By Kyle James
In many ways, choosing a website content management system (CMS) for your business website isn’t all that different from choosing a location for your physical office. Both are important decisions that will impact your business for years to come, and both can be re-evaluated in a few years if you think, for any number of reasons, that you need to go in another direction. Also, just like finding an office space, many of the features of a CMS are the same across most platforms. I might even go so far as to argue that 80 percent of all CMS platforms are the same.
Knowing this similarity is essential in helping identify the 20 percent of systems that are different and the strengths and weaknesses of your options. You want to focus on the features that are most important and useful to your business and to the individuals who will be managing your website. For example, if you have extremely technical people managing the website, maybe you don’t care as much about an easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor or a hosting support plan with your website.
What follows are four factors that I’ve found extremely important in helping me make the right decision for each new website I build. Everyone’s needs are different, but if you can figure out how important each of these features is to you, then narrowing down the right platform becomes much easier.
Ease to Update
How important to you is the ability to easily edit your website? CMS platforms that tend to be easier to update also do a good job of limiting your ability to change the look and feel of the page without some technical knowledge. This can be a good thing if you have a marketer who isn’t extremely technical but is a great writer and manages the daily/weekly updates of your website and blog—you don’t want him or her unintentionally throwing your whole site off kilter. That said, maybe you are someone who wants more control and freedom, which goes right into our next point….
Customizable Options and Integrations
Is it important for you to easily be able to change the formatting of a page? Do you like integrating with other platforms through APIs and plug-ins? Do you like being able to go in and code a new page on your site by hand? These are just a few of the many questions that can come up when looking at the ability to customize a site and integrate it with other platforms. Some reasons that you might want to integrate with another platform might be:
- Passing leads from conversion forms directly into your CRM
- Integrating a calendar application for scheduling appointments, displaying courses, showing upcoming events, and so on
- Social media integration of a Twitter stream or Facebook comments on your blog
- E-commerce platform—shopping online, bill pay, subscription renewals, and so on
These are just a few of the more common integration requests we get when we build sites. Furthermore, in the current web world, embedding third-party applications (such as a YouTube video) into your site doesn’t require as much technical know-how.
Security of a CMS falls into two buckets:
- Are the pages that I’m displaying to the world secure?
- How secure is the back end of my system, where I make edits, so that people can’t hack my log-in and make changes or delete things?
There are a few reasons that you want to display secure pages. First is that it’s a trust factor on the web, and second, it’s a trust factor with Google, which now gives more credit to sites with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate—you know that you are on an SSL page if the URL starts with “https” instead of “http”.
Security of your actual back-end CMS matters, too—not just out of a concern that secure passwords aren’t being used, but rather, that the entire system itself is vulnerable. For example, WordPress might be one of the most popular CMS platforms in the world, with some estimates saying more than 25 percent of the web is built on it, but it is also one of the most hacked platforms. If you are a hacker, going after the CMS used by one in four sites makes more sense than targeting the CMS used by one in 10,000 sites. This reality means there are constant updates and security patches that you will also need to keep up with if you decide on that route.
Built-In Best Practices
Being a business website, you probably care a lot about your virtual business front and follow best practices that help you rank best in search engines and load quickly. Here is a quick list of some of the important best practices you should look at:
- On-page SEO enabled
- GZIP compression support
- Is the system tied to a content delivery network to load faster?
- Sitemap.xml generation
- Friendly URL structure
Most CMS platforms will support some or all of these, but the question remains: How many hoops must you jump through in order to ensure that you are fully optimized for search and speed load of your site? Do you want a CMS that is proactive and addresses changes in the modern web or relies on you to stay up to date and go the extra mile to make sure these things are taken care of?
Maybe you could argue that other factors matter, but having built dozens of sites on a range of different CMS platforms, most aren’t all that different. You need to focus most on what your goals and priorities are. The list above shows you a few of the things that matter most to me when choosing a CMS to build a B2B website on top of.
I obviously have my biased opinions on which platforms are best, and I won’t force those on you. If you are still curious, though, I’m sure poking around our site a little will quickly provide you with some answers.
If you are looking for a good website content management system, there are a number of great places to look. I’ve noticed G2 Crowd offers a great comparison of CMS platforms that is easy to search through, offers user reviews, and even has a nice grid layout categorizing CMS platforms for business websites. You could probably start there and then, hopefully, take the recommendations above into your search. Good luck, and I wish you all the best launching on time!