Cracking the Code: How to Pick the Right CMS for Your Website

Graphic representing how to pick the right CMS for your website.

Picking the best content management system (CMS) for your business can be a hassle. Even the best-laid plans can quickly turn into a game of whack-a-mole. With so many options available, how do you decide? It can be an ordeal and one we consistently face when redesigning, redeveloping, or migrating client websites. For many, the first - and sometimes only - step is to compare features and functionality. But this alone is not enough. 

What you need: 

  • Define the goals for your website: How will you measure success? 
  • Consider scale: How is your business is going to use, maintain, and evolve your website?
  • Write up a complete list of third-party tools: What data, event, ERP, or marketing tools do you plan to integrate? 
  • Create a features roadmap: What features do you need now versus long-term hopes and dreams?
  • Build a comprehensive cost analysis: Understand the total cost of ownership (license fees, hosting, design development project, ongoing maintenance)

Questions to ask when selecting a new CMS

Many modern CMS platforms have similar baseline features and functionality. Start with evaluating how your website fits into your overall technology ecosystem. Focus on the requirements that are unique to your business or organization, industry, and audience. Think about the people on your team who will be managing the site day-to-day and your philosophy and approach to adopting new technologies.

Questions to ask:

  1. Is the platform open source or proprietary SAAS? 
  2. Do we need an “all in one” platform or do we want to take a headless or composable approach? 
  3. How easy is it to scale? 
  4. What’s its market share? 
  5. Does it have robust security features? 
  6. Is it a template-based CMS or is there drag-and-drop component page builder features? 
  7. Is it built for novices, intermediate, or experienced web managers? 
  8. Do people on my team have experience with this platform? 
  9. Is the platform specially built for your type of business?
  10. Do you plan to customize content based on different audiences? 

Top CMS features to consider based on your business type

Building out a features and requirements list will look a little different based on your goals, industry, and digital maturity.  

For B2B, Lead Gen, and Marketing Websites:

  • Component based page builder features
  • Form builder tools 
  • Multisite management 
  • SEO content optimization tools 
  • User segmentation  
  • Content personalization 
  • A/B testing 
  • Workflow features 
  • Multilingual content 
  • Reporting and analytics 
  • Third-party integrations (marketing tools, job listings, CRM)

Top features for B2C and Commerce:

  • Product options and configurators 
  • Basic, tiered, or bundled pricing 
  • Library of themes vs. ability to custom build 
  • Shipping and order tracking 
  • Payment processing 
  • Discount and promotion management 
  • Transactional emails 
  • On-page personalization 
  • Account management 
  • Third-party integrations (tax compliance, ERP, PIM)

Building a Requirements Matrix 

Once you’ve evaluated your goals, talked with your team, and compiled your list of requirements, it’s crucial to evaluate: 

  1. What features and functionality are must-haves now (or will be soon), and what is a nice to have or a maybe someday in the future need. 
  2. Are those features built-in and available out of the box? Do advanced features require a more expensive license or subscription?  
  3. What will require custom development to achieve? 
  4. Which features and requirements need an additional plugin or add-on services?

Compare the initial and ongoing cost of ownership

All of this together is what will help you build out a model to evaluate your total cost of ownership. Depending on the platform you choose, there may be ongoing fees associated with hosting or updates. Before choosing a CMS, our team helps research these costs before committing to a particular platform to ensure that it fits within your budget.  

We look at:

  • License cost, if applicable
  • Hosting cost, if applicable
  • The estimated cost of annual maintenance
  • The estimated cost of required plug-ins
  • Cost of payment processing gateways, if ecommerce
  • Cost of transaction fees, if ecommerce

Compare replatforming costs

Moving from one platform to another can have costly implications. It's important that you consider your immediate needs versus long-term goals before your digital partner offers you a design and development quote. 

These costs may vary wildly.

Primarily, you have three options: 

  1. If you've rebranded, or if your conversion rates are in the toilet, then you will need to consider holistically redesigning your website — UX, design, content strategy and development.
  2. If your website is fairly sound but could use some navigation, or functionality cleanup, then the estimated cost would focus primarily on website development — same stuff, but better.
  3. If you reached the limitation of your current CMS or need to move because of a security or technical concern, then you may want to simply 'Lift & Shift' your websitemove now, optimize, or redesign later.

Wondering how to rightsizing your CMS based on your business?

We fully believe in rightsizing your CMS based on your business, industry, and audience. If you're considering redesigning, developing, or migrating your website, view real-world examples of rightsizing your CMS, or reach out to our pros and ask for a platform analysis.