Starting an online business can be daunting; there are a lot of things to consider! If you've been thinking about a new website, selecting the right CMS (Content Management System) to drive your website is going to be one of the most important decisions you'll need to make. In this multi part series, we'll discuss what a CMS is and how to choose the right one for you.
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
In it's simplest form, a CMS is just a piece of software which will allow you to make changes to your website. These range from very simple systems which just allow you to make basic changes right through to enterprise systems which provide the foundation for your entire site and define it's capabilities.
A good CMS should plan for growth
These days, most of our new clients request some way to update their website, even if it's just being able to change the text on the homepage or update a PDF price list. To do this, our clients need a CMS - but given these are very simple tasks, just about any CMS will do. Or will it?
Over time, if your website is successful, it will help increase the size of your business. Now with the phone ringing more, it makes sense to change that PDF price list into a small online store. Taking your sales online, you can sell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and there are no real staffing overheads. However, If your website designers hadn't accounted for this growth, you may need to get your website rebuilt to accommodate this new idea.
This problem can be avoided by making sure you select a CMS that has an upgrade path. Choosing a CMS like MojoMotor for example will mean that you can start your website on a simple system which meets your needs today and then use MojoMotors built in upgrade features to move your site onto a larger scale CMS like ExpressionEngine to enable all of your online commerce plans.
Think about security
One of the biggest issues associated with adding a CMS to your website is that it makes it easier for other people to make changes to the website. To help reduce your risk of a security breach, select a CMS with a good security record, professional developers and reliable support. To compare the security of one CMS against another visit the Secunia website which has a list of most security warnings associated with all the major Content Management Systems.
Look for a Modular system
Most good Content Management Systems claim to be modular but results can vary depending upon which CMS you choose. In essence, a modular CMS is one that can have it's functionality extended by adding pre-packaged code. In many ways, this is similar to how the functions of your iPhone can be extended by purchasing apps from the App Store.
So, given this example, a modular CMS is one which allows you to add features and functionality which isn't provided as part of the core product. This means if you need a site wide search, better SEO tools or a membership management system, a modular CMS will accommodate the ability to add these tools with having to re-engineer the core product.
The trick with using Modules in a Content Management System is to make sure that the modules are well supported by their developers. This means that when a CMS update is released, a update for the module should also be published. Likewise, if your CMS uses many modules, each module should respect this and accommodate it accordingly.
Avoid niche technology
Websites like CMS Matrix give you a small insight into just how many Content Management Systems are on the market. Many of the websites which appear on this list are actually quite niche and don't tend to have a lot of web professionals who hold an expert level knowledge in the software. As a result, you should probably try to narrow vision down to just a few of the more popular systems on the market which have a larger level of developer support. To get an idea of which systems these are, have a look at the Built With website. The Content Management Systems listed in these stats represent both free and commercially supported systems, the difference of which will look at in part two of this publication.