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CMS Selection Criteria for Small Businesses

There is no perfect CMS. Every choice comes with its pros and cons. But there’s a minimum set of requirements every small business owner should expect from a CMS before taking it into consideration.

1, Cost

The actual costs of a CMS are not always as obvious as the need to keep costs in check. Choosing a CMS is a lot like choosing a car, meaning you’ll want to take a long hard look at running and maintenance costs. You must also look at the ease and cost of switching from that CMS to another platform, the same way you’d look at the resale value of a car.

2. Functionality

The functions a dentist requires from his website differ from those required by a car dealer. Entrepreneurs need to thoroughly understand their needs before looking at capabilities offered. In this way, the risk of falling for marketing spins at the expense of core requirements is minimized.  It’s essential to always remember that switching from one CMS to another will cost a lot of time and money.

3. Customization

A CMS that is hard to customize at both functional and aesthetic levels is not worth adopting. For instance, if the CMS is meant for an online shop, BigCommerce is a good choice. On the other hand, WordPress might be a better fit for some professional consultancies. BigCommerce also has a great directory with design solution partners, such as Digitawise, that can help customize and make every store unique.

4. How long it will take to learn

At the very minimum, a CMS should offer:

  • An easy-to-use editors like WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). You should probably apply the Gmail Test which states that if creating a new page is significantly more difficult than composing an email (with inline images) on Gmail, don’t use it.
  • Centralized intuitive asset management. The same images and downloads are often required on multiple pages. It is inefficient to upload the same catalog six times for download on six different pages. And it is worse when the catalog changes.

5. User-friendliness

Search engines, particularly Google, usually index the web according to the user experience. According to Google, having a content-rich, user-friendly website is the best approach to SEO. As such, a CMS that makes it easy to create and post content but is not user-friendly is not worth much. At the very minimum, a CMS should have:

  • Search: Users should be able to search your content and search engines should be able to index it. If a CMS does not offer consistent, memorable, customizable and permanent URLs for your content, then it is not worth considering.
  • Version control: For a content-rich website that is frequently updated, there is always the possibility of wrong or misleading content getting published by mistake. Version control allows for rollback to a specific date or an earlier version of a page while corrections are made.
  • Interactivity: It is called Web 2.0 because of its capacity to interact with the user. User-driven content in comments, updates and feedback is the way to go. Any CMS worth serious attention should make it easy for the admin to create forms and the user to use them. At the same time, the preview, publication, and retraction of user-generated forms should be built in.

In a nutshell

After more than ten years of social media and almost 20 after the dot-com bubble burst, online commerce has matured to the extent that some aspects of CMS choice do not deserve space here. Security, integrated online payments, and social media have not been mentioned because they are considered obvious. Systems that do not offer the requirements outlined above should not make it to your shortlist.

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