultant
Lack of knowledge or fear of getting a decision wrong often leads businesses to engage with a consultant. When you sit internally within an organisation, it can be difficult to assess exactly what it is the business needs. In these cases, an independent consultant can help you consider the bigger picture.
In general, we welcome consultants into a project. Gaining an agnostic view from someone who has wider experience of different implementations with different agencies adds objectivity and can provide truly invaluable insight. However, be wary of a consultant who pushes you towards a singular agency or CMS - it’s important to ensure they have the experience and expertise to provide a high-quality recommendation.
Other factors to consider
- Platform releases: Look out for a CMS’ track record of regular releases, improvements and enhancements. If you come across a CMS that hasn’t had a major release in two or more years or find the vendor hasn’t published a road map of where the platform is heading, these are warning signs that the solution may not offer the longevity you need.
- Bespoke platforms: We recommend considering how widely the platform is used. Generally, if a platform is widely used, it gives you a range of support options. If for whatever reason the relationship between you and your agency doesn’t work out and you decide to switch agencies, you have more choice when it comes to moving elsewhere. This is one of the main issues with using a bespoke, in-house agency platform. As great as the CMS may be, you’re essentially locking yourself into that agency and that’s something we always advise against.
- Tried and trusted vs. cutting edge technologies: Are you the type of business who prefers tried and trusted or do you like to push boundaries and want something new? Maybe you sit somewhere in between ‘proven choice’ versus ‘cutting-edge technology’. Wherever your business is placed, your CMS should match up.
- Business size: The size of your business is a critical factor when it comes to choosing your CMS. A professional organisation of a certain scale needs to invest in professional technologies of a certain scale.
- Budget: Budget can heavily influence your decision, and this comes back to exactly what you want from your CMS. From a technical point of view, a specialist solution is always better than a generic one. However, a specialist solution usually involves extra cost, extra complexity, extra skills, extra agencies, extra tools and extra platforms that all need to be considered. Where budget is a real challenge, you could explore what is possible within the budget that you do have and how more could be made of your existing website to get you closer to your objectives.
The type of CMS platform you choose will be specific to your business needs and objectives. There may well be ‘wrong’ CMS choices but often there are multiple ‘right’ choices too.
Whatever position you’re in, you should approach your CMS decision with an open mind. It’s important to engage in constructive dialogue with your colleagues and agency and – especially where integrations are involved – weigh the technical usability of the CMS higher than a desire to work with the most popular or familiar choice. A new user interface is cheap and usually easy to learn, but a wrong technical choice can prove costly.
Do you need a digital partner?
Selecting the right CMS for your business is just the starting point. To succeed in today’s online world, you need a digital partner who can help you navigate these complex waters.
Holding over 20 years of experience, we specialise in the creation of tailored web solutions. Creating bespoke solutions for the likes of Peabody, Ryobi, London Chamber of Commerce, Havwoods and Circuit, our dedicated team of Kentico and Umbraco web developers are fully certified in our platforms of choice and have honed their skills to deliver websites of the highest standards.
Find out more about the way we work or take a read of some of our previous projects to see what others have achieved working with the NetConstruct team. Alternatively, contact our team of professionals who will be more than happy to chat with you about your upcoming web project and lend guidance on what your next steps should be.