What to Look for in a Content Management System

Guest Post by Marianne Pratt

A content management system is a comprehensive software application that gives you a single, automated framework from which to manage your website, blog, e-commerce, website-based customer communications and marketing.

There are lots of reasons to purchase a content management system:

They’re designed to be used by several contributors, and users don’t have to be highly skilled technicians.  Information sharing is easy, but you can control who has access to different areas.  A CMS provides:

  • Consistent look and feel throughout your website and blog.
  • Smooth content creation process (writing, review, approval).
  • Coordinated content processing and publishing.
  • Content storage, organization and retrieval.
  • Increased productivity, to save time and money.
  • Enhanced customer relationships.

The best content management system is flexible and customizable.

“Best” is relative to each user.  And CMS products vary, sometimes widely.  The one you choose should functionally match how you use your website to market and conduct your business.  It should allow – and assist – design, creation and presentation of content tailored to fit your industry and audience.

In other words, you want to be fully in control of the results.

So look for a CMS that offers plenty of standard features plus plenty of optional features, modules, plug-ins, components, etc. for maximum flexibility and custom fit.  Don’t get distracted by cool features you may not need.  Instead, start with a detailed self-analysis, to determine which functions are essential for you.  Then list features you’d like to have, either now or in the future.

Armed with your list, look for a content management system that offers:

  • Separate processes for design and content creation, where elements are unified later for publishing.  Your CMS should accommodate all types of online content – text, video, images, attachment documents in varied formats.
  • A robust editor that facilitates adding and changing content and retains previous versions of each page.  You’ll use the editor a lot.
  • Comprehensive search function.  Visitors will use your website or blog “search” box, so it has to provide useful results.  This is critical.
  • Useful alternatives for working with images and attachments.
  • Ability to both retrieve and present content in a variety of ways (by date, in order, etc.).
  • Easy gathering of visitor feedback and customer communication, either internally or through a third-party plug-in.
  • Multiple website support.  You may have only one now, but you might want more in the future, for internal use (an intranet), mobile-optimization, niche products, etc.
  • Multiple language support.  Again, if you don’t need this now, will you need it in the future?

You’ll find an overwhelming number of choices, but “open source” CMS is the most popular with small and mid-size businesses and non-profits, because you’ll find numerous features at generally affordable prices.  These CMS products are commonly mentioned as good choices, though the top three are easily the most popular:

  • Joomla!
  • WordPress
  • Drupal
  • Typo3
  • E107
  • ExpressionEngine
  • eZPublish
  • Vivvo CMS
  • Plone

Get professional help to choose wisely and use smartly.

Choosing the CMS that’s right for you will help ensure website success, with better content creation and organization, lower site maintenance and better data security.  You’ll save time and money and enjoy stronger ROI.

But don’t scrimp on the selection process, because you don’t want to go through it again.  Getting professional advice to help compare choices could easily save even more time and money, not to mention potential hassle and heartache later.

And one more thing:  Even the most magnificent CMS requires human beings to implement and maintain the system.  So ask your professional how you can also optimize your design, writing and other content creation to produce the best results.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user TheRogue

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