Are you researching CMS programmes and platforms? If so you’ll already know what a complex task it can be. As a highly experienced CMS web design agency, we have a deep understanding of the different CMSs available, what they can and can’t do, and what they’re best and worst at. This article reveals everything you need to know about some of the world’s best-loved CMS platforms, designed to help you make the best decision for your circumstances
So what is a Content Management System? A content management system or CMS is a piece of clever software. It helps people build, manage, and modify website content without specialised knowledge or technical expertise. Twenty years ago you needed to understand html code to build a site, these days you can create a complex website without needing to write any code at all, or understand what code means.
No wonder there are so many CMS platforms to choose from, each with their own key features. How do you make the right decision? The trick is to match what a CMS offers with the things you need the website you’re building to do.
What do you need to think about when comparing CMS platforms? Take a look at this list of CMS features, each of which links to a subsection containing the details.
At the core of every CMS there’s an intuitive website administration dashboard that makes managing every type of content easy. Obviously, the interface has to be simple, easy to learn and easy to use, whether you understand what’s going on in the background or not. The admin dashboard lets you keep track of content you’ve scheduled, along with related assets like imagery. It’ll help you monitor site activity and reveal admin activity. You should be able to add extra functionality using plug-ins and downloadable modules, and the dashboard should manage your task notifications. If needs be, it should be capable of looking after multiple sites. And it will keep all this as simple as possible while only giving access to authorised people.
Content management, creation and publishing is probably the thing most people would mention when asked what a CMS does. The content editing facility itself must be easy to learn, simple and intuitive and key to achieving an efficient workflow. As you can imagine a great CMS platform handles a wide variety of content, from short press releases and announcements to long, detailed articles and landing pages containing embedded documents. It should let you un-publish with ease and update links automatically. And every good CMS handles on-page and on-site SEO essentials like content tagging, images, video and more, quickly and easily.
Every CMS site has to be both responsive and mobile friendly. Responsive website themes provide this capability. Responsive themes create websites offering the best possible user experience across every device and screen resolution, automatically adjusting the layout to fit the screen size and resolution. Before responsive website themes were created you’d need to build completely different, separate sites to display on a small screen like a smartphone or tablet. You might have also needed to build different versions for android, iOS, Windows and so on. Responsive themes let you build a site that automatically detects the user’s device without extra work, extra plugins or anything else.
Pre-configured content templates are fantastic for supporting efficiency. They make so many content creation tasks simpler, less at risk of mistakes, and consistently high quality. Templates let you streamline business processes, handling the hard work in the background to make your life is a lot easier. If you’re building an e-commerce site, for example, you’d find a template that lets you build a category drop-down list for your shop, create automatic meta descriptions based on your product descriptions, add a ‘recommended products’ or ‘you may also like’ widget, and re-size the images perfectly as thumbnails or large images to zoom close up to. You’ll want it to update your stock automatically. And you’ll appreciate reminders at every stage, so you don’t miss anything crucial.
Site security matters such a lot. Poor site security can leave you in big trouble with Data Protection if customer data is hacked, stolen, shared or leaked. The GDPR – the UK General Data Protection Regulation – is a rock solid piece of law that everyone operating using people’s data must abide by or face hefty fines, and the best CMSs take it into account. It’s also wise to set up tiered access rights and user permissions depending on exactly what you want to allow different people to do in the CMS, for example giving your content creators limited rights and site editors a variety of permissions.
You can’t run an online business without social media. So your chosen CMS has to make it simple to share content via a huge choice of social networks, from professional networks like LinkedIn to mainstream networks like Twitter and Facebook, and any other networks that are popular with your target audience. Because you need to be where they go, your CMS social tools must make it easy to add ‘share’, ‘like’, ‘follow’ and other buttons to your content, and share it with ease. Many CMSs automatically reformat content into Twitter cards, others use Open Graph tags to optimise shared content.
Insight means everything when you’re running a business online, and there’s a wealth of essential information that can be collected and analysed via the best CMSs. Assessing content performance requires analytics insight, and the site analytics provided should give you everything you need. Tracking engagement drives a winning content strategy. The best CMSs integrate seamlessly with popular analytics tools, including Google Analytics itself, all trackable from the dashboard.
You’ll be able to check the performance of your KPIs directly from the dashboard, understand exactly where your audience is based, the tech they use, how they react to and interact with your content, and the content they like best. All this delivers essential clues around what content to post next, refining your content strategy as you go.
