Questions to ask before choosing a Content Management System

common questions about content management systems

Questions to ask before choosing a Content Management System

by
Harry Bartlett

Before getting to the key questions to ask before choosing a CMS, here’s a project experience we had that has greatly influenced my thinking on this topic.

The first website we designed was back in 1998 for MuseumShop.com. We designed the site and the logo and coded the front end i.e. the presentation layer with HTML, javascript and CSS. We then handed the code off to another company that integrated it into a proprietary shopping cart ecommerce software application that they had written in C++. Altogether the design, coding and e-commerce development took about a year. Our fee was about $30,000 and the e-commerce fee was over $100,000. The day the site went live the ecommerce software company decided they wanted to do something else and basically abandoned the platform. Needless to say this was not good news for MusiemShop.com.

With this in mind I think it is very important to know the answers to these questions and know how the CMS you are planning on using compares to other CMSs.

  • When was the software first released, what version is it at and how often are releases issued.
  • Is there a road map for new releases and functionality in the future.
  • How easy is it to use. Can non-technical people easily make content edits.
  • How much does the software cost. Are there licensing fees or is it open source. What are the estimated implementation costs and maintenance costs.
  • How well supported is the CMS. Are there training resources nearby. How well documented is it and are there active, up to date online forums.
  • How many websites use the software, what type of websites is it best for (large, small, e-commerce etc.).
  • How many developers support the application. How broad is the user base.
  • How secure is it. Are there regular security patches issued. How targetted has the application been in the past by hackers.
  • How capable is it. How extensive is the functionality. Are new modules or functionality added regularly. 
  • How well does it integrate with existing internal company systems.
  • How well does it integrate with 3rd party applications. Are there well built APIs for integrating with the most popular CRMs and other digital marketing platforms.


With this in mind, if you are a small to medium sized business, I think there are only two CMSs worth considering: Drupal and WordPress. Selecting a CMS depends on many factors but in just about every category Drupal is as good if not better than other CMSs and WordPress is not far behind, especially for small sites.

There will be more blog posts to come regarding this. Otherwise see these related posts:

Cost of Enterprise Content Management Systems

Drupal and Enterprise Content Management Systems

About the author

Harry started Bartlett Interactive in 1998 and focuses on integrating best practices in branding, user experience design, Internet marketing and technology to increase the value of an online presence.
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