How to Choose the Best Web Content Management System

Web content is a business asset. It’s how your company comes across to the world: to everyone who ever engaged with your brand, and to anyone who ever will. With more and more customers choosing digital channel as their preferred form of engagement, the value of web content cannot be underestimated.

Web content management system (Web CMS) is a software platform that allows companies to store, manage and publish large volumes of web content with relative ease. It’s essentially a house where your web content lives. The system itself doesn’t create quality content – web editors do, but suboptimal Web CMS platforms can create all kinds of problems that prevent web content from performing to its full potential.

Selecting and implementing a Web Content Management System in a large organisation is a complex and expensive undertaking. Just like buying a house, choosing a new Web CMS system – the home for your content – requires careful consideration and a lot of effort. Investment in a new platform simply won’t happen unless there’s convincing evidence that it is the right thing to do.

Given that organisations routinely blame technology for all kinds of problems, how can you differentiate between the day-to-day frustrations and serious underlying issues that warrant a thorough review? Here are some common signs that can help senior leadership to recognise that an upgrade to a better Web CMS platform is overdue.

  • Customer experience of your web estate looks and feels out of date. Whilst the design and front-end code are somewhat separate to the underlying Web CMS platform, these layers of technology are more connected than it might appear at first glance. For example, a Web CMS that makes it hard to embed video and audio content or insert interactive design elements, will slow down production of engaging content and will contribute to underwhelming customer experience.
  • Content editors user interface (UI) is clunky or worse still, a significant portion of content editing can only be done by web developers with niche technical skills. Content editing should not be hard, it should be intuitive, user-friendly and entirely manageable without involvement of the IT department.
  • Difficulty recruiting or retaining talent – good web developers and web editors prefer to work with innovative, cutting edge solutions. If you are struggling to recruit people with previous experience of developing for your chosen Web CMS, chances are that this platform isn’t seen by web editors and web developers as a helpful line in their CVs or a helpful step in their careers.
  • Roadmap of the Web CMS product (whether it’s owned by a commercial vendor or an open-source community) no longer aligns with your business strategy. Mergers and acquisitions in Web CMS space can significantly impact the vendor’s positioning and priorities. Major version releases of open source Web CMS systems can introduce new complexity and new direction. These events should trigger a review of the Web CMS platform because it may no longer align with your own business objectives.
  • Scaling up is problematic and is causing slow loading speed, storage issues and/or security concerns arising from too many overlapping plugins and customisations.

If your organisation decides to go ahead with a Web CMS review and you need to select a new, better system, here are a few tips for Web CMS selection and implementation.

  1. Validate the need and access readiness for change. Resist building a business case for the new Web CMS that makes the platform the scapegoat of all organisational problems. Technology, people and processes are inextricably linked, so if your organisation isn’t ready to improve in other areas at the same time, investment in technology may not deliver the expected benefits. Technology doesn’t change the world, people do. (Steve Jobs).
  2. Narrow down your options by using filters that help to shortlist suitable solutions – for example technology stack, industry-specific or idiosyncratic requirements, scale and size of the organisation, and level of security required. Verticals such as news & media, healthcare, higher education and financial services have very distinct business requirements that can only be met by Web CMS solutions and open-source communities that understand them well and build the necessary industry-specific features into their own roadmaps.
  3. Consider implementation team carefully. Implementing a new Web CMS for the first time is best done by developers with significant previous experience with the platform in question. Success of your investment in the new Web CMS depends as much on the implementation team as it does on the technology product itself.
  4. Volumes of content is an ever growing concern for many organisations, and it needs addressing before you shift all the content to a new home. More content doesn’t always result in better outcomes or better engagement, so if there are no processes in place to take care of old content, you need to introduce new digital governance policies before the content migration takes place, not after.
  5. Headless CMS is a type of Web CMS where content production is completely separated from the presentation layer. If your organisation is mature enough to embrace this concept, this can be a good long-term investment in future proofing your web content.
  6. Where in the cloud are you? More and more organisations are moving their platforms away from on-premise infrastructure to cloud-based (also called cloud-hosted) and cloud-native. Cloud-based solutions are products that were originally developed as on-premise products, and then transferred to the cloud (such as Acquia’s Cloud Drupal platform, for example). Cloud-native Web CMS systems are designed from the ground up for the cloud and benefit from innovative infrastructure, agility, high availability and built-in security.

Global crisis we’re in today affected organisations around the world in two major ways. First, all businesses had to review their priorities and strategic goals in the context of far-reaching changes in a number of industries. Second, the need for digital excellence came into a sharp focus – covid crisis accelerated adoption of digital products by seven years, according to a recent McKinsey & Company study. Recognising the need to review your Web CMS platform in the light of these new circumstances is essential in today’s age of digital transformation.