Is your company thinking of switching your website over to a new content management system (CMS)? There are a large number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing the right CMS for your business: Are there licensing fees associated with software updates or extension add-ons? Can you edit content with ease? Is the platform SEO-friendly? Can web analytics be integrated? What customization options and features are available? Is the platform secure? All of these questions should be in the back of your mind when evaluating your options. By following these simple guidelines below, you will be able to make a fully informed decision for which platform is right for your specific needs – and avoid making a costly mistake that could run the risk of harming your business.
What is a CMS and How is it Helpful?
A content management system (CMS) is a web application that allows a user to create and edit web pages without a knowledge of computer programming or coding. Traditionally, the system will have a secured admin interface in which a user can login to create, edit and manage content. WordPress, Drupal and Magento are three of the most commonly used content management systems that we will take a closer look at in this article. Each of these three main CMSs are SEO-friendly, analytics capable, secure and include a large support community or technical experts who are available to help answer any questions. However, before we identify the main benefits, limitations and uses for each of these platforms, we need to cover the basics.
First, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between content management systems and other website options:
Ease and Speed of Setup
CMSs are designed to make building standard websites, blogs and e-commerce sites faster because they use standard structures and have built-in functions.
A Community of Developers is There to Support You
Many CMSs come with a good development community that help debug issues and security vulnerabilities within the system. This saves on development time and makes your site more secure. Any issues or bugs other users have found within the system are usually resolved quickly before you even encounter them.
CMSs have an abundance of documentation because there are so many people using them. There are lots of video tutorials, blogs and developer sites out there to show you how to use and extend your website.
What to Consider When Deciding on a CMS
Primary Function of your Website
What is the primary goal you want to achieve with your website? Do you want sales, an audience, a public face on the web or something more complex? Defining the goal of your site isn’t just an important step in the design phase, it is also important in the development phase. While many of the CMSs listed are extendable and, to some extent, limitless each one usually fits a specific type of website. To save development time now and in the future, you want to determine what the core function of your site will be.
Is your website going to be used to store content you don’t want anyone to see? Who can access this content? All users or just some users? Some content management systems come with this functionality off the bat, others require custom modules to make this work, and some would need to be completely rebuilt to add in this functionality.
Knowing how much you want e-commerce to be a part of your site is very important in deciding on a CMS. Some CMSs are built around e-commerce while others are severely limited or completely unable to do any sort of e-commerce.
Open Source vs. Licensed
A licensed CMS is a paid system that has a very responsive and quick support team. They also have people dedicated to training, which is nice if you have questions or like to learn in a one-on-one atmosphere. An open source CMS is free but lacks the technical support of a licensed CMS. However, there is a lot of online documentation which is useful if you prefer learning at your own pace.
This decision mainly comes down to your webmaster’s knowledge of programming and servers. If the person managing the site has even the smallest amount of programming knowledge or is willing to learn, you are generally better off with an open source CMS. However, if your webmaster is more of a content manager and less of a programmer, a licensed CMS with a team of technical support might be best.
Many people lean towards selecting the biggest most robust CMS they can. This is a mistake if your users aren’t used to navigating a CMS. So many features can be confusing and make the site hard to manage. Some of the simpler CMSs are actually the easiest to use and can handle the tasks you need without all of the complexity.
Under which circumstances should I choose certain content management systems?
|Extendibility||High (plugins)||High (extensions)||High (modules)|
|Website Types||Simple 5-page sites & Blogs||E-Commerce Sites||Complex Web Applications|
|User Knowledge||Beginners||Intermediate||Web Developers|
WordPress (Open Source)
WordPress is the most widely used CMS and is great for a blog or a standard website. It is also fairly easy to learn. It’s a very lightweight in terms of impact on your server and it is easily extendable with many licensed and open source plugins. While it can do e-commerce and web application tasks it just doesn’t do them as easily as some other systems.
Drupal (Open Source)
Drupal is the second most widely used CMS. It can be used for standard websites and blogging, but it really excels in web applications. Modules are third-party add-ons that extend the functionality of Drupal. Drupal’s modules allow you to manipulate and display data, manage complex user systems and connect to third-party services without any development knowledge. The downside of this is Drupal has a much higher server impact, particularly with memory. This only increases when you add modules. With Drupal your possibilities are almost limitless but, this could be overkill for a standard small-business website or small blogging site.
Magento (Open Source)
Magento is a great E-commerce platform and, like Drupal, is also very extendable and customizable. If products and sales are the primary focus of your website then Magento is the way to go. Even when you log in to the backend, the focus is on products and sales, not on pages and content. Magento does a very nice job displaying products, making large numbers of products manageable with quantity allocations and categories, and integrating 3rd party systems. Development on Magento is a little more complex than Drupal or WordPress so it’s best to hire a skilled developer to manage the code and install add-ons for you.
The three CMSs listed are the options we often suggest to our clients after working with a wide variety of systems. These options are the most efficient from a development perspective and easiest for new users to learn. It’s important to recognize your websites primary function when deciding on a CMS. Otherwise, you could waste time and money trying to convert a blogging system into an e-commerce system or vice versa.
The internet is constantly changing and newer solutions are being created each day. While you may pick the best CMS for your website this year, two years from now there might be a new contender that is faster and easier to use. However, the three CMSs listed have large development communities, long histories and consistent updates. As website demands have changed, they have been able to change to meet those demands.