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A content management system known as CMS is the heart of any website as it helps deliver content to end-users. If you need an example, think of Salesforce – one of the most popular CMS systems out there. But in recent years, Salesforce has gained quite a few competitors. So how does a website owner choose from a vast array of available solutions and pick the perfect CMS? This article aims to help you out with that.
Why do you need a CMS?
As we already said, a CMS is a great and easy way to manage a website. With CMS, you can create, modify, and manage content and the way it will be delivered and displayed to users. A great example is WordPress: it offers rich functionality to design your website as you like it, starting from templates and ending with fonts. So basically, with only a few clicks (or drag-and-drops), you can change the layout of your page or add a design element to it.
In addition to managing the look of your website, CMS allows you to do the following:
- Schedule the content if you need frequent publishing;
- Update your website faster than with manual coding (it does not apply to all updates, though);
- Enhance the security with built-in security features;
- Improve your SEO with built-in SEO features;
- Bring together all related stakeholders (IT, Sales, Marketing) and make collaboration transparent.
As you see, the use of CMS makes life a bit easier for you and allows your team to work together without any inconveniences and bottlenecks. Examples of CMS tools are Hubspot, Salesforce, and WordPress, but there are many more options available, and all of them differ by type, the purpose of use, and hosting.
The many types of CMS systems
Since there are so many different types of businesses, it’s natural that there are also many types of CMS to suit various business purposes. We will now look at CMS classification by their purpose of use, by hosting, and by development – this should help you get a good idea of what your business needs.
CMS types by the purpose of use
CMS solutions are designed to serve a particular business goal, so the first way to classify them is by their purpose of use. There are several types of CMS:
- CCMS (Component Content Management System)
- DMS (Document Management System)
- ECM (Enterprise Management System)
- WCMS (Web Content Management System)
- DAM (Digital Asset Management System).
Let’s break each acronym down.
Component Content Management System is designed with maximal content reuse in mind. It stores all content (or components like images or paragraphs) in a single repository for granular content management, and all components are stored only once. The main benefits of CCMS are reusability and traceability. Plus, you can efficiently distribute content across multiple channels.
Document Management System is what it sounds like: it helps manage all your documents in different formats. Such systems are usually highly automated and are often hosted in a cloud.
Like DMS, Enterprise Management System also helps manage the enterprise’s documentation and content. An interesting feature of this system is that it deletes files that are no longer needed after some time. In this way, EMS helps you manage the storage costs efficiently.
Web Content Management System is best for managing the digital content of your website. Unlike other CMS types, WCMS is specifically designed for web content and provides all needed tools.
Finally, Digital Asset Management System is similar to WCMS but is more of a digital content library. It serves as a central repository and allows different users to access it and view and manage content.
CMS types by hosting
Next, we have different types of hosting for your CMS. There are three main options:
Now, how do you choose between these options? Here are the pros and cons of each.
This CMS is hosted on your server (or third-party server) after you buy the license. The CMS provider is responsible for its maintenance and updates, while you will be responsible for hosting and security.
Pros of on-premise hosting:
- Complete control over the infrastructure and the environment;
- Better security since you are the one controlling it.
Cons of on-premise hosting:
- High cost of hosting;
- Possible issues with scalability;
- Long time for deployment.
Cloud CMS solutions have gained popularity due to their ease of hosting, flexibility, and performance. Cloud CMS is hosted in the cloud where you lease the hosting space. You will have to install it by yourself after buying the license.
Pros of cloud hosting:
- High flexibility and scalability;
- Affordable costs compared to on-premise hosting.
Cons of cloud hosting:
- Hosting fee.
SaaS is another popular CMS concept that implies you do not install or host anything but pay the license fee and use the readymade software. The provider takes care of everything (i.e., maintenance, updates, hosting) but security may be a risk area since you do not control it and have to rely on the provider.
Pros of SaaS CMS:
- No need for maintenance, update, or hosting;
- Pay-as-you-go pricing model;
- Rich functionality;
- High scalability.
Cons of SaaS CMS:
- Low customization options;
- Possible security issues;
- Dependence on the provider in terms of support.
CMS types by development method
Finally, let’s talk about two CMS types by development: readymade and custom solutions.
A readymade (or stock) CMS is a solution already designed and is out there in the market. All you have to do is pay the licensing fee, decide on the hosting if needed, and you are good to go. A custom solution is designed from scratch and uniquely for your business needs.
So which one might be a better option?
The biggest advantage of a readymade solution is its availability. You don’t need to spend time on development and release – it’s here and waiting for you to use it. As well, with readymade solutions you don’t have to worry about maintenance and sudden bugs coming out of nowhere – a provider takes full care of such issues. However, stock CMS solutions might lack functionality, especially if you need specific features. This flaw leads us to custom development.
Some people claim that custom development takes too much time and is too expensive. However, stock solutions may have hidden costs that will reveal themselves only after some time. Custom solutions are perfect for businesses with unique requirements as they are designed specifically for fitting them. Plus, with custom development, you get extra attention to security and updates since you are in complete control of them.
Now, it’s not yet time to decide which CMS solution would be perfect for you. We also want to talk about the most critical functions to look for and about the main considerations that might impact your decision in the long run. Ready? Let’s continue.
