Choosing the right CMS for your business

Lorna Foott,

One of the key considerations when planning your new website is which Content Management System (CMS) to choose – and we know this process can feel pretty daunting. That’s why we’ve penned this blog to help set you on the right track to picking the perfect CMS which has all the features you need to enhance your digital presence, and most importantly, help you reach your marketing and business goals.

What is a CMS?

A CMS is a ‘Content Management System’ which is designed to help users create and manage digital content on their website without the need for in-depth technical knowledge of code. It removes the need for building a bespoke system for your site and takes care of the site infrastructure so you can focus more on creating and optimising the content you want to share.

While some CMS solutions are designed to help you to effectively handle content management without worrying about the technical side of your site, they can be less useful at supporting personalisation, customer experience and multichannel marketing due to the heavy emphasis on content management. 

This has led to many CMS providers evolving to become ‘Customer Experience Management’ (CEM) platforms; designed to give businesses more features around the user experience. While still supporting content publishing, CEM platforms can allow for more detailed session tracking and information about the user journey. Features can include personalisation, email integration, automation of marketing materials, ecommerce and analytics – all designed to help marketers craft bespoke multi-step marketing journeys for individual users.

In short, a CMS focused on core website content is perfectly suited to organisations who need an effective modern website but who don’t yet perhaps have the resources to make investments in content intensive facilities (like marketing automation) pay off. 

Identifying your requirements

To make an informed decision on which CMS / CEM platform is best for your organisation you need to firstly understand and scope out your most important needs. Here are the key questions you should be asking yourself during a requirement gathering exercise:

  1. What resources do we have available?

    You should think about:

    Internal expertise – what do you have already? What will you develop? What will you outsource? Consider technical skills, marketing skills and content creation skills

    Timescales – not just when you need to deliver the new website by, but how much time your internal teams can realistically spare to work on it alongside their other commitments

    Existing content and data – what will need to be migrated and what will need to be updated or recreated?

    Budget - At this stage you might only have a ballpark figure, but that will be an incredibly useful starting point to help focus your research. Larger budgets can allow for more complex CMS solutions with bespoke requirements. If your budget is at the lower end of the spectrum, you should focus your attention on what can be fulfilled using more standardised CMS features. We’d also recommended identifying with key stakeholders what returns will justify the investment into a new website. 

  2. What do our customers want from our business? How do they want to use our website?

  3. What experience are our customers getting from the competition? Do we need to match or exceed this experience?

  4. What does my company need from the website?

    Here we’d recommend you look at whether there are specific deliverables, goals or measures that need to be met. How does your website support your fulfilment, sales, marketing or customer care functions? Do you sell on the website and need ecommerce functionality? What are the tolerances for website downtime and recovery? Who will be managing the website internally and what tasks do they need to perform?

  5. What are my technical needs?

    It’s important to consider which systems you’ll need to integrate with your website including: 

    - CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms
    - Knowledge bases, live chat, ticketing and other customer communications systems
    - DAM (Digital Asset Management) and other content repositories
    - PIM (Product Information Management) and other product data systems
    - ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) and other fulfilment systems
    - Analytics platforms
    - Payment services and other financial systems
    - Authentication systems
    - Monitoring systems
    - Other specific functionalities such as address lookup and maps, social media, advertising support, HR and vacancies, media streaming and stock information systems, etc.

  6. Are there any legislative and other standards that apply to my organisation?

    For example, GDPR, PECR, PCI-DSS, the Equality Act, as well as any industry or sector standards and/or certifications such as ISOs that your organisation might be committed to.

  7. What volume of traffic will be coming to my website? How does this vary between average and peak periods?

  8. What are the general features needed from the CMS and associated software?

    Don’t forget to consider: 

    - Content editing features and editor usability
    - Support and licencing models
    - Hosting models
    - SEO features
    - Performance management features
    - Security management
    - Development flexibility
    - Workflow management
    - Multi-language/multi-culture support
    - A convincing development roadmap for future enhancement
    - Access to a talent base for development and support

Whilst that list may seem daunting, we’re confident that your organisation will already have the answers to many of these questions. Here at 26, we have a number of processes and workshop structures to assist with this information gathering exercise – and this is where a great user research and user testing programme can make sure that you’re making the right investment decisions.

Creating your shortlist

Armed with the answers to these questions, you should now be in good stead to start creating your CMS shortlist. We’d recommend aiming for a shortlist of 3-5 CMS solutions by using sources like Gartner and Capterra, talking to and seeking recommendations from people inside and outside of your company whom you trust and by finding websites you like and identifying which platforms they’re on.

If you have complex requirements, you might want to consider creating a weighted scorecard and costing model to help you balance your assessment criteria. Many of our clients have found this to be valuable in helping internal decision makers understand how they’ve weighed up the options. 

Once you’ve created a shortlist, we’d recommend selecting your best matches to explore further. To immerse yourself rapidly within these platforms, arranging demos of the platforms with the CMS vendors can be incredibly useful and insightful – and alongside this, you should chat to web agencies that are established implementation partners for those vendors to understand how these platforms can meet or be adapted for your specific requirements. 

26 has years of experience working with a number of CMS providers and our specialist team has helped over 100 businesses in navigating the CMS selection process. You can read more about our experience and the providers we work with over on our website development page. If you’d like to chat to us about your options, please get in touch with Lorna on or 0800 320 2626 for a chat. 

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