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How to Choose the Perfect CMS: Support Staff over Sales Staff

Shopping for a CMS Is Like Shopping for Running Shoes

I was recently given the task of creating an instructional post on “How to Choose the Perfect CMS.” As one of the CMS developers at Thirdwave, knowing the ins-and-outs of a content management system, I would say that I am a pretty good source to tap when explaining the characteristics of “ThisCMS vs .ThatCMS”.

So, as the voice of the initiated, I had my mission: Educate the novice reading audience on the technical details of a CMS doohicky gizmo device thingy. Then, of course, pitch them our custom CMS and link our [email protected] email address if they may have any inquiries.

NIET! I could not betray my readers with such drech! I pricked my brain for weeks, trying to devise a concept that would convey these details in a way where you, and myself, could truly understand the process of finding a CMS to best fit our needs. As a meticulous shopper and an avid runner, I think I’ve found the perfect metaphor…

Shopping for a CMS Is Like Shopping for Running Shoes
A while back, I went shopping for running shoes for my upcoming half marathon training. At first, I browsed Google and started my search with phrases like “best running shoes for women”. I found pages of comparison articles, all kinds of consumer reports listing the best running shoes 2012 or 2013. Too many voices, not sure who to believe.

I then walked over to Sports Authority. What a sight! All the brightly colored shoes you could think of were there on fancy displays, decorating the interiors of the venue from floor to ceiling. Red ones, green ones, happy ones, mean ones. Big and small name brands. A salesperson quickly approached. I began talking with him and before I got two words out, he began inundating me with details on how this particular stabilizing piece works, and how these various density foam levels could help. “How much padding do you need?” “Did you need a running flat?” “How ‘bout a plastic bridge?” … I’m standing there, wide eyed, trying to understand what these terms mean – all the while trying to answer him. Tough job and tough luck, I soon left to find another route.

After all this, I decided to go to one of the boutique running shoe stores in my neighborhood. A very friendly girl sat me down, being very personable, and took the measurements of my feet. While doing this, she asked me questions like: “What type of running are you doing? How often do you run? What kind of running shoes do you currently have and what is your price range? Now these were questions that I could answer!

Shortly after this, the girl went to the back and returned with a pair of purple shoes. They were not Nike or any other big brand. She put them on me and asked if I could I jog down the aisle for her. As I jogged, she watched how my feet hit the floor and rolled and suggested that I should add more padding in the right shoe to help the knee pain I was experiencing. I was SOLD!

Walking out of the store with a pair of inexpensive, custom fitted shoes, I was happy. Most importantly, the shoes are comfortable.

This is the quintessence of finding a CMS. Even though there are numerous CMS options available, your choice should be for a personal fit. One size does not fit all. Different vendors tailor their tools to different sorts of scenarios. Your choice of a content management system should be based on your specific business needs – your budget, scope, your resources, and the type of content you wish to produce, and not the “hottest” or “most popular” gizmo du jour.

Finding a good software fit with our particular business objectives involves a few things:

Understand why you need a CMS. Choosing a content management system can be tricky. Without a clearly defined set of requirements, you will be seduced by fancy functionality that you will never use. The right Web Content Management system requires a good understanding of the capabilities needed to meet your current and future requirements. Internal research is needed before deciding on whether you even need to buy a new technology at all. You need to understand your current pain and problems and outline what you are trying to achieve with the new CMS system.

Know your objective, what you expect your CMS to do and how you are going to use it. When most people think of content management, they think of creating, deleting, editing and organizing pages. But that is not all. Defining what you want your website to do is the key. Is it going to be primarily a static website, like an online brochure? Or is it going to be a fully-functioning ecommerce site? Or maybe it’s going to be a really media-heavy, with tons of videos, photos, and audio files. Or is it going to be a blog? Whatever your site’s primary function is going to be, you will need to define it.

Know your budget. CMS’s are broadly defined and range from simple Web editors to highly complex enterprise content management systems scaled for large corporations. Depending on the type of system you’re considering, prices could range from a few thousand, to hundreds of thousands of dollars! Software licensing fees are just one component. There may also be implementation, training and maintenance fees. It is important to know your total cost of ownership to narrow your selection process to those solutions that address your specific needs based on both functionality and cost.

Do your research, get help from professionals, have them lead you to accomplish your goal. Beware of any CMS, open source or not, that cites its huge following as reason to use their system. Don’t be taken in by the promises of the large user community, and all the beautiful extensions or plugins the systems already have to offer. What really matters is the people behind the product and that they are the right people for the job, make sure you will get all the support you need. As a small, first-rate web development firm, Thirdwave has the opportunity to foster great personal relationships with our clients. By doing this, we are able to understand the client’s business needs and tailor-fit their applications to perfectly fit their needs.

The boutique shoe store salesperson took time to listen and take measurements and that is point here. When choosing the perfect CMS, find a custom fitter that can provide you with the support and cushion to get you to the finish line. One that can alleviate pain and effectively balance your business foundation.

Photo courtesy of blissseo.com.au

More Stories By Pierre Jackson

Pierre Jackson is a quirky amalgamation of varied talents ranging from acoustic guitar finger-picking to mastering the artistry of EXTREME film nerdery. Serving as Webmaster for Thirdwave, Pierre has an insatiable thirst for Web Development, learning new technologies and all things SEO. He's a runner, an avid reader and never turns down a glass of vin rouge. Connect with Pierre on Google+.

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