The world of CMS is getting crowded. Choosing one to meet your business needs will depend upon what you need that system to do right now and what you anticipate you will need as you grow. Just like grocery shopping, you need to make a list - you don't want to buy stuff you don't need (there's lots of eye-candy out there); on the other hand, you need certain items in order to prepare the meals you have planned. While not comprehensive, here are 9 basic functionalities you will need to consider as you explore your options.
1. Basic Functionality
To most people, content management means creating pages and then being able to edit, delete, and organize them. And they believe that all CMS systems are basically equal in this regard. They are not. For example, which systems allow an owner to organize posts in different ways? Some only allow an organization by date published or by category. This may be fine for your blog, but if you are looking to have flexibility in how you organize your posts, you will need to be sure that you can do that with a CMS system you choose. And keep in mind that your needs may change in the future. And make sure that these functions you want now or later are easy to implement. You need to have a short list of the basic functions you absolutely must have at this point and go on from there.
2. Editing Functions
Important decisions related to editing must be made. Who will be allowed to edit content and how easy do you want this function to be? If you have a site designed by a pro you contracted with, how much editing do you want to do? Many CMS systems have a WYSIWYG editing function. You can go in and change basic formatting, text, color, font, etc. The issue with WYSIWYG is that too much control may be given over to a business-based content editor and changes can negatively impact the design consistency. Think carefully about how much editing control you want to give yourself or others who will access to the content. Certainly, you want to be able to edit text, images, perhaps add new links, and such, but you still want to keep the integrity of the design intact.
3. Managing the Assets
How does the CMS provide for basic tools such as resizing, rotating, and cropping images that you want to upload? Is the process simple or will it require adding attributes? And how can you upload Word and PDF files and documents? Can you attach descriptions and index them? All of these things are pretty critical if you want to them yourself rather than paying someone else to do them. But you also want this function scalable, so that more complex assets can be managed down the road as you grow.
4. Search Functions
If visitors are looking for specific content when they come to your site, then you need to make that function smooth and seamless, and you need to be able to index search results. When checking out the search functionality, here is what you want to look for:
- Keeping it Fresh: How often does the search function index your site. Are posts added to that search as soon as they are published?
- Is the search thorough? Is the content on every page indexed, along with attached files - PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel?
- How fast are search results returned? The larger your site, the slower searches typically are.
- Do you want to limit the scope of search functions or only search certain sections of your site? Do you want a visitor to be able to refine an initial search? You need to think about what you want right now and what you may want in the future. You may want this function to be scalable.
- Do you want search results to be ranked? Make sure you can determine the ranking criteria
Unfortunately, a lot of CMS systems do not allow the customization you may want now or in the future. This is totally unnecessary, because tools and plugins now allow a high level of customization. Lots of CMS developers have created systems that involved horrendous code that puts serious constraints on design and usability. There has to be a system that will let you have lots of flexibility in how content is both presented and retrieved. For example, maybe you want news stories to be retrieved in reverse chronological order; you may want to pull user comments and display them on various pages of your site. You need to think about all of the things that you want to do right now and any that you might want to do before you make a choice.
6. Interaction with Users
You probably want the ability to communicate directly with your users, so you will want your CMS to either provide it or provide for a plug-in. Hosting a community on your site that allows chats and comments is becoming more and more important in building trust.
You will also want to think of all the ways in which users interact with your site now and how that may change in the future. How are forms created? Can you edit them yourself? Can you take polls and surveys, collect results, and then send them out? Can you segment your email recipients into groups? Will users need ID's and passwords? How are those going to be reset? If the CMS system you select does not provide for any of these, make sure that you have the ability to add these functions from other sources.
7. Who Can Do What?
Right now, it may just be you and one other person contributing content. As you grow, however, that may change. You will want various permissions established. For example, a content marketer may be responsible for your blog, but only you want permission to change content on other pages. Be sure that differentiated permissions are included.
You may also, at some point, have a content editor and anyone else writing content must submit it through that person before publication. There will be different roles that content providers and editors will fill, so be certain that all of this is scalable based upon how big you think you may grow.
Another feature you may want is to be able to return to previous versions of content so that you have a history of what was published when. If this is something you want, make sure you have it.
8. Multi-Site Support
You may only have one website right now, but what are your growth plans? You may ultimately have more than one site so that you can target niches of your audience. Or you want to create s completely separate website for mobile devices. This is pretty much a "must-have" for any CMS
9. Multi-Language Capability
Maybe not now, but you do not know where your future may lie. You may be only looking at a domestic English-speaking market, but you may want to have translation capability into Spanish, or, if you go global, into other a languages. Be mindful, however, that getting content translated can be an expense that must be planned for. If you truly think you will never use it, then it won't be a "must have" right now. You can solve the issue when and if you are faced with it.
This list should give you a good start point as you look at what current CMS systems have to offer. You may easily be able to utilize an open source free system such as WordPress with plug-in availability, or you may need to go to the enterprise-level for sophisticated and complex functions, if you need them now. Remember, selecting one is not a "marriage." You can change your mind down the road.