Choosing your CMS: 5 questions to ask yourself

Over the years CMS evolve, according to the trends and needs of the users. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Prestashop (for e-commerce) are the best known, but are they tailored to your needs and resources?

Some choices are obvious, some content management systems being dedicated to certain types of sites. Like Prestashop or Magento for eCommerce and PhpBB for forums. There are dozens of solutions: open source, paying or SAAS, whether it is to create its website or to embark on the adventure of eCommerce. Response track with 5 questions to ask yourself before embarking on the creation of its website.

1. How to choose a CMS?

Even before looking at the existing one must understand what a CMS is. This knowledge will enable you to know if you must / can use one or if you have to go through a custom development (“from scratch”) or use a proprietary solution (many web agencies have developed solutions belonging to them). By CMS we mean “Content Management System“, these are websites whose base is prefabricated and which allow to quickly create a website generally editorial and often at a lower cost compared to a specific development. With the rapid expansion of systems like WordPress or Drupal, many agencies and freelancers have specialized in creating sites using these systems. Choosing a CMS is an economic choice where generally everyone wins:

  • The provider company which reduces its costs and development times.
  • The client who, if he does not wish to remain with his provider for a long time, will be able to play the competition, as the number of providers using some is important.

Note: It is still necessary to choose a CMS which is supported and used by the greatest number, but this will be the subject of the 4th point of this article.

It is also necessary to understand the ecosystem that is the Web with the different entities that compose it: agencies, developers, integrators, graphic artists, SEO, etc. It must be understood that there are a number of disciplines and that using agencies specialized in a given area does not guarantee the success of your project on other plans not mastered by this agency. The costs to envisage are according to your objectives, but at least envisage creation of the site (development + graphics + server + domain name) and a budget not negligible for the part web marketing (referencing, ads, social, etc.).

You will have understood your website can be created in three ways:

  • Internally: If you have the in-house skills to develop your site yourself.
  • Via an independent: if you want to hire an independent developer to create your site.
  • Via an agency: if you have a sufficient budget and want to outsource this creation.

In the latter two cases, there will often be a contract for the creation of a website, which may be coupled with maintenance contracts and training contracts for the use of the CMS and/or the back office.

2. What type of site?

This is one of the most important questions for your choice. Here is a list of CMS most used by site type:

  • Institutional site: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, SPIP …
  • Blog: WordPress, PluXml, DotClear …
  • Site marketing: Drupal, eZ Publish, WordPress, HippoCMS …
  • Social Networking: Drupal, WordPress
  • Intranet/company portal: Drupal, eZ Publish
  • ECommerce: Prestashop, Magento, osCommerce, VirtueMart and couple to WooCommerce WordPress …
  • Forum: PhpBB, PunBB, vBulletin, Simple forums forum …
  • Custom application

One could also talk about the case of “wiki”, directories, or a site without a database.
It is also necessary to determine the main functionalities of the site (cf the importance of the specifications). Thus if your site is multilingual, if it is to be used by several editors, if it is necessary to manage types of contents other than “categories”, “pages”, “articles, etc.”. So many constraints that, for example, will allow you to quickly eliminate some CMS that hardly manage some of your critical functionalities.

Some points to dig in your choice:

  • Ability to multi-site,
  • Management of different languages,
  • Fine management of different article versions, their life cycle,
  • Referencing options,
  • Fine management of users and rights,
  • Performance,

3. What are our means in the short and medium term?

The more your budget is tight, the more you will have to go to adapted and quickly operational solutions. So the small eCommerce will prefer Prestashop to Magento. To make a blog or an institutional site one will prefer WordPress to Drupal. Your choice will come from your “means” on the short and long term. A system like Drupal requires far more attention than lighter systems. But in return Drupal allows going much further. In this Drupal is sometimes assimilated to a CMF (Content Management Framework). You see here the difference between a complete CMS but expensive and another easier to implement, but which will eventually be more quickly limited and for which we will have to develop tailor-made modules. The quick CMS to set up are therefore to be preferred if you want to quickly set up a site that will evolve very little.

In the opposite case, prefer a system offering more possibilities in the long term. While keeping in mind that migration from one system to another remains possible, it represents a significant cost.

4. What about the community?

The strength of a CMS relies heavily on its community. The bigger it is, the more likely you are to find help if you find yourself facing difficulties. Before you launch to look at dedicated forums, documentation, exchanges on the subject on social networks, books on the system, etc. Attention to CMS maintained by a single company and displaying as Open Source: you may be linked to a single provider.

5. What alternatives to the CMS?

And if after all this reflection, we realized that the CMS is not for us? In this case, we will see the alternatives to the CMS.

  • The “from scratch” site: developed internally by your company, by you if you are independent or by subcontracting to an independent (or a company). This site will be created from scratch for you. To achieve a convincing result it will often take months of development, have a charter realized by a graphic designer. And especially, above all, a specification of several dozens of pages, listing exhaustively the details and features of the site …
  • The site based on a CMS “owner”: this type of alternative is often proposed to you by agencies that have developed in-house a tool of their own. The problems with this kind of proprietary tools is that if you ever disagree with your provider you will be a bit trapped and you will hardly be able to do a v2 without re-doing your entire site. It is a bit the “trap” of this kind of solutions: the provider company is master of its CMS, but rare will be the developers external to this company who can and will want to put the nose in…

6. How to train for their use?

Vocational training helps to know the function of a C.M.S. And to evolve rapidly by being accompanied by a pro, expert in the configuration and the development of the system. SEO Hero offers several CMS courses that can lead to further training. All the best-known systems are covered during these courses, you have the choice.