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Mistakes When Selecting A CMS

Businesses often overlook the importance of choosing the right CMS for their website project. This can impact not just the process of selecting the right CMS but the whole website project. Having worked on many different types of CMS projects over many years, the same issues appear over and over again. And most often these issues arise because of how the requirements are documented, or lack of documentation, or lack of project scope, or from limited understanding of content management systems issues. Below is a list of commonly seen mistakes when selecting a CMS, to help you make a better decision for your next website development project. Most of these mistakes are simple to resolve by taking a common-sense approach in the selection process to the final deployment of the CMS that works for everyone; authors, translators, administrators and IT.

1. Not understanding what problems your website needs to solve

There is no basis with which to select a CMS if you have not yet identified or understood what your website will need to do. When businesses usually rush in choosing a CMS it is mainly due to a piece of technology that sounds it will solve the problem. Instead, you should think of analyzing the needs and focus on the business problems the website will need to solve. Therefore you should start by understanding your website needs before understanding the CMS requirements. The major mistake businesses make is choosing the CMS even before:

  • Establishing the business needs and goals
  • Identifying the website design or management requirements
  • Creating an overall web strategy
  • Identifying the website functionality


2. Not knowing content management issues

For those businesses who have never had prior experience using a CMS knowing all the content management issues will be hard. Even those who have worked with only one application and considering changing their content management systems might not have necessarily experienced all. The biggest challenge is actually identifying what will be required from the CMS system. The responsibility of choosing the right solution lies with the organization purchasing the system, after all they will be the one using it day in day out. For an informed decision you would need to be able to answer the following questions for each CMS you intent on selecting in your short list:

  • What will be the important challenges that the implementation project will face?
  • What are the main features that differentiate from others?
  • What are the main design issues which might cause problems in the near future?
  • What was the developer's main intent originally?
  • What are the proposed "Best Practice" approaches to content management?
  • What kind of problems does the CMS solve the best?

The earlier you know the answers to these questions the better you will understand the issues pertaining to content management systems which will help you make an informed decision at the end. You should give time to build a certain knowledge before choosing your CMS and usually this will involve reading and researching existing material, or the quicker approach is to discuss it with other organizations who have already implemented a CMS similar to the one you would need.


3. Assuming you do not have much options

There exists thousands of Content management systems World-wide, from the free open source to the licensed enterprise versions. The challenge is to find the right one which will satisfy your business needs without taking you to the bank. Most often businesses, who do not take the time to research, have a partial perception of what is a CMS. Thus allowing for the opportunity to miss the appropriate CMS.

At first most CMSs will look similar with their functionalities but further investigation will reveal their differences and how they are hugely different from the other.


4. Not keeping it simple

  • Is a bigger content management system better?
  • Is there a correlation between cost and performance of a CMS?
  • Is open source CMS cheaper than the licensed ones?

These are questions that arise in almost every selection process and most often bigger is not better. Paying more for a CMS does not automatically make your choice a better one for you.

It is also a major mistake to associate the number of features, plug-ins or add-ons a CMS has with the never-ending possibilities it can offer to you. I have yet to work on a serious CMS project that did not require modifications to plugins or add-ons anyway. Nevertheless, the idea is to keep the CMS simple and small enough to accomplish your business goals.


5. Not setting clear requirements

A requirement is that need that the CMS must be able to perform for you to accomplish your goals. Defining requirements will help you eliminate those CMS solutions which are not a good fit for you thus setting your needs clearly from the start will allow you to make that best choice.

Some businesses end up by identifying some requirements which are available in all of the CMS solutions. For example, requesting for a WYSIWYG editor with CMS is an ineffective requirement since all of them already offer it.

Other examples of unclear requirements would be not to provide enough detail or context which will make it hard to evaluate during the evaluation process. For example, requesting that the CMS integrate with social media is an ineffective requirements since it is very hard to evaluate if the level of integration will accomplish the business goals.

Having too many requirements is also ineffective. If for some reason you notice that the number of requirements is growing than it would be best to categorize them as "must-have" or "nice-to-haves". These categorization of requirements will help you when it comes to evaluate the CMS solutions.


6. Concentrating on the 'What' instead of the 'How'

The success of any CMS project depends on the day to day usage of its users and how the CMS actually works, in detail. For example, one of your requirements would be to have flexible workflow capabilities, a very advantageous feature. But how does this flexible workflow feature actually work? In reality, there are many different implementations, starting from a single drop down status changes all the way to developing workflow foundation frameworks. At the end the answers are in the details. Asking "how" questions with the aim of building the CMS strengths and weaknesses will help you make the best choice.

One approach would be to ask about how each CMS can meet your "must-have" requirements or needs. And evaluating your choices based on "how" the CMS meets your need.


7. Assuming anyone can deliver both new design and a new CMS

Most often, if a business is in the process of selecting a CMS it is mainly due to the current site not meeting the business goals anymore. For whatever reason that may be generally a new CMS comes with redesign of the site and in most cases companies tend to think that any web designer can also help them in making their CMS choice. This is a very dangerous assumption that is driven by convenience instead of strategy.

It is better to separate the task of designing from developing the CMS. Otherwise, your new design will be guided by the developer's functionality limitations instead of the designer's usability guidelines.



Most of these mistakes are overcome by taking a common-sense approach in the selection process to the final deployment of the CMS that works for everyone; authors, translators, administrators and IT. Start by understanding the content management issues, weigh your options and most of all set clear business goals as soon as you can. These will help you identify the requirements for your CMS solution. Success depends on those who will use the software on a daily basis, be realistic with your organizations capacity. And, however you organize to make the selection process for your business the following tips will help you.

  • Do not skip the content strategy: Once you know what your business goals are and how you will achieve them with your website content, you will have a much better task of choosing the right CMS. But never choose your CMS without knowing what and how you need to accomplish.
  • Focus on business goals and desired outcomes over processes: Unless if the CMS offers a better process, focus on what you want to accomplish instead of trying to adjust your current working methods to fit the CMS system.
  • Test, test, test: Plan and create a testing environment right from the start to test future development works or upgrades. Do not take any major changes to your live version of the CMS unless you have tested it on your testing environment.


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