How to Choose the Right Web CMS Solution for Your Next Project

how to choose right web cms solution

Let’s start with the basics of Web CMS solution, often just called CMS:

Historically, a Content Management System (CMS) was a software platform with a major aim to automate the tasks required to manage and publish content online—uploading content, formatting it for a webpage, and backstage tasks like improving SEO.

However, over the period of the last few decades, the variety and volume of digital content and asset have exploded along with new channels, interfaces, and devices. Content nowadays is being delivered everywhere: from smartphones to televisions, from watches to voice devices.

US adult wearable users and US smart speaker users

With this digital explosion, the definition of CMS has evolved and has gone beyond the web. Currently, things are changing rapidly. And this is one of the reasons why so many businesses are now reassessing their Web CMS solution options.

Due to this rapidly increasing digital ecosystem, at present, there is no single statement that could define Web Content Management System. Thus, a productive and intelligent way to frame the conversation is to start by defining what a CMS should mean for your business’s evolving content needs.

What factors should you consider while choosing a Web CMS solution today? We have thrown some light upon them to help you make an informed decision.

Open Source Vs Commercial Web CMS Solution

One of the important parameters that play a vital role while selecting a web CMS solution is “Which CMS hosting model should I choose?” and “Should I go with an open source or commercial solution?”

According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, CMS players are divided into four quadrants—leaders, visionaries, niche players, and challengers—positioned within a specific market. Completeness of vision and their ability to execute the business requirements are two parameters on which this categorization is based upon.

Gartner's Magic Quadrant

The choice of Content Management System entirely depends upon your business requirements—it is advisable to go with the niche players in the industry rather than the leaders if they could better support your needs. Using a trending CMS, whether commercial or open-source is not always the best solution for your product development.

Small and medium businesses or even enterprises looking for a simple website can go ahead with an open source web CMS solution with a set of plug-ins. On the other hand, businesses with complex requirements are advised to choose a commercial CMS, which is customizable and can be tailored according to their specific requirements, and has robust security features as well.

While the technical and cost considerations of selecting a CMS are important, so are the following business considerations:

  • You buy the software once but live with it for years. Thus, the size and proficiency of the support organization matters.
  • Responsibility and accountability is an important parameter to consider while making a smart choice. Who is responsible for ensuring the software works and is installed correctly? For addressing security issues? Who is accountable? Do you need “one throat to choke”?

Open source vs commercial web cms solution requirement

Stakeholders Involved in the Web CMS Solution Decision

First of all, stop looking at the CMS features to make your choice. Rather, sit back and figure out who decides what web CMS solution is best for your organization.

It is not easy as it might seem. As the size and requirements of your business grow, so does the number of stakeholders involved.

Your Marketing team might prefer a solution that juxtaposes with their marketing tools. IT might need a CMS that plugs with their current infrastructure stack. On the other hand, Sales would look forward to CRM.

Your primary objective must be to keep your stakeholders happy and on the same page, which can be a potential minefield. Even a survey led by Forrester reveals that most web content management system initiatives fail because of internal politics.

Barriers to success in web cms implementation

This is why it is important to prioritize the requirements of your stakeholders. Since every department involved in the process of choosing a Web CMS solution will have different requirements, it is vital to prioritize their requirements using MoSCoW method.

Moscow method

Traditional Or Headless CMS: The Better Choice?

Agreed that the term “CMS Architecture” might force you to step a little back, especially if you are a non-technical marketer whose aim is to just create, manage, and deliver content more efficiently.

However, choosing the right CMS architecture for your next project is vital to your content operation, both in terms of what is possible and how it gets done.

The basics of CMS Architecture Without Going into Depth

The CMS software includes multiple application layers. The purpose of application layers is to support CMS functionality and guide how different parts of the software connect to each other.

  • Content Layer: An application layer to manage the content (functions like editing, managing, and storing content).
  • Delivery Layer/Layout Engine: To assemble the content into a layout or delivering it.

Now, to deliver content to an audience, the delivery layer, through the medium of an API requests content from the content layer. That content then moves through a presentation layer.  It takes what the delivery layer has produced and renders it on a screen.

Headless Vs Non-Headless Architecture

Headless and Non-Headless architectures are responsible for presenting the content from CMS to the audience.

  • In a traditional, non-headless CMS, the back- end functions like managing content and laying it out on a page are coupled with the front-end function of presenting it on a screen. Everything is managed by one application layer.
  • A headless CMS decouples or separates the back- end functions from the front-end presentation function. It lets developers render content objects for any application or device.

headless vs traditional cms

Why Headless Web CMS Solution is a Better Choice?

As we discussed, Content, nowadays, is being delivered everywhere: from smartphones to televisions, from watches to voice devices. Thus, all of them have unique presentation requirements.

For instance, there is a difference between an Apple Watch, or Amazon’s Alexa, or Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality headsets. They only require the desired content from the CMS, not the page layout, styles, management framework, etc.
Headless CMSs retrieve raw content as data through API calls and enable developers to build as many front-ends or “heads” as your various channels support.

According to the State of the Headless CMS 2018 survey, 29% of respondents who know headless CMS have already used one, and an additional 38% plan to use it in the next 12 months.

when do you plan to use headless cms

Thus, it’s very likely we will see strong adoption of headless CMS in the nearest years.

Multichannel Scalability

The first query that may arise in the mind of a marketer is, how can we make use of various channels to push content to our target customers? For instance, an advertisement that constantly pops up on TV, radio, websites, and social media platforms is an example of multi-channel advertising effort. It is one of the important features of all the multichannel CMS.

Thus if your business requires you to deliver content to multiple channels and devices, make sure that your web CMS solution helps you do it efficiently.

multichannel cms

New devices and channels will continue to explode in the near future. Therefore, purchasing a simple, less customizable CMS might seem intelligent today. However, you will likely have to rip and replace it in a few years.

Choosing an extensible CMS means developers and integration partners can help you adapt to new channels as they take birth. This makes delivering the same piece of content multiple times across different form factors and screen sizes from a single action.

Apart from this, also make sure that your web content management system vendor moves in tandem with trends and regularly updates its software development kits (SDKs), application programming interfaces (APIs), connectors, and pipelines. Else, it will become challenging for you to distribute content on the latest devices, apps, and other platforms.

Prepare Well for the Future—Choose Web CMS Solution Intelligently

We are in the middle of the biggest transformation—the fastest digital upheaval there’s ever been.

The parameters—ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, data centricity, and smart devices—are uniting at a rapid pace.  This union will impact each and every aspect of content production and delivery.

One of the most intelligent decisions you can reach is to honestly assess your internal capability to deliver your own web CMS solution. However, the reality is, most businesses do not have the resources and expertise to run things themselves. Thus, if you have still not engaged a partner as a part of your CMS evaluation stage, it’s high time to find one.

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Abhay S. Kushwaha

About the Author

A sales/advertising/marketing enthusiast, Abhay got addicted to the Internet in mid-90s and has kept pace with its evolution and technology. This wide and deep exposure has helped him successfully lead multiple teams at Net Solutions. He's also involved in the (F)OSS movement and writes a personal blog about disparate things that interest him, ranging from science to performing arts.

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