How to choose the right content management system for your website
Building a website has become so much easier with the advent of content management systems. A CMS streamlines the process of many web design tasks, such as creating blog pages and posts, navigating menus, changing the layout, and even updating URLs and metadata. For those with modest or even no web development experience, CMS are a powerful interface between the code behind your website and the people in your business who need to make changes to it.
The problem now for those who want to build a website is that there are so many CMS to choose from. All of them have different characteristics with their own advantages and disadvantages, which can be difficult to analyze, especially for those who have no basic knowledge.
In this article, I want to take a look at what makes a great CMS and why it could be one of the most important decisions your business has ever made (not really!).
What makes a good CMS?
There are five factors you should keep in mind when considering a CMS:
Despite the plethora of WordPress and Shopify sites, customers have contacted us with websites built on all kinds of bespoke content management systems. Their choice of CMS sets the limits of what their websites can do and how easy or difficult it is for an SEO agency like ours to implement changes over time. And of course, any extra effort to make often relatively straightforward changes translates into higher costs for the customer.
Simply put, the more complex or nuanced the CMS, the more expensive it tends to be for a digital marketing agency to make changes.
When choosing a CMS, you should consider these costs throughout the life of your website. These costs tend to come from the following four areas:
- Adding new pages, such as services and products
- Continuous technical support and sourcing of web developers
- Technical capacities and functionalities
- Integration with tools / plugins (SEO, marketing, ecommerce, development, etc.)
Forward thinking is crucial, because choosing the cheapest option to start could end up costing you a lot more in the long run. For example, you can quickly build an eCommerce site with Wix, but marketing gets expensive because integrating Google Shopping with this CMS requires a third-party app that will cost you the best part of Â£ 150 per month before you start selling. .
No doubt you want your CMS to be secure so that your website is not vulnerable to cyber attacks, especially if you are dealing with customer data. Security features like 2-factor authentication, firewalls, and strict user permissions are important. You’ll also need regular updates from the CMS developers to cover security holes, which hackers are always looking to exploit.
Your search for a secure CMS can lead you to specialist CMSs or even have web developers build you a bespoke platform, charging massive overhead that you may not need. While popular CMSs are more likely to get hacked due to the large number of people using them, a good developer and a good web host can prevent people from trying to force their way to your website.
During the life of your website, you may need to move it to a new platform or hosting provider. Choosing an obscure CMS at the start can put you in a bad spot if you ever have to port your website.
People often come to us with what we call orphaned websites: they don’t have a developer anymore so the changes that can be made are extremely limited. There is no one to take care of them. It comes to a point that if they want something fundamental to be brought to the site or its functionality, they consider having to redesign the website. And it’s not cheap to do, especially with an obscure CMS.
All the sophisticated features of a CMS would be a waste if the people who are going to use it do not know how to take advantage of those features. Ultimately, a CMS should be usable by the lowest common denominator i.e. someone who knows very little about the website.
It’s crucial to determine how well your staff and growing workforce can interact with your business and digital assets. This is not a checkbox exercise, it is about making sure you maximize growth opportunities, as this affects how easily you can bring in new services or new product lines, and the outside support you will need to do so.
Think about who will be using your website in your business, now and in the future. Marketers want an intuitive interface for easily writing and posting content. Sales want an easy way to follow and close leads. Developers want as much control and customization as possible, including access to code.
Simplicity is definitely not the alpha and omega, however. Some CMS are designed for such simplicity, but the result is that they become such closed platforms that they just aren’t very configurable and it really hurts a good SEO on them.
There are plenty of out-of-the-box CMSs that don’t let you do relatively simple things like modifying HTML code or more advanced actions like adding schema markup. Wix and Squarespace are firmly on this side – although to be fair, they’ve made some significant changes in recent years to improve that.
SEO strategies require the ability to edit metadata, change URLs, set up 301 redirects, add alt tags to your images, and speed up web page load times. If you are an eCommerce store, easy compatibility with Google Shopping is also important.
Considering the two popular CMS: WordPress and Shopify
Even with all the CMS out there, there are two that I consider to be good choices for building a website, and it’s no coincidence that they’re two of the most popular platforms as well.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of WordPress and Shopify so you can make the best decision for your site.
For this comparison, I’m talking specifically about WordPress.org, which is open source software that allows you to strongly build and customize your site, but you have to host it on your own server.
Most popular CMS – WordPress powers around 30% of the internet. Any web developer, designer, and SEO worth their salt knows how to use it. You will have no trouble finding useful resources online.
Unmatched flexibility – Its open source nature means you can build any type of site, whether it’s a simple blog or a large online store. You also have tens of thousands of free and paid plugins that can extend the functionality of your site.
Superior content management – You have more features to work with when creating, editing and categorizing content on WordPress, which also means websites built on this platform are more SEO friendly.
Overwhelming for beginners – The simple extensibility of WordPress can make it an intimidating platform for those who have never built a website before. Maximizing its benefits also requires in-depth coding knowledge.
The biggest target of cyber attacks – Because it is the most popular CMS, WordPress websites are the most likely to be targeted by hackers. Using the wrong plugin or template can easily leave your site vulnerable.
A dedicated ecommerce site builder, Shopify allows you to build an online store hosted on their servers.
Perfect for e-commerce – Shopify is designed for building online stores. Whether it’s a virtually unlimited number of products featured, automatic tax calculation, or user-friendly setup, Shopify makes it easy to run an ecommerce site.
No coding expertise required – Store builder has a clean and intuitive interface that anyone can use to quickly build a fully functional eCommerce site.
Reliable maintenance and support – Shopify provides 24/7 support via phone, email, live chat, and social media. Since your site is hosted on their servers, you also don’t have to worry about finding and paying for hosting and maintenance.
Limited customization – Although you have access to plugins, templates and other customization options, Shopify is still a closed system that places a strict limit on the amount of customization possible on your site.
No more upfront costs – Unlike WordPress, you must subscribe to a plan to use Shopify. Using external payment gateways also means additional fees for each transaction. If you want to add functionality, most plugins in the Shopify Marketplace will cost you dearly.
Understand your business goals
Shopify and WordPress both have their own pros and cons when compared side by side. Choosing between them ultimately comes down to what you want to accomplish with your business. Are you focusing on e-commerce? Maybe Shopify is the way to go. Do you want to stay flexible in the long term? WordPress lets you do just that. But this is not a hard and fast rule. Many successful eCommerce sites are built on WordPress but use the powerful WooCommerce plugin to achieve this.
Just because we favor WordPress or Shopify doesn’t mean it’s suitable for everyone. If your business is very specialized with very unique requirements, then a more specialized CMS may meet your specific needs (as long as you take into account the factors we have discussed above).
The bottom line is that a CMS shouldn’t be seen as a cost to your business, but as a key pillar in your growth strategy and, as such, a key investment. Getting it right can make your strategy easier and help you grow online; Getting it wrong can not only cost you time and money, it can seriously hamper your ability to implement an effective SEO strategy.