Choosing the right content management system (CMS) will help you keep your company’s website content up to date, keep you in control of your site, and keep your sanity. There are more than a few CMS options out there and selecting the right one is the critical first step to having a site that works for you.
The ABCs of CMS
A CMS is a software program or web application that makes creating and editing HTML content easier, more efficient, and most cost effective. It puts you (not a third-party programmer) in control of the administration part of your site (the backend), and the resulting content is what your customers see on your website (the frontend). New press release? Pricing update? The CEO’s description du jour of a new product? No problem. With a CMS, you don’t always need to call your technical team every time you have an HTML content change—you update and publish it yourself.
There are a range of CMS systems available (more on that later), and most are built for the semi- to the all-together non-technical person. (However, all systems will require some initial IT support to install and configure.) The interface isn’t dissimilar to a word processing program and you don’t need to able to write code in order to add or edit content. And, since you’re going to be spending time and money on making your website look good, design templates can help you keep the look of your site consistent.
With a CMS, you can control who has access to the system, that is, who can create, publish, and delete content. This is key for maintaining brand and message consistency [tip: you want your site to sound like one (talented) person wrote it, not five]. A CMS also helps with search engine optimization (SEO), open content, as well as responsive design so your site it looks good regardless of device.
Types of systems
There are many different types of CMS. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and the right system depends entirely on your business’ objectives and content strategy, which defines site details like key themes and messages, the purpose of your content, content gap analysis, and SEO. Here are a few types of systems:
Open-source tools give its users the ability to customize the system according to their needs, and they come with support from active developer communities. Another big advantage: they’re generally free or have low-cost licensing fees. One con: more elaborate open-source systems usually require technical expertise in order to maintain it and keep it up to date, so be sure to budget for technical support.
ITX partners with DNN (formally DotNetNuke), which is an open-source CMS company. Although there are many excellent open-source CMS companies out there, we wanted DNN on our team because their software provides everything you need to create a unique, engaging website. DNN’s content management system makes it easy for any user to keep content fresh, add immersive visuals, and include interactive elements on your website.
These tools offer pretty much everything you could need straight out of the box. They usually don’t require as much configuration as their open-source counterparts, and have been designed to be fairly foolproof. That said, commercial CMS products usually require a potentially significant upfront investment to purchase the software and user licenses.
Here’s something else to consider: Many companies use a combination of commercial and open-source tools to meet different publishing needs. If your website features a blog, you may find that a commercial tool is the best choice to manage your site, and an open-source tool like WordPress or Tumblr is best for your blog.
A CMS checklist
Before you do anything, develop an aforementioned content strategy. It will be easier to find the right CMS once you identify the features and functionality you need to deliver against your content strategy and meet your business goals.
While every company’s needs and content strategy are different, there are a few the things to keep in mind when shopping for a CMS:
- Quick and easy installation
- Simple administrative interface
- Agreement between your technical and content teams on the chosen CMS
- Easy extension for extra functionality
- Easy to manipulate templates
- Helpful user community
Of course, if you’d like guidance on choosing the right system for your site, we’re happy to help.