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CMS 101: Five Considerations When Choosing a CMS

By , Technology Director, Hanson Dodge

One fitness program is rarely the best solution for two different athletes. An Apple computer simply isn’t an option for many occupations. And no one content management system (CMS) is the best solution for every organization.

At HD, we strive to be “platform-agnostic”—not beholden to one CMS, but instead open and knowledgeable about a variety of platforms to find the best strategic fit for each client we work with. By taking a platform-agnostic approach to choosing a CMS for your organization, you’ll increase the likelihood of deploying technology that truly supports your company’s strategic needs.

Choosing the right CMS can be a daunting task. So if you’re at the outset of the process—particularly if it’s your first time choosing a CMS—here are five important questions you’ll want to ask before you go too much further.

1. What could a new CMS do for your brand?
Your website ought to be more than just an information hub. It serves as your brand’s front door to the world: A place where your best prospects, partners, employees and customers experience your brand in an engaging, valuable and memorable way. Which is why we believe the first thing an organization must consider when choosing a CMS is whether or not the technology can advance the brand in a meaningful way. While this may seem obvious, we’ve seen too many cases where organizations have had to settle for a suboptimal online brand experience due to the capabilities of the CMS platform they’ve chosen.

2. What tech stack does your internal development team support?
One of the first things to consider when choosing a CMS is your organization’s current technology stack. If your company has a dedicated software development team, it may make sense to choose a CMS built on technology that your dev team is familiar with. Kentico, Episerver, and Sitecore are built on .NET. Those platforms can be good fits for companies with IT infrastructures rooted in Microsoft’s .NET code base. Other CMS products, such as Drupal and WordPress, are written in PHP. Adobe Experience Manager is written in Java. It’s important to consider the current expertise of your team members, so you’ll be able use their experience and knowledge before and after launching a new CMS. On the other hand, if you’re looking to hire an outside partner to build and maintain your site, your current tech stack and in-house capabilities may be a less important consideration.

3. Content administration: Creative freedom or effective and efficient?
How you plan to create and edit website content also plays a big role in choosing the right CMS. Do your people have the skills and time it takes to create a host of different page templates? Or, is it more important that you standardize as much of the content creation process as possible? CMS platforms vary in the degree to which they allow site administrators to create custom pages and page templates. Some platforms allow content creators to use prebuilt components like building blocks to custom-build a wide variety of web pages. Other platforms offer more rigid templates that allow content creators relatively less freedom to publish what and how they see fit. There are benefits and pitfalls to each approach. Ultimately, what’s important is for organizations to be clear on the behind ongoing content creation and site modification, so they can choose a CMS that best fits their needs.

4. Where will content be deployed and consumed?
Content is no longer solely for website consumption—it can be viewed through more digital channels than ever before. Mobile apps, kiosks, billboards, smart devices, along with traditional websites, are all ways that you can deliver your content to customers and prospects. The more diverse your array of digital channels, the more important it is to choose a platform that offers robust APIs for retrieving content from the CMS. Due to this need for multi-channel content management and a desire to have the CMS completely independent of the content consumer, many organizations are moving toward using headless CMS platforms. Using a headless CMS allows your content to be consumed by any device that can connect to the system’s API. This also allows your website to be written with a completely different tech stack than the CMS, providing the freedom to pick the best technology for your content and website. Aside from CMS platforms, there are also a host of other technology solutions that enable you to create content and distribute content in a way that maximizes your available budgets.

5. How much can and should we invest?
Pricing almost always plays a significant role in choosing a CMS as it should with any major business decision. The good news is, CMS licensing fees range from free to premium priced and everywhere in between. Any organization in the process of choosing a new CMS should set a budget. This process can help narrow down the search. However, it’s important to allocate a budget that realistically takes into account all of the capabilities and assets you envision for your new platform—everything you listed when thinking about how a new CMS could “advance the brand in a meaningful way.” And although many of the more expensive platforms work well for some companies, “more expensive” doesn’t always mean “the right fit for you.” That’s why it’s essential to make sure your budget includes not only licensing fees, but also costs related to customizing, integrating, and deploying the CMS, migrating content, creating new content, hosting, and site maintenance over the long-term.

 

Interested in learning more about how Hanson Dodge's platform selection process can make a difference for your brand? Or are you looking for a partner in web development or design? Contact Angie Rothen at arothen@hansondodge.com or 414.270.8359.

Jon Jackson, Technology Director, Hanson Dodge

Jon leads HD’s technology strategy working closely with the development, user experience, and creative teams to bring together best-in-class creative with the latest advances in the tech world. With 9 years of experience as a developer, tech lead, and product manager, Jon has worked in several industries including finance, politics, insurance and manufacturing.

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