Choosing a Content Management System: Key Considerations Prior to Implementation

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In an information-driven society, a company’s ability to manage Web content efficiently to meet customers’ needs is essential. A content management system (CMS) is a software platform that provides tools and workflows that enables non-technical users the ability to create and maintain any asset on a Web page. Through use of a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) content editor, marketers have the ability to leverage content. This includes copy, pictures, videos and information from other online sources to provide visitors with a rich and contextualized experience on a website. Determining the best CMS solution for your organization rests on three pillars: the customer, user and the business.

The Customer
Today, the customer is drowning in an over-abundance of information with less time than ever before to compare product offerings from various suppliers. Time is more than just money; time is life itself. According to the 5-Second Test (, customers on average will determine in five seconds whether a website is trustworthy and meets their needs. Therefore, companies need to tailor Web content in response to customers’ demands or risk losing the client to a competitor.

“The content management system drives functionality and content through a company’s digital marketing channels,” says Bill Rogers, CEO and founder of Ektron. With a CMS, marketers have the ability to create micro-sites with landing pages that support marketing campaigns and satisfy consumers’ intent based on their clicks. The marketer should also set goals and track specific metrics to determine performance levels. By measuring click-rates to the promotional offer and tracking the visitors’ navigation, marketers can observe customers’ interest and online behavior patterns to determine areas for improvement. CMS gives marketers the ability to adjust Web content quickly and easily to meet customers’ information needs and reach company goals.

The User
“The content management system chosen for the organization should offer functionality that supports the user and meshes with the user’s level of technical expertise,” says Mick MacComasciagh, research director for Gartner. CMS provides various levels of technical support spanning the entire continuum from a full-service helpline to no assistance.

“For companies on tight budgets with non-technical staff, many affordable, open-source systems are available that provide ongoing technical upgrades and customer support,” states Jay Moonah, vice president of marketing for Wild Apricot. “In addition to a WYSIWYG content editing tool, some vendors also offer database features and membership management capabilities.”

Customized, robust systems are also available for companies with content spanning thousands of pages or for those needing features such as flexible AJAX reporting, extensive database management capabilities and  multivariate testing features. But, some solutions pose challenges to the non-technical user. Without support, an inexpensive, out-of-the-box CMS solution may become costly due to the amount of time necessary to learn and trouble-shoot a system. Furthermore, some plug-ins may work correctly and provide hassle-free, viable solutions. Other plug-ins, however, have been known to corrupt system files leaving the non-technical user no choice but to hire an experienced coder to correct the damage.

The Business
So what’s the best solution? “The key is discovering the necessary features that align with the critical business issues that need to be solved,” explains Rogers. This extends well-beyond the scope of a simple WYSIWYG editing tool.

To deliver an engaging user experience, the vendor must innovate around the business’ needs and offer additional functionality – such as drag-and-drop or a drop-down tool bar. That’s in spite of the fact that people typically want many features but tend to use less than five percent of any system’s capability, notes MacComasciagh. In addition to the software’s functionality, the system’s usability ranks high. For example, a well-organized dashboard and easily accessible tools lead to improved employee productivity and reduced labor costs.

Driving innovation is marketing’s impact on purchasing decisions. Today, marketers want to do more than simply edit web content. For example, marketers want to offer e-commerce services, test multiple campaign landing pages and allow the customer to interact with company representatives in a friendly, online environment among others.

“Social software functionality is necessary to build online communities around a brand,” comments Rogers. “With the wealth of user-generated content from blogs and social-networking communities, companies must be able to synchronize content, user information and site templates across the firewall securely.”

Ektron recently developed PageBuilding, a page-building wizard that allows marketers to create and test two or more landing pages simultaneously. This multivariate testing capability is important for determining the customers’ preferences, improving campaign effectiveness and decreasing cost per lead.

When assessing systems, companies may also need to explore e-commerce capabilities and regional support services.

Every online business needs to be concerned with SEO. To that end, basic SEO tools should be included in any CMS, as well as tools that support 508 Compliance (website accessibility for the disabled), claims Les Schlain, board member for ESX, Inc. Inserting keywords in headers, description tags, and image and hyperlink alt tags not only helps search engine rankings but also aid accessibility for sight-impaired visitors who must rely on readers to surf the Web.

Additional features might include the availability of site templates, the ability to set granular roles, the option to create publication workflows and the overall needs of the organization. The use of templates and cascading style sheets (CSS) enforce consistent web pages for company branding and can be used across platforms. A CMS that permits granular roles and privileges is vital when multiple team members are responsible for managing a site. Designing publication workflows helps ensure editors and managers collaborate before publishing content to the Web. Lastly, the type of firm, such as an interactive agency, will need a flexible platform to build scalable Web applications for various clients.

Future Features
“In the future, niche markets such as physician groups will seek CMS solutions that meet industry-specific needs,” Moonah adds, The Web site will be a mash-up of functionality and information pulled from multiple online sources that focus on the particular needs of the target audience. For example, a web site for a pediatrician may pull resources on childhood disorders, dietary needs, growth development, sports medicine and other information deemed helpful for the parent and the patient. Regardless of origin, a CMS solution will have to be scalable to display and manage vast amounts of information.

According to Rogers, content management systems will soon deliver the Web user with a personalized experience that is further enhanced by the use of analytics that combine traffic statistics and site visitor metrics with other business systems. Once the visitor signs-on to a website, the company will be able to deliver the right promotions, relevant content and functionality to the customer on their chosen device.

Most businesses recognize the need for CMS but selecting the right solution can be daunting when considering all the available options –  from full-service solutions to bare-bones systems requiring varying levels of technical expertise. Purchasing a CMS that is too sophisticated is like killing mosquitoes with a bazooka, explains Moonah. Yet, purchasing a CMS with insufficient functionality will leave a company floundering. After a thorough analysis of the company’s requirements, the right CMS solution should meet the customers’ needs efficiently, offer users the appropriate level of support, integrate seamlessly with the company’s IT infrastructure and provide an acceptable ROI.

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