Rob W  

August 08, 2008

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With hundreds of Content Management Systems (CMS) on the market, how does a company identify the best one for their website? Over the last 5 years I have created a cheat sheet that has simplified this process to 3 main steps.

1. Create a Requirements Checklist
Come up with a CMS requirements checklist. What do you want the CMS be able to do? Ask as many people that will be using the CMS system fill out this checklist, ranking each factor on a “must have”, “would like to have”, or “don’t care” scale. Ideally, have at least several employees (who will be using the CMS solution) from several different business departments complete the CMS checklist since requirements tend to verify by departments.

Some example requirements might include:

  • Permissions / Roles – Some users might have the ability to write or modify content while the authority to publish might be limited to only a few.
  • Rollback / Versioning – Accidentally removed the biography of the CEO? How important is it to have a CMS system that will let you revert back to an older version of the webpage?
  • WYSWIG – The benefit of having a CMS system is so non-technical users can update the website. Make sure the CMS system has a friendly MS Word-like editor that enables non-technical users to quickly and easily update webpages .

Lastly, compile a master CMS requirement checklist in Excel where you can turn on the auto-filter feature to see any requirements all CMS users identified as “must haves”.

2. Demo the CMS
Identify several CMS systems (within your budget) that meet a majority of your CMS stakeholder requirements. Spending an hour on Google searching for phrases like ‘CMS solutions compared’ should help narrow down your list of CMS vendors.

Verify with your IT team that the CMS solutions you have on your list could be implemented and maintained within your current infrastructure. Example: If no-one at your company knows how to program in Java you might not want to proceed with evaluating any Java based CMS solutions.

Contact over the phone (and screen) several CMS vendors that are willing to come on-site and conduct a demo of their CMS solution. Ask the vendor to demo basic functionality (authoring, publishing, etc) but make sure they also address all your “must haves” and “would like to have” the requirements that you identified in your companies CMS checklist.

3. Gain Buy-in
Ask your CMS users (that attended the demos) which CMS they preferred; which CMS would they most be comfortable using? At this point you should have a pretty good idea which CMS solution your team prefers. Now you just need your boss to write a check for it…