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How to choose a web CMS

Selecting a Content Management System is a mission-critical decision for any organization creating or maintaining a web site. Here are some suggestions to help you accomplish this task painlessly.

Form a Decision Team

Depending on the size and structure of your organization, you may want to include cross-departmental representatives in your CMS decision team. Commonly the decision team includes representatives from areas such as Editorial, Marketing, Design, Development, IT, PR, HR or Finance. We recommend collecting input from all parties interested while still keeping this team small (5 or 6 people), so that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently.

Determine Your Objectives and Risks

Consider your objectives and risks. Often when companies try to balance schedule, resources and scope, quality is overlooked. If it's viable, why not give priority to the schedule, resources and quality variables rather than scope? Consider having mini-releases by prioritizing the functionality desired or implementing areas gradually, department by department. Implementing iteratively has proven to provide a higher success rate as it allows for better Quality Assurance.

Gather Information

Here are some useful questions to ask internally in order to determine your organization's needs.

  • What is the current process for creating/updating your website? How can this process be improved?

  • How efficient is your workflow? Are there duplicated resources, unnecessary hand-offs? If so, which users should be empowered in order to eliminate these issues?

  • Would it be useful for content "owners" and other non-technical users to be able to update the content without involving IT, Development, Design?

  • Do off site content contributors, designers, developers have easy authenticated access to your CM System?

  • Is your content kept separate from its presentation? In other words, can the content be maintained independently of its visual design and publishing medium, such as print, HTML, PDF?

  • Do you have a centralized content repository? Can a content piece be updated in one place, but easily published to multiple locations/media?

  • Does the current process allow for timely corrections of costly mistakes? Can authorized users quickly correct a mistake on the live web site?

  • Can your web site be easily redesigned? Often businesses find that their web site usability or design needs improvement, but changing the design, navigation and/or information architecture is a very costly and time-consuming process - are you prepared for such changes?

  • Is there an efficient approval process for publishing content? If not, what would an efficient approval process entail?

  • Do updates happen in a timely manner? Would it be useful for authorized users to be able to update the website within 30 to 40 minutes?

  • Is your web site development security adequate? Is there sensitive content that only certain users should be allowed to create/edit/publish?

  • Is your current system scalable? Will the system successfully accommodate changes or your growing needs?

Below are a few questions to ask Content Management (CMS) vendors. While this list does not attempt to provide a complete guide to selecting a CMS by any means, it's a quick reference to help you differentiate between vendors that offer a robust, customer centric product and those who have a marketing department stronger than their products.

  • Can non-technical users easily create/update content without any HTML knowledge and be guaranteed to produce clean, style standards compliant output?

  • Does the system store content in a reusable format? Does it store distinct content pieces that can be referenced from multiple pages/folders rather than complete pages?

  • Is the content truly separated from the presentation and business logic layers?

  • How secure is the system?

  • Are there staging environments provided where authorized users can approve changes before pushing live?

  • Is the generated html output valid and web standards compliant?

  • Does the templating mechanism impose any site design restrictions?

  • URLs are 'real estate' on your site - can generated URL's be human and search engine friendly (www.myserver/myfolder/mypage.html rather than www.myserver/12345/6x=y7?8)?

  • Does the system provide a realistic exit strategy? Is the templating system non-proprietary, allowing you to switch to another provider or support in-house should you be unhappy with the hosted CMS or your needs change?

  • How much training is usually necessary to get a team of different skill sets up to speed to use the system?

  • What is an average initial site deployment time?

  • And finally, the cost! Are upgrades included in license/monthly fees? Is the cost proportionate to the technology/feature set/quality as compared with other similar products? Will the CMS save you money or create additional expenses for your business?

Determine the Selection Criteria

Decide whether you will prioritize based on functionality, implementation time, scalability, Total Cost of Ownership, Return on Investment, and/or other criteria . After determining the criteria, it will be helpful in your decision-making process to rank them in order of importance.

Evaluate Available Solutions

We suggest sharing a decision matrix of your selection criteria (ranked by importance) with the decision team to help objectively select the best solution for your CM needs. Contact vendors if unanswered questions remain to complete the matrix. Feel free to contact us with any questions about liveSTORYBOARD CMS.

Once you have completed the decision matrix - you will be ready to make a decision!

Whether you select liveSTORYBOARD or another solution, we congratulate you on your choice and wish you good luck in implementing a successful CMS!

-- the liveSTORYBOARD team

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Content Management by liveSTORYBOARD Web CMS Content Management by liveSTORYBOARD CMS | Site Updated: 02/28/2012