If you’re thinking of building a website, then a content management system is probably one of the best tools for the task. Simply install it on your server, and you’ll have access to a formidable array of features, all designed to make your users, content, and website easier to run. Truth be told, the most difficult task you’re probably going to face is figuring out which CMS is the best choice for your site.
See…you aren’t exactly facing a dearth of choices. There are countless scores of platforms on the web, all designed with different use cases in mind. It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed – after all, how do you know which one is the best option for your organization?
In order to answer that, you’ll first need to understand your requirements and what you’re trying to achieve. To that end, there are a few questions you should ask:
What Kind Of Website Are You Building?
Theoretically, any CMS can be used to build any website. In practice, however, it’s probably best to choose one that designed to accommodate the sort of site you’re trying to build. For a user-driven multimedia site, for example, Joomla might well be a better choice – even if WordPress and Drupal are both perfectly capable of handling the demands.
Basically, you need to put together a comprehensive idea of what you want your finished website to look like – then do some research into which CMS would be the best for the job. Consider tracking down a few websites that function – at least in part – similarly to your own. There’s a good chance that, if they’re using a content management system as their backend, you’ll want to install it on yours, as well.
How Steep A Learning Curve Can You Handle?
How much do you know about content management systems? How confident are you with coding and complex interfaces? These are both questions you need to know the answer to – after all, some CMS’s are inevitably going to be more complicated than others. If you choose one with too steep a learning curve, you’re likely to end up getting overwhelmed and giving up on your website before you even get it running.
As a general rule, if you’re a novice, go with WordPress. It has one of the most forgiving learning curves of any CMS on the web, and plenty of advanced features for when you want to get more in-depth. Even better, with all the plugins available, you can make it do pretty much anything.
What Sort Of Content Will You Be Managing?
Another question you need to ask yourself is what type of content your site’s going to manage – and how many different types. Will you, for example, mix blog posts with rich media? Are you going to be running a video blog that includes in-video links to articles or podcasts on the site? Are you planning to run a great deal of complex content?
Depending on how complex your site’s going to be, some content management systems might not be up to the task of running it. Take careful stock of how effectively your options scale with content, and how well they manage interrelated data. If you try to choose a CMS that isn’t capable of dealing with heavy resource usage, your website’s performance is going to drop through the floor.
How Will Your Users Interact With Your Content?
Another important thing to take into account is how your users will engage with your website. Are they simply passive consumers, gobbling up and sharing whatever media they post? Are they active participants, regularly commenting and sharing their thoughts? Or perhaps you’re looking for a user-driven site; one where your users can create and submit their own content.
In every case, there’s a different CMS for the job. For a user-driven site, Dolphin, phpFox, or Drupal are all excellent options, but if you’re creating a less-complex site with fewer interactions between users and content, WordPress is likely superior.
What Does The Community Look Like?
Although this may not seem as important a consideration as the other questions here, the development and user community is every bit as important as how feature-rich a CMS is or how effectively it deals with dynamic content. In this, there’s really only one piece of advice I can offer – look at the fellow members of a content management system’s community as potential co-workers. Would you be willing to share an office with these people? Are they friendly, welcoming, and helpful enough that you feel they’d be a joy to work with?
If the answer was no in either case, then keep looking – an unwelcoming community means that they probably aren’t going to be of much help if you run into trouble.
How Much Are You Willing To Spend?
Last, but certainly not least, how much are you willing to shell out for a top-grade CMS? If you’re using a platform like WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal, you might not have to spend a single dime – but depending on your needs, those three might not necessarily be a good fit for your site. For that reason, it’s important to have a budget in mind before you set out to choose a CMS.
So, Which CMS Should You Use?
There was a time when the lines between all the different content management systems on the web were clearly defined. Each one had a specific task it was designed to do, and not much else. Those days are long behind us now – if you’re clever enough, you can use any CMS for pretty much any job you desire. Unfortunately, that makes the task of choosing the right content management system more than a little overwhelming. What’s a webmaster to do?
Honestly? Follow your intuition. So long as you’ve a decent idea of what you want to do with your website, it shouldn’t be that difficult to pick out a platform that fits your needs perfectly. And if all else fails, you can always just use WordPress – it’s the most popular CMS in the world for a reason, after all.