If your business is UK only, it won’t matter. But international businesses benefit enormously from CMSs with multilingual capabilities. Imagine you kick off the business in the UK but later want to expand into other countries. A CMS that supports multilingual content helps you get where you want to be quickly and simply.
One thing that varies widely in the world of CMSs is the type and quality of the support. There’s nothing worse, if you run a business, than seeing your site go down, hang, stop working or disappear altogether. If you can’t get the support, you need super-fast, it can kill the business. Many suppliers of licensed CMS platforms offer support as part of the annual license fees or as an additional paid-for service.
There are some wonderful Open-Source CMS platforms available, free for anyone to use, these don’t offer dedicated support. It’s up to you to search the internet, find out what the problem is, and check the platform’s user facilities to see if there’s a suitable answer or a way to resolve the problem.
On the other hand, Open-Source CMSs are often supported by large numbers of fanatical users and fans allied to the community, so help is often not just available but excellent. Pay for your CMS and the support you get will probably be easier to find and available faster, often 24/7.
Having provided a useful features list for CMS platforms, it’s time to take a good look at some examples of the best CMS platforms:
Wordpress is the world’s most popular CMS, an Open Source platform loved by millions of individuals and businesses around the world. The free WordPress.com platform is a popular choice for hobby bloggers, a hosting service created by the WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. It offers 6 different pricing plans and the free version is very limited. WordPress.org is often called the ‘real’ WordPress, and this one’s probably the one you’re looking for. It’s free for everyone to use, all you need is a domain name and hosting, and there’s an enormous, loyal community that keeps the platform up to date via regular updates.
Wordpress only allows a maximum of 5 user roles, and plugins are usually the only way to add extra functionality, for example SEO and social media integration. While it’s fairly easy to understand the back end it might take some getting used to, and you’ll need to understand the basics of SEO. On the up-side the plugins are always designed for simplicity. Wordpress is a popular choice for eCommerce businesses, contains masses of free professional themes, all responsive, and WP sites load really fast thanks to its super-simple underlying code.
Joomla is another free open-source CMS, complete with some really excellent features and very versatile. But at the same time, it’s widely recognised as being fairly complex compared to some. Joomla makes it relatively easy to edit content and supports ecommerce excellence. There’s plenty of support and it makes short work of SEO.
On the downside there’s a lack of additional modules, and because the platform might mean an extra strain on your servers it’s often recommended for mid-sized rather than large businesses. You’ll need to look out for free plugins hidden amongst all the paid-for ones, and there aren’t as many templates, modules and plugins as you find in Wordpress.
Wix is another very popular platform, one with more than 110 million users, but it comes with serious limitations. It is marketed as intuitive and it certainly makes the initial design process easy. There’s a massive collection of templates and the drop and drag interface is very simple to use. It supports digital marketing well and comes with lots of extra features, many extendable via the Wix App Market.
This beginner-friendly CMS comes with a few down-sides. You can’t change your template once you’ve made your choice. It has very limited ecommerce capabilities. The free version comes with a Wix-branded domain name, which looks unprofessional. You need a paid plan to get at the tracking and analytics, the site isn’t transferrable, and premium plans only allow one site.
Umbraco is free, reliable, secure and easy to customise. It’s loved by web developers (especially by all of us here at Intuitiv Towers) and suits people with development experience perfectly. It has been designed without much of the functionality you find on other CMS platforms, which suits developers very well. You’ll need to put in some grounwork around SEO, but it’s a wonderfully scalable platform. Featuring unusual levels of flexibility around design and layout, it’s brilliant for customisation. It’s easy to maintain your page, product and entity data in a structured way and the platform is both robust and secure.
You can prepare and validate your content separately so it’s great for content edition flow, and user management roles are easy to manage. It’s good to know Umbraco’s support is superb, and the CMS is developer-friendly. An increasing development community of App developers are also helping to produce more and more scalable plugins for your development team to use.
Most of us want our CMS platform to be easy to use, flexible, secure, fast-loading and SEO-ready. Most of them, including the more user-friendly ones, require at least some expertise and experience across digital marketing, content marketing, on-page and on-site SEO, social media marketing, and graphic design. That’s why so many businesses come to us. Intuitiv CMS web design and development expertise and services sit at the heart of everything we do, whatever size, shape or flavour of business you run.
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