While a content management system (CMS) is quite possibly one of the most important decisions you can make about your site after the design itself, clients will often leave that decision mostly to their developer. The question is why? You would not buy a car without researching and test driving it, you would likely not upgrade your cell phone without having previously handled the new model at least once, and so is the case with many of the technologies in our lives.
The CMS, however, remains both a mystery to many clients in how it works with the site they see, and it’s often very unclear to the consumer what to test, what questions to ask, how to determine of this marriage between you and the online driver of your business is made in heaven or Hell.
This ongoing series of blog articles will explore the many ways to go about making this determination for yourself, rather than outsourcing that decision to someone who may find technically confusing things to be much easier and natural than you do. In future articles we will delve into the questions below.
The Question List – Things to Either Research or Ask Your Developer
1. If I am somehow bound to a specific website hosting company or solution, does it support the CMS being recommended? (If the answer is no then this is likely not the CMS solution for you, ask for other recommendations)
2. What content areas are in and out of your control. Can you change the banners by yourself? Make a form? At what point do you need to know code? At what point do you not need to know code but need advanced knowledge of the system? Based on the Design are there any image updates that require Photoshop? (A haze, a pretty border) because the CMS and style sheets don’t provide a tool for that.
3. Is the CMS custom, proprietary, or open source? There are advantages and disadvantages to all of the above.
4. What written and video support documentation is readily available for the product? Ask for visual examples, don’t just accept “oh we’ll get you a manual.”
5. If the CMS is proprietary what features are included in my license? What features require a more costly license? In which country is their main support team located? (time zone conflicts can create issues in ever talking to a human).
6. If the CMS is open source, how large is the developer community supporting it? /What’s the breadth of plug and play modules? How often are there updates, including security, and based on how they intend to develop your site how difficult and involved will it be to update the platform and modules? (just because it says “updates available” doesn’t mean that you should press that button).
7. Is there a place where I can either see a demo video, or hands on play with a demo to do the regular tasks that I anticipate having to do? (this is crucial).
8. Is the CMS interface easy to use on a mobile device?
9. What’s involved in having a staging area for my site so that I can see changes before I make them live.
10. What search engine optimization features come standard?
11. If I decide to add a blog to my site, how integrated is the CMS’s blog solution? Same question for social media feeds.
12. How easy is it to administer and track multiple content authors?