Being able to manage your online content is not a luxury anymore. No longer should you have to email your web developer with a change to a line of copy and hope that he’s not snowboarding on the weekend. A Content Management System (CMS) is standard and they range from the free applications to boutique custom solutions. Here are 4 questions you should ask when deciding what engine you want to put under the hood.
1. Will this just manage my website or everything I have online?
Online Content management is exactly that: managing your online content. It shouldn’t matter if you are displaying it on a website, mobile device, TV or car dashboard. At its core, content consists of text, video images and documents and how it’s displayed is irrelevant. Or at least it should be. Your CMS can even manage your offline content too such as staff bios and company write-ups. The fact that it’s not displayed on your site is fine as it’s accessible when you need it.
WordPress is a good example of a one-to-one relationship where its content manager exists purely to power your WordPress site. If you wanted to display that same content elsewhere then it’s a matter of populating a new manager for a different purpose. Fine if that’s all you want to do but it can get limiting as you grow.
2. What is the learning curve?
Third party content managers are loaded with features. Sometimes those features are overwhelming. Take a look at the dashboard via screenshots or demos to see if it makes sense. If the learning curve is high then it defeats the purpose of a Content Manager. Your CMS should make your life easier not harder.
3. What happens if we want to customize it?
Companies are unique and evolving constantly and so are their online needs. It’s expected that their CMS will need to evolve with them. If you are using an off-the-shelf package, you can find yourself hitting a wall where you want it to do something and it can’t. The only options at that point are to request a new feature in the next release or to get a programmer to hack into the code. Neither option is ideal. Regardless of what you choose, you need to find out if that package is going to meet your needs now and those in the future. Obviously, these issues are easier with a custom built CMS (depending on the developer) but can also be expensive if they have to build everything from scratch.
4. Is it transferable if we change developers?
Getting a custom built CMS is a great way to get the features you want but can also be dangerous. The risk is that the developer you are using quits or leaves the project leaving you to pick up the pieces. Your content is your property. Make sure you know where it’s being hosted and that you have access to the logins and passwords should anything happen. If you do find yourself changing developers, depending on how the CMS is built, it can be an easy process or one where you have to start all over again. Some of the more standard products like Joomla and WordPress can make it easier to find developers willing to pick up the reins as long as the code hasn’t been too creative.