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In the fast-paced world of Web 2.0, a static or hard-to-update site can get very old, very quickly. Whether you're blogging, growing your product range, or keeping your testimonials page looking fresh, using a content management system (CMS) that works to meet your business's needs is an important step toward improving your online presence.

The problem is thousands of CMS platforms are available online. How do you choose the right one for your company? This article will guide you via helpful tips on making your CMS work both for internal teams and external vendors.

Here are three good reasons you should update your CMS:

  1. Cost savings. If you have no control over the content of your website and you rely on a third party to update it at your request, moving to a CMS system will almost certainly save your business a lot of time and money.
  2. Improved website performance. If you and your colleagues are able to update content easily, your site will stay much fresher, which is great for your search engine presence and social rankings. More control would also allow you to actively optimize content—either for search engines or for visitors.
  3. Staying in the game. The Web is constantly evolving. A flexible CMS that is built to adapt and scale will make your business more likely to thrive online.

Before You Start

Depending on your current setup and online content, moving to a new CMS can be quite a big undertaking. Although many services—particularly enterprise-level content management—will offer assistance, you'll still need to ask yourself some important questions. This step is crucial to choosing the right CMS for your business.

As you start to review your CMS options, consider the following six questions.

1. What do you currently have?

Presuming you have a website, it must have some kind of backend. Find out what that is, and who has the keys to it.

2. Why do you need a CMS?

I mean, you definitely need a CMS, but try to get specifics about what purpose you want your CMS to serve. Perhaps you work for an insurance company and you want to start accepting claims online. In that case, you'd need a strong and secure case management module, for example.

3. Who's going to use the CMS?

Many kinds of people use your site. Identifying those visitor types, and working out what their experience on the site should be, will help you choose a CMS that can accommodate everyone (e.g., anonymous users, editors, administrators, and so on).

4. How tech-savvy is your business?

If you are technically competent, you might be tempted to choose a CMS that prioritizes features over ease of use. But you should conduct an honest appraisal of how savvy your internal teams are to ensure you don't choose something that others can't use. Instead, opt for a CMS that easily upgrades, and you'll be able to introduce new features as your colleagues become more confident users.

5. What's your current workflow for publishing content?

If you were to put a new piece of content on your business's website today, what would that process entail? Who would produce, edit, format, and, eventually, publish that content, and how do you decide where it'll live? Different CMS platforms have different workflows, and you might want to choose one that aligns with your current workflow process.

6. How do you categorize your content?

Analyze your site's information architecture, and determine the rules for how your content is categorized. Again, different CMS platforms offer different approaches, and although it's possible to re-categorize content, doing so can require a lot of resource.

Important Features for Your New CMS

Now that you know a lot more about your current website and what you want it to achieve in the future, you're in a much better place to choose a CMS that works for your business. As you start to browse your options, keep the following important features in mind:

  • Does the CMS have an API (application programming interface)? That is a crucial feature for keeping your new CMS on the cutting edge as the Web evolves.
  • How impressive are the security features?
  • Does the CMS offer any support or guidelines for integrating current content?
  • Does the CMS allow you to create forms to ensure all published content fits the design of the site?
  • Does the CMS have the functionality to work with external vendors who might want to submit content to your site for approval?
  • Does the CMS make it easy for you and your internal teams to optimize the content you publish?
  • Can you run a test with the CMS and a few key users?

A Parting Word

Choosing and installing a new CMS is a great opportunity to improve how you do things on your website. Use the CMS update as an opportunity to challenge what your business can get from its online presence.

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Roland Benedetti is an IT professional who works for Nuxeo, a software company that provides a full enterprise content management platform, open source, for any kind of content-driven application.