Creating a website has become much easier since the advent of content management systems. CMS simplifies the process of many web design tasks such as creating pages, blog posts, navigation menus, changing page layout and even updating URLs and metadata. For those with little or no web development experience, CMSs are a powerful interface between the code that powers your website and the people in your company who need to make changes to it.
The problem now for those who want to create a website is that there are many content management systems to choose from. All of them have different features with their own pros and cons, which can be difficult to analyze, especially for those without any background knowledge.
In this article, I want to take a look at what makes a good CMS and why it can be one of the most important decisions your business will ever make (Later!).
What makes a good CMS?
There are five factors you should keep in mind when considering a CMS:
Despite the large number of WordPress and Shopify sites out there, customers have come to us with websites built on all kinds of custom CMS. Their choice of CMS places limitations on what their websites can do, and how easy or difficult it is for an SEO agency like ours to implement changes over time. Of course, any extra effort to make are often relatively simple changes, all of which translate into higher costs for the customer.
Quite simply, the more complex or nuanced a CMS is, the more expensive it will be for a digital marketing agency to make changes.
When choosing a CMS, you have to calculate these costs over the life of your website. These costs tend to emerge from the following four areas:
- Add new pages such as services and products
- Ongoing technical support and sourcing for web developers
- Technical capabilities and functions
- Integration with tools/plugins (SEO, marketing, e-commerce, development, etc.)
Forward thinking is critical, because choosing the cheapest option to start with could end up costing you a lot more in the long run. For example, you can quickly build an e-commerce site with Wix, but marketing becomes expensive because integrating Google Shopping with this CMS requires a third-party app that will cost you the best part of £150 a month before the sale starts.
There is no doubt that you want your CMS to be secure so that your website is not vulnerable to cyber attacks, especially if you are dealing with customer data. Security features like two-factor authentication, firewalls, and strict user permissions are important. You will also need regular updates from the CMS developers to cover the vulnerabilities, which hackers are always looking to exploit.
Searching for a secure CMS can lead you to specialized CMS or even get web developers to create a custom platform for you, putting it on a huge load that you may not need. While popular CMS are more likely to get hacked due to the sheer number of people who use them, a good developer and host can prevent people from trying to hack your website.
Over the life of your website, you may end up moving it to a new platform or hosting provider. Choosing an obscure CMS at first could put you in a bad place if you need to move your website.
People often come to us with what we call isolated websites: they no longer have a developer, so the changes that can be made are very limited. There is no one there to take care of them. It got to the point that if they wanted to do anything basic to the site or its functionality, they were looking to have to redevelop the website. And it’s not cheap, especially with an obscure CMS.
Ease of use
All the cool features of a CMS would be a waste of time if the people who are actually going to use it don’t know how to take advantage of these features. Ultimately, the CMS should be usable by the lowest common denominator, someone who has very little knowledge of the website.
It is critical to know how well your employees and your growing workforce are able to interact with your business and your digital assets. This is not a square exercise, it is about ensuring that you maximize your growth opportunities because this affects how easy it is to introduce new services or new product lines, and how much external support you will need to do so.
Think about who will use your website in your company, now and in the future. Marketing people want an easy-to-use interface to easily craft and publish content. Sales want an easy way to follow up and close leads. Developers want as much control and customization as possible, especially access to code.
Simplicity is certainly not everything and the end of everything. Some CMSs are designed for such simplicity, but the result is that they have become closed platforms to be highly configurable which is detrimental to doing good SEO on them.
There are a lot of out-of-the-box CMSs that don’t allow you to do relatively simple things like modifying HTML or more advanced actions like adding schema markup. Wix and Squarespace find themselves firmly in this camp – though, in fairness, they’ve made important changes in recent years to improve this.
SEO strategies require the ability to edit metadata, change URLs, place 301 redirects, add alt tags to your images, and speed up web page load times. If you are an e-commerce store, easy compatibility with Google Shopping is also important.
Consider two of the most popular CMS: WordPress and Shopify
Even with all the content management systems out there, there are two that I consider to be good options for building a website, and it is no coincidence that they are some of the most popular platforms.
Let’s go through the pros and cons of WordPress and Shopify so you can make the best decision for your site.
For this comparison, I’m specifically talking about WordPress.org, which is an open source program that lets you build and customize your site heavily, but you have to host it on your own server.
Most CMS everywhere WordPress takes up about 30% of the internet. Any web developer, designer, and SEO who deserves their attention knows how to use it. You will have no problem finding useful resources online.
Unmatched flexibility Its open source nature means you can create any type of website, whether it’s a live blog or a massive online store. You also have tens of thousands of free and paid plugins that can extend the functionality of your site.
Superior content management You have more features to work with when creating, editing, and categorizing content on WordPress, which also means that websites built on this platform are more SEO friendly.
overwhelming for beginners The sheer portability of WordPress can make a platform intimidating for those who have never built a website before. Maximizing its benefits also requires extensive knowledge of coding.
The biggest target of cyber attacks Since it is the most popular CMS, WordPress websites are more likely to be targeted by hackers. Using the wrong plugin or template can easily leave your site vulnerable.
Dedicated e-commerce website builder, Shopify lets you create an online store that is hosted on their servers.
Perfect for e-commerce Shopify is designed to build online stores. From having a nearly unlimited number of premium products to automatic tax calculation to an easy-to-use setup, Shopify makes running your ecommerce site easy.
No coding experience needed The store builder has a clean and intuitive interface that anyone can use to quickly build a fully functional e-commerce site.
Reliable maintenance and support Shopify provides 24/7 support via phone, email, live chat, and social media. Since your site is hosted on their servers, you also don’t have to worry about looking for and paying for hosting and maintenance.
Limited customization – While you can access plugins, templates, and other customization options, Shopify is still a closed system that puts a strict limit on how much you can customize your site.
More upfront costs Unlike WordPress, you have to pay for a plan to use Shopify. Using third-party payment gateways also means additional fees for each transaction. If you want to add functionality, most of the plugins in the Shopify Marketplace will cost you.
Understand your business goals
Both Shopify and WordPress have their own advantages and disadvantages when compared side by side. The choice between them ultimately comes down to what you want to achieve with your business. Are you focused on e-commerce? Perhaps Shopify is the way to go. Do you want to remain flexible for the long term? WordPress allows you to do this. But this is not a hard and fast rule. Many successful ecommerce websites are built on WordPress but they use the powerful WooCommerce plugin in order to achieve this.
Just because we prefer WordPress or Shopify, it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. If your business is a very good fit with some very unique requirements, a more specialized CMS may fit your specific needs (as long as you take into account the factors we discussed above).
The bottom line is that a CMS should not be seen as a cost to your business, but a key pillar of your growth strategy and, therefore, a major investment. Doing it right can facilitate your strategy and help you grow online; Although getting it wrong not only costs you time and money, it can seriously hamper your ability to implement an effective SEO strategy.