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8 Things to Look for When Choosing a CMS for Your Website

Tim Asimos 03.20.2013 4 Minutes

Having a website built on a solid Content Management System (CMS) is essential. The importance of fresh, compelling content can’t be understated, and a CMS enables you to easily add, edit and update content in real time. But what should you look for when choosing a CMS?

There are plenty of options to choose from, but you need to choose a CMS that works best for your website and users. So here is a list of 8 things you should consider when choosing the right CMS for your website.

1
Solid Core Functionality 

Be sure to choose a CMS that is best in the world at doing what you need your website to do.  That may sound obvious, but it’s important to know what you are expecting of your website and choose a CMS based on its strengths being aligned with your needs. Make sure you evaluate a CMS thoroughly before making a decision to ensure that it can do everything you need it to do and do it really, really well. All CMS platforms are not created equal and some platforms are clearly better than others at even the most basic core functions when it comes to usability.

2
Intuitive and easy to use

The whole point of a CMS is to enable non-technical people to be able to make updates and changes to the content of the website—easily. So it’s important that the back-end of whatever CMS you choose is intuitive and easy to use. Regardless of the needs of your website, it’s imperative that you choose a CMS that the average user will be able to understand with little or no instructions. Basic activities like adding a new page, editing a page or adding new content types should be a simple task for virtually anyone to perform.

3
Creative Control and Customization

Don’t choose a CMS that requires you to use pre-determined site structures or one that restricts your ability to design. The CMS should not dictate your design, your designer and developer should. Choose a CMS that allows you to present website content the way you want.

4
Editor

The editor is the interface through which content (text, images, videos, etc.) is added to and changed on a page or post. This is one feature that is often overlooked when it comes to evaluation, but it can play a critical role in your company’s ability to ensure design consistency regardless of who is adding content to the website. You should consider a CMS with an editor that provides users with the ability to change headings, body text and other elements, without specifying how it should look.

The appearance is pre-determined by the developer using CSS styles and classes. Some CMS platforms allow the developer to give more editor features to some users and less to others, depending on their role. This can be really useful if you have a more tech-savvy user that you trust to make design decisions, but don’t want everyone with access to have the same control.

5
User roles and access

It’s very important that you have the ability to limit different users’ control over the content of the website. For example, if a particular user is only going to be adding basic things to the website such as a news update or blog post, you wouldn’t want them to have full administrator-level access to the entire website. If you have multiple people involved in updating your website, it is important to possess the ability to control who can edit what on your website. Most CMS platforms have the ability to create multiple editing roles such as administrator, editor, contributor, etc. and even create custom roles for more limited user roles, but be sure to look at this when making your decision.

6
Clean, fast and SEO-friendly code

Site loading times can make or break a website, especially when it comes to bounces and time-on-site. It’s important to choose a CMS that creates clean and simple code. Bloated, overly intricate code can slow down loading time and increase the likelihood of errors and improper renders. Also, good, clean code is critical to ensure that search spiders will successfully move through your website. Choosing a CMS that generates clean and validated code is absolutely essential.

7
Scalability / multi-site support

Be sure to choose a CMS that will work for you not just right now, but in the future as well. A CMS should have the ability to scale with your business as your needs change over time. Just because you don’t need certain capabilities or features now, doesn’t mean you won’t need them down the road. You don’t want your CMS to limit your ability to expand your web presence over time. Also, as your company grows, you may want to create additional blogs, websites or microsites. So having a CMS that allows you to edit multiple websites from the same installation is a valuable feature to include in your wish list.

8
Open source or proprietary

There is no shortage of debate on the issue of using an open-source CMS versus a proprietary CMS. Choosing one over the other really boils down to your business, your needs and often the preference of your internal IT department or the developer building the website. Things to consider when evaluating the two paths should include your requirements related to flexibility, customization, security, scale, support, resources, database functionality, setup, maintenance and budget. Each has pros and cons, but it really depends on your business requirements to determine which is the right way to go.

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Choosing a CMS can be overwhelming with so many different choices out there. But not just any CMS will work, you need to make sure you select a CMS that aligns with your website needs, both now and in the future. We hope this list will give you some food for thought and help you know some of the things to look for and consider when making your selection.

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About The Author

Tim is a syndicated blogger and sought-after national speaker, providing keen insights on modern marketing and an uncommon perspective gleaned from nearly 20 years of B2B and A/E/C experience.

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