Main features to look for in an efficient CMS
Even though you will probably need several specific features uniquely for your website, there is still core functionality universal for any good CMS. It normally includes:
- Content creation and management (obviously!): the process should be user-friendly and easy, so users don’t spend too much time figuring how to edit text or add an image.
- Customizable user administration: for better security and content management, a good CMS offers different user roles and different levels of access to content.
- Built-in security: most CMS systems come with built-in security features. This helps keep your data protected and prevents the majority of threats.
- Multichannel delivery: for many companies, it is important to deliver their content to multiple channels, so most CMS platforms provide this option.
- Efficient workflow and publishing controls: CMS systems are here to make our lives easier, not add a challenge to the current work. A CMS facilitates and streamlines the content management workflow and offers advanced publishing features.
- Versioning for rollbacks: a helpful feature that allows you to quickly roll back to the previous version of the website/page if something goes wrong.
Of course, these are not all features present in a good CMS, but it’s safe to say that they are the core ones.
Things to consider when choosing a CMS
Functionality and CMS types are not the only determining factors for selecting the right solution. Several considerations often come unexpectedly if the business owner is unaware of them. So we list them down to help you navigate through possible bottlenecks.
When talking about the possible CMS pricing, there might be some hidden costs that many people tend to ignore. They often include:
- Hosting price if you go with on-premise CMS;
- Customization costs;
- Re-platforming (unless you work with SaaS);
- Licensing fees in the long run (will they be better than custom development, for example?).
Such things often go unnoticed but tend to pile up after some time. Therefore, when selecting a CMS platform, first define your budget and then compare available CMS options against this budget, including long-run spendings. In this way, there will not be any unexpected costs showing up out of nowhere.
In most cases, a website tends to get bigger, requires more content to manage, and may even grow into multiple websites. The question is whether your platform can support several websites, how well it can handle the amount of content, and can you add more features without crashing the website?
Scalability is often among the top priorities for many website owners. As the business grows, so does the website. So a CMS platform needs to handle this growth efficiently.
The primary purpose of any CMS is content management, and content includes sensitive data. It’s your primary concern to keep this data safe. For that, your CMS should be equipped with solid security features.
Of course, you’ll have to throw in additional security features, especially if you are the one doing hosting and maintenance. But usually, most CMS platforms have such features as two-step authentication, firewalls, and different user permissions. Plus, all plugins and third-party tools have to be updated regularly as regular updates significantly enhance security.
Another critical aspect is the possibility of integrating the CMS system with third-party services and other platforms in use. In addition to CMS, most companies also operate a CRM, ERP, a customer support service, email marketing, and other platforms. So for the content to be timely updated, properly collected, and well-managed, it is important to keep all platforms integrated.
Steps for choosing a CMS platform
Now that you know about the main things to consider when choosing between available CMS options, it’s time to outline the actual process of selecting one.
Identify your stakeholders
In most cases, a CMS platform is used by different departments, like Marketing, Sales, and IT. For everyone to be content and productive, a platform has to satisfy all users – so step number one is defining all users who will have access to the CMS.
Of course, their opinions might differ, so it’s important to find common ground and the best alternative that would satisfy most needs. Without knowing who the platform users will be, it’s easy to make the wrong choice and end up with a low-value solution.
Note: don’t forget that your choice of a CMS will heavily depend on the type of your business. Whether you have an e-commerce store or a news portal, research the best options for this specific field and then proceed to identify stakeholders.
Identify business goals
It seems obvious, yet some business owners still fall into the trap of choosing the wrong solution to their business problem. Before selecting a CMS, list down all challenges you currently face and how you want to resolve them. You will need to outline tangible goals, like “I would like to automate content collection” or “I need to speed up the process of blog posting 2X”. With clear goals in front of you, it will be easy to see how CMS can help with reaching them.
Prioritize needed features
Since many CMS platforms have ridiculously rich functionality, it’s easy to go over the top. But remember that the number of features does not equal excellent performance or delivery of needed results. Thus you will need to go through available options and list high priority, medium priority, and low priority features.
By doing so, you will see which features are 100% must-have and which ones can be dismissed. This list will help you decide without feeling like you are sacrificing quality for budget.
Assess available and needed resources
Lastly, before making the final choice, you’ll need to go through available resources and outline the needed ones. Is your tech team knowledgeable enough to handle the CMS maintenance? Are your resources enough to ensure 100% security of the system? Such questions help determine how exactly a CMS needs to be managed and what you need for that. We recommend outlining the process of CMS implementation from the start and writing down all necessary resources for each step. In this way, you’ll see whether you need to do anything else before implementing a CMS platform.
Let’s quickly review everything we’ve talked about and summarize it in a checklist:
- Set the budget;
- Define the stakeholders and business goals;
- Outline must-have features;
- Create a mockup (if you develop your CMS from scratch);
- Compare available solutions and their costs;
- Check the integrations.
Of course, this is a very rough and very minimalistic checklist, but it gives you a good overview of the main things to do when choosing a CMS. And remember: it all depends on your goals and business, so the choice will differ for two businesses in the same industry.