Choosing the Right CMS

Emily Lewis

It’s almost 2017, and the CMS landscape has evolved to the point that just about every content management system out there can handle the core needs of any website, regardless of industry. At the same time, licensing costs for CMSs run the gamut — and that's not even counting the overall cost of building a web solution.

Bottom line: If you aren’t a CMS or web developer, investigating and comparing costs and features of software can be a waste of your time. So what should you do if you need a CMS for your business — or nonprofit or school?

Think beyond the software. Focus on 1) your business and 2) finding a great web partner.

Focus on What You Know

You are the expert in your business, not in CMS and web solutions. So before you do anything, get a handle on what you really need:

  • What are your business goals for the web?
  • How does your website fit into your overall marketing?

The people who buy enterprise software aren’t the people who use enterprise software. That’s where the disconnect begins. The experience takes a back seat to the feature list, future promises, and buzz words.

Jason Fried, 37signals

You also need to ask yourself questions about the staff who will be using the CMS:

  • Will multiple people be managing content for the site?
  • Do you need editorial approvals built into workflows?

As well as questions about the specific website features you want:

  • Do you want to offer online event registration?
  • Will you promote your blog across social media networks?

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. A great web partner is going to want to know everything about your business, your staff, your operations and (oh so much) more.

You Want Software, You Need a Partner

So when you begin looking for a web partner, don’t just search for software. Because a CMS is only one part of your website. And your website is only one (critical) part of your overall digital marketing. Your web partner needs to know more than content management or WordPress or ExpressionEngine or Craft.

More software only means that more emphasis must be placed on finding the right partners to implement and integrate the technologies and to assist with research, analytics, business strategy, and other services for a complete solution.

Scott Liewehr, Digital Clarity Group

Your partner needs to understand your business and how to use technology and the web to help you succeed. Your partner needs to be committed to and invested in your business, not some software. Your partner should build what you need, rather than make your business fit into prescribed software.

Go One-on-One for Your Perfect Match

Finding this kind of partner is (and should be) an intensive process, but one that shouldn’t be driven by RFP.

  • Seek recommendations from people you know and whose judgement you trust.
  • Search online for web agencies with sites and portfolios you like, who work with businesses like yours and who provide CMS development (again, don’t worry too much about the specific software at this point).
  • Reach out and schedule time to actually talk, one-on-one. Though your website is a digital product, it is ultimately about people — you, your customers and the agency. You want to get a personal sense of the people you’ll be working with and their communication styles.
  • Find out how the agency works. Ask them to walk you through some projects from their portfolio, with a focus on the process rather than the end product. You’ll quickly get a sense of how thoughtful, planned and organized the agency is (or isn’t).
Collage of screenshots from multiple content management systems: Craft, ExpressionEngine and Statamic
One CMS may be too small for you. Another may be too big. A skilled and trusted web partner will help you find the one that’s just right.

And when the discussion does turn to software, let the agency guide you but keep your business needs at the forefront. Consider landing pages. Most of our clients use landing pages for digital marketing, but none manage them the same way. We recently detailed a few examples of landing page solutions: 2 different CMSs and 4 different approaches!

Shifting your focus from CMS software to your business needs and finding a great partner is key to long-term web success. So when (not if) software and technology changes, you’ll still have a partner who can support you.

Ready to talk to a partner you can trust? Schedule a FREE 30 min consultation, and get to know Bright Umbrella and what we can do for you!

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