How to Choose a Content Management System

Three Methods:Identifying your CMS NeedsResearching CMS OptionsChoosing your CMS

A content management system (CMS) is a database that usually works to organize, edit and update web applications or websites. It stores all the data that is needed to run a business. CMS is often preferred over traditional HTML web programming because after it is set up, website owners, employees and anyone who is assigned administrative or editorial controls can update it. The CMS is all the data that makes a company and website work, which is then plugged into a well-designed template. The template can either be made by the CMS vendor or by an independent web/graphic design firm. The CMS market has boomed and there are hundreds of open source programs and companies that can provide your business with a CMS database. You should do plenty of research, and choose the program that is best for your needs. Read more to find out how to choose a content management system.

Method 1
Identifying your CMS Needs

  1. 1
    Call a meeting of the website users, editors, designers and marketing department, to make a list of what the business needs from its CMS. For example, businesses often look for web interactivity, an intranet for employees, branding options, an attractive website template, online sales, search engine optimization (SEO) features, social media integration, and multi-channel publishing. Decide what functions your website must provide, so that you know what you are looking for in a CMS.
  2. 2
    Now that you have your list, do some research to find out what other options are available that might suit your needs. Look for feature lists and see if anything slipped your mind. The goal here is to create two lists. The first should be a list of "Wants" and the second a list of "Needs". The Wants are bits of functionality that would be nice to have but are not necessarily musts. The needs are items that absolutely must be included for it to be deemed a worthwhile investment.
  3. 3
    Decide on a budget for changing to a CMS. Although some CMS are open source and do not cost anything for the program, it will cost money for installation, training, technical support and more. You may choose to hire a company that includes all of this in their monthly or yearly fee.
  4. 4
    Assign a person or a team to lead the search for the business' CMS. Although it may be helpful to have someone adept in IT help out in the search, they should not take the lead. Assign someone who represents the average user of your database, to ensure they will choose something that everyone can use.

Method 2
Researching CMS Options

  1. 1
    Ask for referrals from other businesses you work with. Getting the pros and cons of a CMS straight from a business owner or marketing manager will get you started on your search. Start making a list of CMS that you are interested in.
  2. 2
    Start looking for CMS companies online. You may notice that, as of February 2012, WordPress has approximately 32 percent of the CMS market. It is a popular open source CMS; however, you should not choose a CMS just because it is large and popular or small and personal.
    • An Internet search will likely show the following CMS, as well as many others: Drupal, WordPress, Silver-stripe, Magneto, Radiant CMS, iWeb, Concrete5CMS, Frog CMS, CMS Made Simple and Joomla!.
  3. 3
    Go to 5 to 10 websites and contact a vendor-specific representative for more information. If you find an open source CMS and no one in the company is able to give you information on using it, then search for companies that provide support for open source CMS.
    • If you want to use an open source CMS and you have a small or non-existent IT department, you may need to hire a CMS expert to help you install, train and help with technical support.
  4. 4
    Ask your CMS vendor how they can meet the website, database and budget needs you have outlined. If possible, arrange a meeting where they can show you how their CMS works. If they cannot do this, make sure to ask for sample websites in your industry, then schedule a conference call to talk about the most common CMS company mistakes and weaknesses.
    • Ask how easily and quickly the CMS can be installed and switched over from your current system. Then, once it is set in place, ask how often it will be updated. This is a 2-part question because updating of a system to provide new features is a good thing; however, extensive website maintenance time is a bad thing, especially for e-commerce sites.
    • Ask how many options there are for customization on the front end. The frontend is the website's appearance when all of the information on the CMS is loaded into the designed template. Many companies need to brand their website specifically, so make sure the CMS either works with your current template, or you have options to customize the template options that the company has.
    • Ask how easily changes can be made on the backend. The backend is where the data is entered, usually by company employees. There is also a balance to strike with the backend of a CMS. For example, each business needs a certain number of changes to be made without having to call for technical support or web developer assistance. However, making too many fields editable by too many people also opens up opportunities for mistakes. Ask how permissions are assigned for CMS changes.
    • Ask about the functionality of the intranet. Most companies need to store data that is accessible to employees, but not published for the public. Make sure your employees can sign in easily to get the information they need.
    • Ask how progressive the vendor is toward developing new features. CMS is constantly changing, as is Internet commerce. The vendor's CMS must be able to support changes, plugins and possibly even customized functions as your business and customers grow and change.
    • Ask about the marketing options for your company. Even if you are not using them now, you should be able to add SEO and social media functions. For example, your URLs should be customizable, and they should lead back to your main website. Ask about tags, keywords, breadcrumb navigation and other features that will help your site list highly on an Internet search.

Method 3
Choosing your CMS

  1. 1
    Ask for a demo, or "sandbox" version, from each of your favorite 2 to 5 vendors. Assign 1 or 2 people to use each demo and rate them. They should upload information, try social media integration, sales functions and see how their changes appear on the website.
  2. 2
    Pick a CMS and build timetables or milestones that need to be met. Before choosing your CMS, make sure that the people who are installing it can agree to a schedule that suits you, including a trial period. Test out the CMS for 90 days before committing to it for a longer contract.
    • Although making a transition to a CMS and then changing again in 90 days is not ideal, it is better than getting into a yearly agreement and finding out that it does not meet your needs.
  3. 3
    Implement your new CMS. Organize a training program, and a short transitional period when your data is moved from the old system to the new 1. Make sure everyone with administrative privileges is clear on how to use it and has an IT support number.


  • If you are part of a multi-national business, make sure your vendor has a multi-lingual support center.
  • Although many of these CMS tips apply to medium to large-sized businesses, small businesses should also research carefully and choose based on attractiveness, ease of use and additional customization and features, as well as cost.
  • Ask the vendor if you can speak to some of their clients about the pros and cons of the CMS. Most confident vendors will have people that you can talk to. Each CMS has some weaknesses, so make sure the clients are willing to talk about what the program cannot do.

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Categories: Website and Blog Creation