Choosing A CMS
When it comes to choosing a content management system for your website, the broad range of different platforms that are available can cause a lot of confusion. There are open source, inexpensive, and more expensive systems in addition to many different brands and capabilities.
If you are a small business owner in the process of upgrading your website, you may be looking for some unbiased advice on choosing a content management system which will best serve your online business. A quality CMS is designed with the appropriate software applications which allow you to power all tasks associated with creating, storing, organizing, processing, publishing, and marketing for your online business.
Although most small business owners are aware of what a content management system is supposed to do, very few know where to begin when it comes to choosing a system which meets specific business requirements. In this article, we will discuss what goes into choosing a CMS platform followed by a comparison of the three most popular systems currently being used by small businesses.
Assess Your Requirements
In order to select the right content management system, it is important to have a handle on your current business requirements and where you plan to go in the near future. What are some of the functions you require? Does your current system provide enough security for your staff and customers to trust in your services? What management solutions do you need? What improvements are you looking for over your current CMS software? What requirements will you need to fulfill in the near future?
These are just a few of the questions you must answer before choosing to upgrade to a new CMS solution. A few of the other questions should include:
- What Do You Want to Achieve with Your Content? – Decide what you want to achieve with different types of content and define content management situations which are not being fulfilled by your current CMS software.
- How Do You Plan to Maximize Your Return on Investment (ROI)? – Once you decide what you want to achieve with your content, determine how you would like to use it to maximize ROI. Use a real life situation and apply it to the CMS software as opposed to simply playing around with a pre-configured demo.
- Is Turn-Key Right for Your Business? – Carefully consider all of your requirements to determine if a basic turn-key solution will suffice or a more complex customized solution is required. Consider a specific business scenario so you can apply it when testing out different types of CMS platforms.
These are some of the common questions you can use to assess your requirements. Depending upon your industry and type of business, you will likely come up with your own questions which can be applied to choosing the right CMS solution.
The Anatomy of CMS Software
Before you can proceed to choose CMS software, it is important to have a basic understanding of some of the key features which make up a quality content management system.
- Standard Features: The features which are built-in to the software are the standard features on which a small business owner can build a customized framework. The standard features allow the end user to become familiar with the platform but they are not enough to maximize the full capability. This is where add-ons are necessary to create flexibility, and versatility.
- Add-Ons: One aspect that defines a quality CMS platform is the ability to extend the standard features to provide a more comprehensive and customized content management system. Add-ons are applications which you can add to the standard features which enable you to accomplish more and offer more to your client base. Add-ons can include but are not limited to social media functions, ecommerce storefront functions, management, and design applications. They are also the main reason open source CMS software is a popular choice since many community developers offer add-ons free of charge or at nominal cost.
- Security Applications: The security level for a CMS is of utmost importance to online businesses. A high quality content management system will have most of the security features included in the software. Others may be acquired as an add-on but, the main concern is to learn as much as you can about the security features included in a CMS. Some of the solutions should include SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology, different types of authentication protocols, email verification, history logs, and more.
- Management Solutions: The manner in which CMS organizes and deploys data in addition to management applications such as marketing, scheduling, content, web analytics and statistics, administration, templates, products, and workflows are all important considerations. The management solutions in a CMS should help to streamline processes and increase efficiency in tasks that would otherwise require a time investment.
- User-Friendly Capability: Most small business owners want to be able to focus on what they do best which is running a business. For this reason, the CMS software you choose should be user-friendly and capable of allowing the end user to install the software and immediately begin building a site and managing the content. The CMS should be user-friendly to both non-technical and technical users to avoid having to invest a lot of time to learn how to use the software.
- Support: The type of help and tech support which is available is a critical part of choosing a CMS platform. This is especially true in the case of open source CMS where the code is modified and changed on a frequent basis. A readily available guidebook, access to a community, and other types of tech support is a must to prevent any loss of services due to a software glitch or other issue.
From here you can delve a little deeper and move into the demo testing phase to determine which CMS solution is right for your business.
A Look at the Top 3 CMS Solutions
The following information will help you to compare the three most popular CMS platforms currently being used for small business.
Joomla is a widely used open source content management system that offers flexibility, ease of use, and a rich set of standard features.
- Standard Features: Joomla offers a broad range of standard features which are built-in to the initial download. Once you install the software, you are provided with a mix of tools that provide a comprehensive range of capabilities which allow you to create a website, e-zine publications, blogs, intranets, and more. There are also advanced organizational features which provide a way to categorize large amounts of content along with an innovative publishing process that includes SEO tools in a variety of areas.
