How to choose the right CMS for your website

Building a website has become a lot easier since the creation of Content Management Systems (CMS). The problem now for those who want to create a website is that there are so many CMSs to choose from. All of them have their different features that come with their pros and cons, which can make it difficult to pick just one, especially for those without any knowledge in the matter.

In this article, we’ll be looking at what makes a good CMS and why it can be one of the most important decisions your business ever makes. There are five main factors that you need to keep in mind when considering a CMS: Usability, Security, Return on Investment (ROI), Lifetime Cost and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A CMS is a software application that allows users to manage the content of a website without having to code it directly. The software is designed to create, edit, organise and publish digital content. This gives a user the ability to make a change to their website, such as uploading a blog or adding a product, instead of going through a web development team.

Usability

It’s important to keep in mind that your team will ultimately become the authors, editors and reviewers of the CMS. They’ll be the ones uploading, managing and maintaining the site content, so it needs to be quick and easy to use to compensate for their time available and existing skills. Keeping usability in mind will make it much easier for your team to learn its features more quickly and retain their knowledge longer, which directly correlates to decreased training costs and time.

A highly usable CMS needs to be accessible for the lowest common denominator, somebody with very little technical skill. All of the features that go into the creation of a CMS would go to waste if the people who are actually going to use it don’t know these features exist or how to use them. If they can’t upload content easily onto the site, it can become stale and the website project may fail to serve its intended purpose.

It’s crucial for your team and growing workforce to be able to interact with your business and its digital assets. To ensure maximised growth opportunities, think about who is going to be using your website in your company, both now and in the future:

Your marketing team will want an intuitive interface to easily draft, review and publish content
Your sales team will want an easy way to follow up and close leads
Your website development team, and sourced developers, will want as much control, integration and customisation as possible, with access to the code/hard code.

Security

It’s important to make sure that your CMS is secure so that your website is hardened against cyber attacks - especially if you’re dealing with sensitive customer data.

It’s also a good idea to make a habit of checking for regular CMS software updates. Good CMS platforms constantly have updates rolled out as technology and security are always evolving. Technology updates generally add new features or improve the performance of existing features. While security updates avoid the significant risks and unwanted consequences of exploits which may be utilised by bad actors to compromise your data or sites operation.

Your search for a secure CMS may lead your thinking towards specialised solutions or even getting a developer to create a bespoke platform for you. Whilst popular CMSs are more likely to have exploits found, because of the sheer number of people using them, this user base and knowledge can also be utilised to harden the platform against a wider range of attacks than a sole developer, or comparatively small developer team could. It is worth noting on this that attack vectors generally come from holes in the base technology used to build websites and their implementation, rather than specific ‘back doors’ left in a website.

Return on Investment (ROI)

The real measure of the success of a CMS is the total ROI. Total ROI comes not just from the money you make from the CMS platform, but also the time it saves your team and business.

Your CMS should be built in accordance with best practices to achieve the functionality and design you want cost-effectively. Bear in mind it needs to be:

  • Secure, scalable and robust
  • Simple to use for content editors (your team)
  • Reduce the time to market for new content and features
  • Reduce the dependencies on highly skilled developers
  • Provide an identifiable return on your business

A good CMS platform should make you money and save you money. Consequently, its ROI should be measured in terms of revenue plus efficiency/time savings. If your system doesn’t offer you this, then maybe you should look again at your choice of CMS.

Lifetime Cost

In recent years, platforms have standardised and the focus of a website has shifted from management functionality to marketing functionality. This shift has also affected the complexity and need for better security and data protection controls, and the lifetime cost of your platform can now outweigh the initial budget needed to launch it when viewed over the long term. Your choice of CMS can also set the limitations for what your website can do throughout that longer-term period.

When choosing a CMS, you have to account for several costs throughout your website’s lifetime. These costs tend to arise in the following areas:

  • Hosting requirements

If your platform will need clusters of servers or specific technologies that increase the IT cost of your CMS, you’ll have to take into account who you are going to host your website with and what costs are involved.
Patches and updates - For Enterprise and Open Source software there are often multiple minor updates and security patches that need to be installed. Installing these updates can involve taking a site offline, or reprocessing and then synchronising data. Major updates can introduce new technologies and can take days or weeks of a developer's time to work through.

  • Upgradability

As the core offering of CMSs progress, there will inevitably be the need for upgrades to happen, this may be as simple as a security update all the way through to how the core framework is structured. It’s important to discuss your needs and requirements with your development team and get their recommendation on what CMs would suit your needs best.

  • Vulnerability

All software can be ‘decompiled’ by a developer and the code exposed. Open Source is generally seen in the industry as best-practise since the openness allows more eyes on the code to spot potential vulnerabilities and correct them before they can become a big problem.

  • Coding technologies

All platforms are built on a codebase that is usually PHP, .NET, Java-based, or a combination of multiple languages. Because of this, the costs of employing or contracting developers can be higher or lower depending on developer availability. The costs of support, hardware and add-ons can also vary according to the platform, with some being more expensive than others.

  • Developer scarcity

Developers can provide ongoing technical support, technical capabilities and provide functionality with the integration of new features. It isn’t so much the scarcity with server-side technologies like PHP, .NET and Java, but what is wanted/needed from those languages that can make developers scarce. Say if a developer knows how to write CSS and JavaScript, they may need to learn new packages/tools to do more features, which can be difficult if they’ve not done something before. In summary, it’s more the more features required than the programming language that can make developers scarce.

  • Training Costs

In addition to the technical costs, you should also factor in training costs. CMS platforms today are complex and feature-rich and we would always recommend up-skilling your content and marketing teams so that they are aware of the features available and know how to leverage them to optimum effect.

  • Portability

Throughout the course of your website’s life, you may end up needing to move it to a new platform or hosting provider. Migrating a website is moving your site from one server to another, people often confuse this with re-platforming which is the process of moving your current website from a CMS, like WordPress, to another CMS, like Umbraco. Replatforming a website will require more work which will come with a cost.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO strategies require the ability to edit metadata, change URLs, put in 301 redirects, add alt tags to images and speed up the webpage loading times.

An SEO strategy shouldn’t matter what site it’s on, whether it’s a hard-coded bespoke website or in a CMS. So if a strategy is to write optimised title tags and metadata, regardless of how the content is going to be handled, the difference is whether you need to send this to a website developer to hardcode this content into the site or if you can upload it into a CMS yourself. The implementation of the SEO strategy will require one or the other of these routes, either you send it to a developer to manually code it or use a CMS. One may just take a little longer than uploading it yourself as you go into a waiting game. One thing to consider is that with a bespoke CMS or hard-coded site, it may be considerably more expensive to retrospectively add SEO elements and mark-ups to your site.

Conclusion

There are many different CMSs out there, such as WordPress, Umbraco, Kentico, Sitecore, Magento and many more…

But there are two that we would consider being good choices for building a website, and it’s no coincidence that they also happen to be two of the most popular open-source CMS platforms on the market; Umbraco and WordPress, or why you should consider moving over to Umbraco from WordPress.

WordPress is a good CMS to use if you need a brochure website up quickly and have either no access to a developer or have no resources for one. But if you need a larger website with lots of customisation, and security is important for you, then Umbraco would be the best fit for your next project.

Looking to start a new project?

Whether you are looking for a brand new website, to rebuild or to re-platform your website, you want a platform that will be easy to use as well as a perfect fit for the functionality you require.

As an Umbraco Partner, we are able to create the perfect web solutions for your business, whatever your individual needs may be. Get in touch to start your next project.

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