Maybe you’re an established business wanting to give your website a facelift, or maybe you’re up and coming and need to build a website from the ground up. Either way, your site will likely utilize a content management system, or CMS.
Many questions surround choosing a CMS: Which is the best? How do I choose one? Does it even matter which one I use?
If you’re thinking about creating or revamping a website, there are several factors you should consider.
WHAT IS A CMS?
A CMS is software that provides a way to design, create, and maintain a website. Some popular CMSs for businesses are Joomla, Kentico, Drupal, HubSpot, and WordPress. There are countless content management systems out there, and not all are created equal.
CHOOSING THE BEST CMS FOR YOUR SITE
IS THE CMS OPEN SOURCE OR PROPRIETARY?
Content management systems generally fall into two categories when it comes to rights and permissions: open source and proprietary/closed source.
An open source CMS is free and can be used by anyone without special permissions. That means anyone whom you allow can design and edit your website or modify it using code or add-ins. Some popular open source platforms are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
Proprietary CMSs are built and maintained by a single company, which means that access to the source code is restricted. The company owns exclusive rights, so CMS users need to purchase licenses to use it. Some examples of proprietary CMSs are Kentico, SharePoint, and Hubspot.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each. Proprietary CMSs can make websites relatively quick and easy to set up initially, but can come with high costs associated with licensing, and often have recurring fees. A proprietary CMS may limit where your site can be hosted, which means if you need to move your site or export data, proprietary CMSs often complicate the process.
An open source CMS usually comes at a lower cost and gives you the ability to download your site and host it anywhere. It can take a bit longer to set up if you want a solution truly customized to your specific needs, but open source systems have a larger base of developers optimizing the platforms than proprietary CMSs, which means they’re able to tackle any security issues, fix bugs, and develop new ways to customize content.
HOW MUCH CUSTOMIZATION DO YOU NEED?
When it comes to customization, open source CMSs include significantly more options for customization and allow for better functionality. This is because an entire community of developers contributes to platform enhancements referred to as plug-ins, which are essentially “apps” for the CMS. To date, WordPress has 55,000 plugins that can make sites easier to use, enhance functionality, and increase efficiency. The WordPress plugin marketplace makes it easy for users to sort and locate popular, reliable plugins to optimize the user experience of their site.
These benefits have resulted in widespread preference for open source platforms for many users. In fact, WordPress is the platform used for 34 percent of websites across the internet, meaning that it powers millions of sites including big name brands such as Disney and Sony Music.
When it comes to customizing content using proprietary CMSs, businesses can request new plugins from developers, but it can be a long time before the plugin is created and installed, and you may have to pay for it. If the developer leaves, you may have to abandon the use of the plugin.
HOW EASY WILL IT BE TO GROW AND HOST YOUR SITE?
As time goes on, sites can become more complex, so you’ll want to make sure your CMS supports that growth. If you plan to add new content regularly, you’ll want to make sure you choose a CMS that makes that process simple. Open source CMSs such as WordPress make it easy to add new pages, forms, and blog posts to your site, all of which can help boost your bottom line with the right content marketing strategy. Get in touch with Element to talk about how you can provide valuable content to your visitors and convert them to leads.
Open source platforms also simplify the process of locating hosting solutions for your site. Several companies provide hosting solutions specific to certain CMSs that help optimize performance for sites designed using those systems—WPEngine, for example, currently hosts 500,000 WordPress websites. Some companies have also developed hosting for sites built on Drupal and other open source CMSs. These hosting solutions help save you time, enhance the performance and responsiveness of your site, and can offer features specific to the CMS you’re using.
A proprietary CMS is typically hosted by the company that created the site. While easy to host the site initially, using a proprietary CMS means your site will likely be restricted to that host, which means you might have to pay fees for using their hosting services. You may also be unable to export your site and host it elsewhere—you may have to develop an entirely new site if you need to move your content, adding significant costs and a longer process than you’d experience with open source software.
HOW SECURE WILL YOUR SITE BE?
Because proprietary CMSs have tight restrictions on the source code, they can better control their reputation when it comes to security. Open source CMSs, on the other hand, have been viewed as easier targets for hackers because anyone can access the code.
These perceptions, however, are often misinformed. Proprietary CMS platform security issues aren’t always made public or communicated to site owners because proprietary CMSs are controlled by a small, closed group of developers. Security issues can be kept behind closed doors, which can lead to a false sense of security. And, seasoned hackers will be able to get into any site if they try hard enough.
Open source CMSs must disclose security breaches, but since they are monitored by countless web developers, some believe they’re actually more secure. WordPress employs a team of 50 security researchers and developers dedicated to finding potential vulnerabilities and tackling any security problems. Security teams like these, in combination with outside developers monitoring sites for potential security threats, help ensure your site remains secure.
ULTIMATELY, IT COMES DOWN TO YOUR BUSINESS GOALS
Not every CMS is right for every business, so weigh your options and consult an outside expert. A new site provides endless opportunities and options, which can quickly become overwhelming. Talking to an expert with experience and proven processes can help you navigate unfamiliar territory, so you create a new site that meets your business’s branding, marketing, and sales goals.
At Element, we like to say we are “CMS-agnostic.” That means that while our favorite content management system flavor may be WordPress, we can build and manage websites and content strategies on practically any platform.
THE RIGHT CMS DOESN’T MEAN YOU’LL GET RESULTS …
While there are a wide variety of options out there, and each with its own merit, all CMSs share the same core function: to make and edit a website.
But, you cannot approach a new site with a “If I build it they will come” mentality. Without an integrated digital strategy, the CMS you choose isn’t going to impact your bottom line. The user experience, content, and SEO strategy are highly independent of the CMS that drives the website behind the scenes—a CMS is just a vehicle for delivering the site. You need a complete marketing strategy to drive quality traffic to the site and convert that traffic into qualified leads. In a perfect world, developing that strategy prior to selecting a CMS and designing a new site is beneficial.
A solid marketing strategy starts with an understanding of your ideal customer. Once we understand the fears and motivations of our end user, we can craft messaging and content that resonates with them and builds trust in your brand. Research and experience help us determine where this content should reside, whether it’s on your owned properties (web, e-blasts, newsletters), earned properties (press releases, contributed articles), or through paid campaigns.
Element specializes in recommending the perfect blend of these tactics to reach the people you want and move these prospects down the buyer’s journey. Contact us to talk more about finding the right CMS and developing a marketing strategy for your specific goals.