- Add-Ons: The Joomla CMS platform offers a broad range of add-ons which take customization to the next level. There are both free and paid extensions available in a large volume plus, you can access the library of extensions related to any topic on the Joomla website.
- Security Applications: Joomla currently offers standard security features which enable you to enable SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protection throughout your website. The features also include history login and content approval applications. In the event you need to heighten security, there is a wide variety of add-ons such as account authentication, IP address blocking, and other security add-ons you can use to improve website security.
- Management Solutions: The content management features in Joomla are quite intuitive and provide the capability to easily navigate through the back-end of your website. It also provides the ability to easily post content from the front or back end of a website with a complete library of documentation that walks you through each management application.
- User-Friendly Capability: The Joomla interface is very user-friendly and easy to understand. The software is also easy to install to a hosting server with the files uploaded to a root directory. Then you simply access your browser to go to your website URL and begin the installation.
- Support: Joomla does not provide email or phone support however, you can access the active community forums which will provide you with assistance at a moment’s notice. In most cases, you receive an answer much sooner than if you were to contact a technical support department.
See the official Joomla website – http://www.joomla.org/
WordPress is another popular open source content management system which is used by millions of websites across the globe. If you are a non-technical person, WordPress may be the appropriate choice for your small business.
- Standard Features: WordPress offers a wide variety of built-in features which function seamlessly and are easy to use. Some of the built-in applications include capability for content syndication, link management, blog management, search engine functionality, dashboard management, and other features which allow for quick content creation.
- Add-Ons: WordPress was created by a community of developers that take a genuine interest in creating quality add-ons which add capability and functionality to the WordPress platform. The wide variety of add-ons and additional ones being added on a frequent basis provide the end user with a variety of opportunities to create a fully customized and original website.
- Security Applications: WordPress provides standard security features including SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) capability and content approval protection. The platform is designed to protect private data while improving workflows. It was not originally designed for ecommerce however, you can add this functionality using some basic coding techniques and add-ons.
- Management Solutions: WordPress is full of management features which provide a way to moderate user contributions, categorize and apply tags to content, and access website statistics and analytics. The page manager also allows you to easily add web pages which are static such as About Us, Contact Us, and others. Uploading images is also easy thanks to the Media Library which is readily available.
- User-Friendly Capability: The WordPress interface is very user-friendly and easy to navigate and understand. The software also provides for fast installation and setup with a variety of options for SEO. It is also unnecessary to acquire your own hosting to launch a website. Instead, you can create and manage your site directly through the WordPress server. All you are required to do is add your library of content.
- Support: There are no manuals or special training offered for WordPress. However, you have access to the community forums in addition to online documentation which is organized and easily searchable.
A nice examples of a business website which has been built with WordPress is www.ouritdept.co.uk
Drupal is a CMS platform which is known for its simplicity, extensibility, and flexibility and is popular with both users and developers.
- Standard Features: Drupal is light on standard features which allows users and developers to start as basic as possible. The built-in features include a basic framework with tools that allow the end user to create a website from scratch, interactive user groups, and other minimal features.
- Add-Ons: Since Drupal has limited capability in terms of standard features the customization and extensibility is achieved using the module storehouse and library of add-ons. The lack of an interface can make creating and publishing new content more complex if you do not understand how to apply Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). There is a large library of extensions and add-ons to make up for the lack of built-in features.
- Security Applications: Drupal offers standard security features such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and content approval protection. You can also monitor new user interaction and user contributions. However, if you require additional security features, it is necessary to apply other modules to improve the security level for your website.
- Management Solutions: In terms of management, Drupal offers a single menu located at the top of your web browser with a simple interface that provides a way to manage the content and modules for your website. Viewing the back and front end of your website is easy without having to pull up separate features to view both ends of the site. You also have access to a reporting system which provides notifications of coding issues, operational problems, system updates, and more.
- User-Friendly Capability: If you are a non-technical user, you may find Drupal difficult to use due to the bare bones installation and the requirement to add modules and extensions in order to customize the platform. Additionally, in order to create rich text which is expected of most websites today, you may have to learn HTML coding. The idea behind the bare bones approach to the Drupal platform is to create something unique from scratch.
- Support: Drupal does not provide phone and email support. There is access to a community forum and documentation which can help you through any issues. The community is also quite active and you usually receive a solution to a problem within a relatively short period of time.
See the official Drupal website – https://drupal.org/
Which content management system is right for your small business will depend upon your individual requirements, goals, and objectives for content management, in addition to your technical ability. Hopefully, the information here will provide you with a solid foundation to choose a CMS that is right for your business.
Kathy is a full-time website developer, with extensive knowledge and experience creating website using the most popular CMS platforms.