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How to Choose a Web Content Management Platform

By: Erin Presseau | 1/3/24

A step-by-step guide to making an informed decision.

This article is a guide to choosing a content management system (CMS) for your website. It discusses the importance of considering your internal needs and those of your customers. The right CMS should be both user-friendly and effective. Some of the things to consider when choosing a CMS include: the size and skillset of your team, the features you need, and the cost.

Step 1: Engage stakeholders.

Start with the right people in the room. Include cross-functional stakeholders from the beginning of your process to capture their perspective and to generate buy-in. They will have a wealth of information about internal processes and customer needs. The more communication you have with this group, the more successful your project
will be. Choose who to involve in the core decision-making team and who acts as a consultant. 

Step 2: Define and validate the needs of your customers - short and long-term.

Now that you have your list of internal needs, focus on your current and potential customers. Some of the research and documentation we perform for a website project include: 

  • Persona profiles – who are your best customers? what are their motivations and barriers? Be sure to include new audiences you may want to cater to in the future. You can find more information on how to create personas here. They are incredibly valuable to have for all marketing and messaging initiatives, not just web.
  • User journeys – how do your personas go about researching and making decisions? What channels and touchpoints do they encounter along the way? This process can be more complex because you need to leverage multiple data points, but it is a worthwhile investment and will pay off in the form of better engagement and increase in conversions.
  • UX requirements – what expectations do your target audiences have from your website? For almost any audience, you can find detailed consumer research that covers updated online expectations. For B-to-B audiences, it can be a little trickier and you may have to lean on your agency partners for more information, but it is available. Alternatively, you can also conduct customer surveys, focus groups or user research. Any time or cost associated with really understanding customer needs and wants will pay off dividends in very short time by considering them in your strategies.

A successful website is consumer-centric. If you only consider the whims and desires of the internal team, your project will fail.

Step 3: Develop detailed CMS requirements - features and functions.

Much like you have your list of requirements when buying a house, you need CMS requirements to make the right decision. This document will act as a guide to select the right system with the right features. We’ve outlined some of the most common requirements below to help you think through your list.

Features to consider should be:

  • Content Management - Managing content will likely be the biggest use case on your website. The key thing to consider is your team’s distribution and capabilities. Larger, more technical teams can manage a more complex CMS. Smaller teams with less expertise will want a simpler, easier to use interface.
  • Workflows – do you have an approval process to follow?
  • On-page editing – do you need a visual editor, or will a modular back-end work?
  • Global content – how much of your content will be re-used needing to be centrally managed?
  • Asset management – what are your needs for managing images and documents uploaded to the website? Is a third-party DAM platform necessary?
  • Personalization – Content personalization delivers the right content to the right audience at the right time. It can offer relevant product/service recommendations that better align with your customers and prospects, leading to increased conversions. Determine what data you will use to create personalized content. Are your segments based on website usage or will you need to import customer data from a separate system?
  • Lead scoring, nurturing and marketing automation – Many systems provide built-in support for these types of marketing activities. The out-of-the-box features might be enough for your needs. But if your marketing plans are more sophisticated, you should use a third-party such as HubSpot, Pardot, Marketing Cloud or others.
  • Ecommerce – Ecommerce can be complex and will require detailed requirements around inventory, check out process, payment processing and many other factors. Begin mapping out the step-by-step process of getting your products online through fulfillment. How many SKUs do you offer? How many product options? Do you have an ERP system or shipping software to integrate? How is shipping calculated? What payment types do you take? Do you have product photos or videos?
  • Integrations – You may have other systems to integrate into your website such as CRM. Outline each of these systems as well as which data points will be moving both into and out of the CMS.
  • Multi-site or multilingual support – You may have a need for multiple websites. Many CMS features a multi-site instance that allows you to run many sites in one CMS. You may also need a multi-lingual website. Determine which languages and how in-depth the localization needs to be.
  • User roles and permissions – How many different types of users will need to access the CMS and which features do they need?
  • Technical and development features – Your IT or development team should outline their technical needs for custom development and hosting. Be sure to select a system with a rich developer community and well-supported partner programs to supplement your team. Here are a few things that your IT team should consider:

-Upgradability

-24/7 Support

-API development support

-Partner resources

  • Security - Security considerations are a must for 2024. Some CMS solutions, such as Sitefinity and Kentico have out-of-the-box security modules built-in. These modules can help to prevent your site against cyber attacks. The most important thing you can do to ensure your website and CMS are secure is to make sure you stay up-to-date with patches and version updates. It is impossible to foresee future vulnerabilities so CMS vendors routinely send out patches and update security features on a regular basis - always update or upgrade as proactive protection for your website.

Step 4: Request a demo of at least two to three CMS platform solutions that you think meets your requirements.

Now that you have your requirements and budget, sign-up for a demo of each platform. It's important that you do your homework on CMS/DXP vendors. Put each one through its paces to see how your most necessary features work in the real world. It’s at this point where you may start to prioritize your requirements as a “must-have” or a “nice to have”. Also, look for Forrester and Gartner CMS matrix rankings - they evaluate the market and plot vendors based on several criteria including vision, innovation and other factors. Look at sites such as G2 to review customer ratings. As another tip, make sure you are familiar with product licensing terms, upgrade roadmaps and other factors such as financial credibility and on-the-ground physical office presence in your region or country. All of these things could potentially impact your decision. Make a list of pros and cons of each CMS so you can compare apples to apples. Regroup with your selection team, choose two to three and start the demo evaluation phase.

Step 5: Evaluate and decide on the best CMS for now and the future.

Everything is in front of you, now you’re ready to evaluate each system. Remember that your development costs are dependent upon the complexity of both the site and the CMS. You may need to prioritize or road map certain features or enhancements for future projects.

We find that selecting the right system usually boils down to three criteria: in-house skill sets and expertise, the number of integrations, and budget. If you zero in on those items, you can make the right pick.

SilverTech can help to introduce you to the best fit CMS partners. We are premium and/or gold partners with many industry leading CMS/DXP platform vendors. We are tech agnostic, which means that we won't have a bias for one over the other. The reason we help clients complete all the necessary prep work you read about in this article is because we feel the most important thing about choosing the right CMS for your company is finding the perfect fit.

 

 

 

 

 


Meet the Author: Erin Presseau

 

 

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