Jan 29, 2009 by Marissa Berger
So, you have decided to invest on a content management system for your site. Which one should you use? Here are 10 key features a good CMS should have.
A) Supports custom design
When considering a content management system, make sure that you are not forced into using a particular design template. There are several inexpensive CMS solutions. The catch is that you have to choose one of their design templates and look like everyone else. Your website should have its own unique look. You want a system that can be implemented on any design.
B) No knowledge of code required
Make sure you choose a true CMS where you really don’t need to have programming knowledge to maintain your site. There are many editors out there that do let you change text without code. But if you want to format this text, you are forced to type in the corresponding HTML tags. If you have a complex site, it might be that even a good CMS will make you type in some code, but it should be an exception and not the rule.
C) Ease of use
If your CMS solution is cumbersome, you will not use it not matter how much you paid for it. Make sure you are shown a demo on a real site and make sure you will receive the appropriate training.
D) Ability to preview your work
Even with a good CMS, you will make mistakes. It’s very stressful to make changes on a live site and realize your page now has errors and you don’t know how to fix them. Make sure the CMS solution you choose has a “preview” button where you can see a copy of the page you are editing before making your changes live.
E) Navigation/page management
Here’s where most inexpensive CMS solutions tend to break down. They let you modify the content on the existing pages, but you are not allowed to add, delete, rename, or re-organize pages. This is an extremely limiting problem and it typically results on small sites with never-ending pages and poor navigation. The site owner has to keep adding content on the same page. Very soon, it’s hard to find anything. You want to be able to grow and adapt your site to the evolving needs of your audience, not be stuck with an inflexible structure.
F) Modular and extensible
Make sure your CMS solution can grow with you in terms of functionality and that you can add different modules to your site as needed, such as site search, polls, photo albums, news, blog, calendar, newsletter, glossary, etc.
G) Permission based user management
On a larger site, you may not want to be the only want using the content management system. You may want your events manager to maintain the calendar, your public relations manager to maintain the press releases section, and your graphic designer to maintain the portfolio. Make sure you can assign a different username and password to each user, that you can control what each user has access to, and that you can track who last worked on the site.
H) Minimal server requirements
Another catch of the inexpensive solutions is that you can be forced into hosting with the developer for a much higher monthly cost than necessary. That’s how they make their money. You want to make sure you can easily move your site if you need to.
I) Small footprint/page rendering speed
Yet another thing to worry about is how fast will your pages load on the browser. Be careful of solutions that are heavy on code or slow on how they connect to the database. Visitors won’t wait for your content to download, no matter how fresh it is. You should always ask for examples of live sites so you can see how fast the pages load and how they behave.
J) Page specific meta tags
Meta tags are the keywords and page descriptions that can be added to the code of each page to help with search engine rankings. Make sure that first, you can add these on your own with the content management system you choose. Second, make sure that they are page specific and not site specific. You want to be able to add, edit, and delete keywords and descriptions on each page of your site.