All Content Management Systems (CMS) have evolved into WAY more than just a way to publish content, but also a good way to manage your workflow as well. CMS in the modern world allow anyone (yes you!) to easily conceive, edit, index, and publish content, while giving us techies simpler flexibility in customising a website’s look, feel and functionality.
Although there are some CMS that require techie skills to setup and run successfully, this article is going to chat about the select few that offer a balance between design, tech code, and end-user (you!) usability.
We hope these 8 Things will give you a Monkey’s chance to make an informed decision.
Deciding on a Content Management Systems
Comparing content management systems can be a huge task, not because it’s Advanced Physics, but simply because there are loads of them to choose from. However, with a structured approach to your decision making, things can be much easier and less intimidating. Let’s chatter about the 8 things that we recommend you look at when deciding what CMS to use…
1. Intuitive: must be immediately easy to use
Any CMS must have a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that’s easy on your eyes, doesn’t have too many complicated options (less the better), and offers simplicity in its backend or admin interface. A good backend means that tasks to do with creating and managing your content will be quicker, saving you a lot of time and increasing your productivity.
You should also look at it from an end user’s perspective: if you’re building a content management system for a client who’s not “technology-savvy” and you choose a solution that requires a Ph. D. in computer science, it’s less likely that they’ll be able to use the system (thus, defeating the whole purpose of a CMS, which is to empower its users).
2. Flexibility & Ability to Custom Design
When taking into consideration a content management system, make sure that you’re not obligated to use their design templates. A large quantity of CMS solutions allows you to customize your own design without major restrictions. If your CMS forces you to choose a fixed and unalterable design template, then you’re stripped of creative license and your website will look like everyone else’s.
CMS’s that offer customizations on templates are Expression Engine, WordPress, and Joomla just to name a few; these content management systems boast and promote their ability to be easily modified.
3. Extendable through use of Extensions, Plugins, Modules (and the likes)
A good CMS will allow you incorporate helpful site features into your site by letting you extend the default configuration with plugins.
Plugins/extensions/modules (their terminology varies between different platforms) make a difference in terms of enhancing your site’s ability to provide your site users with useful options for interfacing with your site.
Look for a CMS with a powerful Application Programming Interface (API) in case you need to write your own extensions. Make sure that the CMS you’re considering already has a huge list of plugins. Though you might not need plugins right away, it’s important that this is available to you, later down the road.
4. No Need for Programming Knowledge
If you’re more “design-oriented” than anything else, make sure you select a CMS where you won’t need to have extensive programming abilities to publish and maintain your site.
There is a wide selection of CMS’s that have WYSIWYG editors, letting you edit content without the need for code. Having to edit text through HTML markup can be time consuming and takes you away from other aspects of your managing and building your site.
Complex sites, however, can require a CMS that will let you type in some code, edit files with extensions such as .php, .css, .html, and make changes without that need for a third-party source code editor.
5. Optimized for Performance and Speed
Taking into consideration the speed your pages load on the browser, and how fast your site can make a connection to a server, is vital. Choosing a CMS that is bulky will drive away visitors rather then bring them in. By visiting examples of live sites, you’ll be able to gauge somewhat how fast pages load.
Keep in mind that you can increase the load time of your site by choosing a good host, and adding plugins that cache/compress/minify feeds, CSS, JS and also caches your database objects.
A simple and free tool that you can use to evaluate page response times of your CMS candidates is YSlow. Install it and head on over to demo sites of your CMS’s to see how well it’s front-end performs.
Adequate security for your site is very important and must be in place in order to protect your content. There are CMS’s that allow you to install specific plugins and edit files/permissions in order to increase security levels. Make sure you choose a management system that offers modules to protect the integrity of your site. You can also protect your site by selecting a CMS that allows you to easily assign a different username and password to each user. This will let you view and control what each user has access to.
For WordPress, be sure to read about essential security tips and hacks for WordPress.
7. Documentation and Community Support
Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to figure out how to do something, and not have references online that you can take advantage of. One way to ensure that you won’t be running into this problem is by reading through the documentation of your candidate CMS’s. Also, a quick Google search will tell you how popular and well-documented a content management system is.
The availability (or lack thereof) of support from users of the system can be a deal maker or deal breaker. When users are active and proud of being part of the community, you not only have access to individuals that are more familiar with the system, but also, you can be assured that the project will be developed continually. Nothing’s worse than investing your resources and effort on a dead (or soon to be dead) project.
8. Emphasis on Web Standards and Best Practices
Content Management Systems developed under web standards guidelines and best practices will ensure that you won’t get burned later down the road. When applications are designed with best practices in mind, you can be assured ultimate cross-browser compatibility, lean-and-mean code, and ease of maintenance.
Look for content management systems that promote the use of web standards, and those that put it at the forefront of their development and design philosophy.