Choosing a CMS? Don't Skip These Conversations!

Emily Lewis

When we build a website for a business — or a nonprofit or a school — we don’t start with assumptions about CMS software. We start with conversations about your business and content management needs. Because choosing a CMS is less about software and more about your business. We first have to know what problems to solve (AKA your needs), then we can identify the best CMS software for you.

So what can you expect? Here’s a sample of the questions we ask and how your answers help us build the right CMS for your website.

Questions to Start the Right Conversation

Today’s CMS landscape is relatively mature and most software comes with basic web content management right out of the box. So we don’t focus much on questions about changing SEO headings or metadata, for example. Every reputable CMS out there can support that, as well as other core needs like changing site text from a web-based control panel.

Instead, we ask questions that reveal your unique needs and start conversations about areas that should be explored further.

What types of content do you need to manage?

Most clients need to manage text on their website. For clients who also want to manage images and videos, this signals a need for a CMS that has good media support. What we want to know next is how robust that media support needs to be.

For images, we ask:

  • How big are the images you need to manage, both in terms of dimensions and file sizes?
  • Do you want to be able to crop or edit an image in the CMS?
  • Do images need to be organized on the site in a unique way, such as a gallery?

For videos, we ask:

  • Will you host these videos yourself or rely on third-party hosting like YouTube?
  • Do you want visitors to be able to share these videos on social media?
  • Will your videos include transcripts?

Content isn’t just limited to text, image and video, though. We also have ecommerce clients who manage products for sale, which are their own type of content. For these projects, we ask:

  • Are all products unique or are there different types of the same product, such as different sizes of shirts?
  • Will you sell physical items to be shipped?
  • Will you sell digital items to be downloaded?

And then there are clients who need to manage members, which requires a CMS that can support membership. The degree to which depends on the client’s needs:

  • Do you need a member directory and profiles?
  • Can members edit their own profiles?
  • Is any website content members-only? Behind a login?

Who will be responsible for site maintenance?

Knowing who the CMS users (admins, content authors, etc.) will be is critical for ensuring that the final solution is one that works for them, rather than the other way around. We want to know their technical skills, for example, because some CMSs offer built-in features like drag-and-drop ordering — perfect for a marketing manager who would rather not mess with code.

We also want to know if all CMS users will perform the same tasks, or if some will have limited (or exclusive) access. If only some users should be able to add events to the calendar, for instance, our client needs a CMS that supports permissions.

Digging further, we also want to know if some users draft content while other users review and approve? Then a CMS that supports multi-stage editorial workflows tied to permissions is a must.

We even want to know how these users will access the CMS. For clients who travel frequently, they need a mobile-friendly CMS that they can update right from their phone.

Will you collect any information?

A website is an integral part of an overall digital marketing strategy — one that often depends on getting site users to submit information online. Do you want site visitors to subscribe to a newsletter? Complete a contact form? Register for an event?

Knowing the type of information a client wants to collect from their website can reveal:

  • Whether your CMS needs custom add-ons to integrate with third-party services like MailChimp
  • If CMS data needs to integrate with systems, such as Salesforce, via custom APIs
  • Even if you want to create data collection forms on-the-fly and on your own — without contacting us to add new functionality

And, regardless of the type of information, if it’s collected online, then you need to protect it. That means you want a CMS that can support HTTPS — both on the website itself and the CMS control panel.

The Right CMS = ROI

As much as these questions reveal, they are still the tip of the iceberg. But a reliable web partner (like us!) will have these conversations with you to discover the best CMS solution for your site. And this discovery is critical. Because the wrong CMS will never pay for itself.

If your CMS is hard to use, staff may not keep the site content updated as frequently. And stale website content is not only bad for your brand, it could even hurt your SEO and search ranking. Making matters worse, if your CMS is difficult for staff to work with, they may waste valuable time troubleshooting technical headaches.

If your CMS software doesn’t have out-of-the-box support for your top content management requirements, it will need extensive customization and even add-on software. And the more add-ons and customization your CMS needs, the more it will cost — both time and money — to build, maintain and change as your business changes.

I love how easy it is to update the site. I have already uploaded all my video segments, and I love how even writing a simple blog post is so much cleaner and easier to do.

Gina DeLapa, Ultimate Reminders

But the right CMS is a guaranteed return on investment:

  • Happy, productive staff who can focus on your business needs, rather than tech support
  • A website that supports your agile marketing — like on-demand landing pages
  • Fresh site content that supports your business, brand and SEO
  • Easier, faster software upgrades — which also means a more stable and secure website and CMS

Ready to learn how the right CMS will help your business? Schedule a FREE 30 min consultation, and let's start the conversation!

Want to Know More?

Podcasts

Decision-Making
Choosing a CMS
CMS Software
Beyond WordPress
Business
Discovery-Only Projects

Subscribe to the Forecast

Resources for smart business and smart websites

Elevate Your Website!

Want a site that stands out and gets results?

Let's start a conversation!