To CMS or not to CMS?

That’s the ultimate question.

The answer, however, is not quite as easy to determine. While this posting is not meant to provide a full explanation of the benefits vs. risks associated with implementation of a content management system, it is meant to provide you with a few tidbits of information to get you thinking before you start using a CMS as an overall solution to a website redesign project.

Content management systems have come about to facilitate the consolidation of web publishing. The idea behind them is to organize information so that it’s easily retrievable, updatable, and flexible in how it can be reformatted and retransmitted. And usually, they do this very well. But there are a few misnomers out there, so you have to watch out.

CMS’s are often touted as a way to publish and ultimately manage a website for those with little to no web development experience. Companies may see them as a means allowing managers to post their own web content without the need for a developer. While this may sound like a good idea, there are several things to consider before you take on a website redesign with a CMS in mind.

    1. A CMS is not a turnkey solution. It takes a lot of customization to maintain a professional brand image. Simply uploading your logo in the default slot and writing a few articles won’t cut it. So don’t cut your web guy loose yet!

 

    1. SEO must always be at the top of your list when planning a website redesign, and while most CMS’s claim to be “search engine friendly,” this doesn’t mean they do a great job at it. Many require third party plug-ins to create a URL structure that search engines can read and follow.

 

    1. Of all tasks in a content management project, the creation, editing, and migration of content are probably the most frequently underestimated in the project plan. This means after building your templates and implementing your design, you still have to get all of your content into the system.

 

  1. Many CMS’s feature WYSIWYG editors to allow you to format text as if using a word processor. However, many will add custom formatting tags when you do this, overriding your style sheets. And many require basic html tags to be used when inputting content. So copying and pasting directly out of your favorite word processor won’t always work.

I recently went down this road and found that the benefits didn’t outweigh the drawbacks for our company. Our content doesn’t change that often; SEO is a top priority; and absolute freedom of design is important to us. We want to design and build our site the way we want it to look and function – not simply skinning an application with its own set of rules.

Overall, I think a CMS has a lot of potential and may be right for your company, but I highly recommend doing a lot of research and ultimately consulting with CMS professionals and an SEO firm before deciding to go with an off-the-shelf CMS system.