With the increase in developers producing mass quantities of Content Management Systems, in terms of functionality and overall quality we must learn what to look for in the one that’s just right for our projects and satisfies our needs.
Thousands of CMS’s available, and only a fraction can truly speak for themselves. But even then, choosing the right one can always be a bit of a hard task, especially if you’re not looking forward to having to switch from one CMS to the next several times resulting in the loss of valuable time.
What’s Really A CMS?
When we sit back and analyze the true nature of a Content Management System (CMS), we generally come up with an answer along the lines of “A system (that uses a database such as MySQL) put into place allowing the user to create, edit, manage, publish and store HTML content that’s easily accessible. The content that’s published is then showcased to the viewers in whatever way, shape or form the user specifies.
Below, we’ve outlined several key points that will help you choose the right Content Management System for your next project.
Flexible User Interface
One of the most important qualities a great CMS can posses is how well it allows a user to interact and accomplish a variety of tasks with the user interface. A good CMS should allow you to effectively manage your website, be simple enough to carry out day-to-day tasks with little or no effort, and have a well designed WYSIWYG editor. Understanding how your CMS works is key, but having an easy to interact-with user interface is vital.
Being able to smoothly edit, customize the visual structure, and other technical aspects is of grave importance. No user wants to become frustrated and tired with their CMS because it doesn’t offer the flexibility they need. Which conveniently brings us to our next point; comprehensive functionality.
Basic functions of a CMS include the creation, deletion, editing, customization, and organizing of pages. And because of this, almost everyone believes that every Content Management System they come across implement these features into their core functionality. This train of thought has been proven wrong time after time. These basic functions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you’re CMS should come with.
For example, not every CMS will allow the user to categorize pages in parent and child format, instead some may only allow you to have a few parent pages and no subs. This can be very frustrating for a user that has numerous pages and uses a number of categories in their website. Therefore the common misconception that every CMS allows you to group your pages in tree hierarchy format is wrong, and this feature should be analyzed separately when it comes to choosing your CMS.
Same concept goes for what features you want your CMS to have in terms of function. You should analyze how easy it is to perform tasks, and if the usability of that particular CMS is up-to-par with what you need. Always make sure you test the system in place for functionality and usability. These two aspects can make or break a good a CMS.
Plugins, Addons and Extensions
Most Content Management Systems give you the option of customizing the way your content is viewed and how it may interact as well. This is can be accomplished with the use of extensions and plugins that modify how the data behaves internally to produce a corresponding external presence. These components are usually installed using the user interface or by uploading the required files to the correct directory.
When searching for the right content management system, make sure you find out if you’re able to add plugins and extensions to enhance your sites appearance and the way it delivers content. This can save you a lot of time by eliminating some of the repetitive coding that in any other case your site would require to take care of the same exact tasks a plugin can otherwise carry-out.
Selecting the right Content Management System means you should analyze the support for an existing structure for security. If your CMS doesn’t offer much of a stable level of security, then make sure a security system can be implemented or that you’re able to edit the “technical” structure to add your own security using PHP and other technologies.
Some CMS’s secure the management end (i.e. admin, control panel, etc.), but they don’t offer any sort of security when it comes to the delivery of content (i.e. the directory and site folders). Make sure you take an in-depth look at how you’re going to be protected, this can save countless headaches.
Not every CMS is as easy to set-up like WordPress or Movable Type for example, and sometimes depending on how easy it is to install, this can reflect how easy it could be to use the system. Many hosting companies will automatically install a few types of CMS’s to your domain (i.e. Joomla, WordPress, Drupal), however there are a few that require you to manually upload them to your directory using an FTP.
At any rate, an easy installation can go a long way and can save you loads of time. Sometimes a manual installation isn’t as bad as it seems since this will allow you to become familiarized with the content structure of the CMS within the entire directory.
Content Management Systems have become one of the most sought out and utilized platforms for publishing content on the web, and yet, finding and choosing the right CMS fit for your project and the tasks at hand can be a difficult feat, especially for those without some sort of guide.
Remember, the process of choosing the best CMS to get the job done needs to run as smoothly as possible and must meet some if not most of the requirements above. Using the information we’ve outlined, it can ensure that the CMS you choose will provide the best possible solution for your needs and will increase the chances of maximizing the value and quality of the way you choose to publish content.Everyone at Design Reviver would like to apologies to Trent Walton – It appears that we used an image of his in this post without permission. There is no excuse for this, Design Reviver will endeavor to make sure this never happens again. I hope you can forgive us Trent.
Update – Trent has kindly accepted our apology and allowed us to use his image. Checkout his awesome CMS Breakdown article from where the image was sourced.