We live in an era of endless options when it comes to web design & development, but one of the most critical choices we (as web developers/digital marketers) initially have to make is: what content management system should be used? It’s often the first question that gets asked when pondering a new website build, and with an ever-growing list of platforms out there – WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla, DotNetNuke, Concrete 5, Volusion, Wix… just to name a few – how does one choose?
For us, a marketing and web development agency, we tend to answer this question by posing another question: which CMS will work best for our client’s needs? Though, keep in mind we have pre-emptive knowledge about what each CMS offers, so we can usually make the choice relatively easy. But what about everyone else? What are some need-to-know basics and things to look for when choosing a CMS? Here are just a few…
• Understanding Functionality. It is crucial to research and understand which CMS can perform the actions you need it to. This may sound basic for anyone with a base understanding of web development, but (for example) if you’re building a website with an eCommerce focus (having the intent to sell goods through your site) you obviously wouldn’t want to choose a CMS that isn’t eCommerce focused or at least has the ability to integrate eCommerce functionality.
• Ease of Installation and Compatibility. Often times just installing a CMS can be a tricky task. You have to understand how to best set up a server to work ideally with your chosen CMS, and know that the CMS you choose has the ability to implement its own databases and directories with ease… unless you are an advanced developer and have the time to do everything manually.
• Interface Navigation and Template Manipulation. Some CMS’ make it easy for any user to dive in and begin altering the design and layout of their site. For others, it’s a matter of knowing where certain items live within the CMS. If you don’t know how to reach and edit the items you need in order to manipulate your template, you will have a hard time producing a site. It is important to research how a particular CMS works in the backend and factor ease of use into your decision making process.
• Extension Availability & Performance. A lot of CMS’ come with basic functionalities, such as menu builders, page creators, and blog editors, but most CMS’ are not going to be equipped with everything you need right off the bat. Modules, plugins, and other extensions are basic add-ons that allow you to integrate more functionality, such as form builders, social sharing widgets, content sliders, and image galleries (to name a few). Some CMS’ offer a multitude of different extensions for one type of function, and others may have limited options for extensions depending on what function is being called for. It is important to research ahead of time and know that there are the extensions available that you’ll need for the CMS you’re going to use.
• Support and User Community. No CMS is perfect, and no template installs and works flawlessly (especially since most are built by third-party developers) so it is important to know that you’ll have sources to reference for trouble-shooting. For some CMS’, most trouble-shooting items can find resolve in just doing a quick Google search, but for others you may need to dive deeper and know where the right forums live in case you need to ask specific questions.
These are just a few things to consider before choosing as a CMS. Again, it basically boils down to: what are your needs – what do you need your website to do? If you don’t have a clue, or even some basic web development knowledge, it’s always best to leave it up to professionals like us.