So – you need a new website – that decision has been taken – the Management team are in agreement – what next?

Choosing the Content Management System (CMS) upon which your website will be built is a huge decision; especially for someone without, or with little, technical knowledge – after all – you probably haven’t selected one before and maybe won’t again.

There are a number of solutions readily available ranging from free to tens of thousands of pounds. It’s confusing and the information so conflicting depending on which camp your informant stands in.  Bear in mind that the CMS type you find yourself leaning towards can then also be highly significant when selecting your web design and development partner.
So what do you need to ask before you go on to make this essential and far reaching decision?
I would suggest you start with the basics.

What is a CMS?

A Content Management System (CMS) is the foundation upon which your website is built. It determines functionality and ease of use and, importantly, determines your ability to amend content and data without resorting back to the developers.  Just like building a house – if the foundations are not of the right type, you could find yourself sinking and having to underpin or, at worst, re-build in a much shorter timescale that you hoped or desired.

Now that we’ve got that straight, here are some useful questions to ask when choosing a CMS

What do you need the website to do?

What are your company hopes, goals and objectives for your new site? What is your content strategy / your marketing strategy?

  • How do you need to interact with your visitors?
  • Is this an information only website?
  • Does it need to generate leads? 
  • Do you need to sell or promote a product?
  • Do you need to be able to reach out and interact with your visitors via further marketing? 
  • Would you like to be able to track who has visited your site – and what they looked at?
  • How do you want to collect, collate and access visitor information?

What does your website need to interact with?  What other systems currently in use – CRM, accounting, stock control – do you need to integrate for maximum benefit and your ‘perfect’ solution?

Who will be looking at/using your Website?

It is no longer enough to simply have a website – although that is a general expectation. Your company has goals and aspirations – but the most forward thinking company will approach their website from the customer point of view.  A happy and engaged customer is one who will stay on your site; the longer they stay the more likely they are to engage productively with you.

  • Consider the device on which your client is accessing your website
  • Speak to your customer in their language
  • Use client appropriate visuals and content
  • Make the site easy to use and navigate
  •  Ensure there are clear signposts to the next step
  •  Include clear contact details

Who will be creating / editing content?

  • A CMS based on familiar content creation tools, (such as MS Word or Outlook), with a WYSIWYG editor (what you see if what you get) is much less daunting to the non-techie than a bespoke system which needs to be learned. 
  • If you are going to regularly change or amend content you need that process to be easy and simple – without constantly reverting back to your Agency for costly amends.
  • How do you control documents, edits, sign off and review? If you need to set up workflow tools for creation and approval; does your CMS support this? 

How much does a CMS Cost?

There’s no getting away from the fact that cost is often a driving factor in your choice of a suitable CMS.

  • Cost of purchase/licence
  • Cost of support
  • Cost of upgrades and maintenance

Beware of the ‘FREE’ solution – my mum used to tell me “If it looks too good to be true; it probably is!”

There are some great free CMS solutions out there … and some poor ones!

Beware of the expensive ‘add-ons’ which you may be required to purchase in order to achieve your desired functionality

Licenced products have their drawbacks too!  Licensing options are often complex and need to be carefully understood against both future and current requirements

These are just my ideas – but I hope this will serve as an Aide Memoire.  If you need any further information or advice – or would like to add anything I might have missed - why not get in touch?