A Checklist For Choosing The Best CMS For Your Website Design

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A content management system (CMS) is a system used to manage the content of a Web site. Typically, a CMS has two parts: a content management system and a content delivery system.

There are many articles that outline how to choose the best CMS for your small business, the best CMS for SEO, or guides that compare enterprise, small business, free and paid content management and web design platforms. We see many that compare functionality and development, but miss the boat on important factors that impact the marketing, strategy, and website growth once a site is launched.

What To Look For When Choosing A CMS

So the story begins when you start thinking about moving your website and have to choose between an open source CMS like WordPress, a custom built internal CMS that your development team builds, or an industry specific CMS. When you are searching for your new content management system, be sure to research theses things first.

SEO Basics

There are many content management systems that we’ve seen that ignore the basics of SEO. This can lead to a loss in traffic and rankings when your website launches. There are a few things that you will need to make sure are included in your framework.

Meta Tags

Make sure you can edit and create unique title tags, description tags, canonical tags, and social media tags for each page.


Make sure all URLs are SEO friendly. You would be surprised at how many CMS still have URLs that are not great for users or search engines.

Read more about what makes a user and Google friendly URL.

Page Content Hierarchy

This includes making sure that the code, and how the pages are built, have the proper headers defined so that Google and users can understand your content.

Website Content Hierarchy

Make sure your CMS offers the ability to easy create, edit, and structure your navigational elements without having to make major code changes.

Upgrade Frequency

With the frequency at which the web and the expectations of users change, it is important to make sure that the CMS framework you choose is kept up to date.

Having continuous updates will keep your website in line with proper code requirements, functionality that users need and want, and lower the risk of security issues that could get your website hacked.

Versioning and Auto Save Features

Have you ever accidentally deleted everything that you were working on, and when you went back to your file folder you were horrified to find that it was no longer there? With versioning, this no longer happens.

You need to make sure that your CMS has the ability to constantly save what you are working on (every five to ten minutes, depending on what type of content you are working on) and save it to a separate file each time. Generally, you can get away with only saving five or six versions. This would enable you to simply open an earlier version of your work if you happened to delete something or have edited beyond repair.

Support and Customer Service

One of the most frustrating things we hear from companies is that the customer support from their CMS vendor is less than helpful.

There will come a time that you will need to make changes or will have questions that go beyond your skill-set. Before choosing your CMS make sure they have a great customer service group, as well as a solid community that you can go to if you have questions.

Security and Reliability

Cyber security is a hot topic, and with many big brands being hacked it makes it vitally important to take this seriously when choosing your CMS.

When it comes down to it, reliability is also key for ensuring your CMS is the best it can be. Nothing turns off a user more than going to the page they want and finding that the server is offline.

The platform owner or host must provide you with fixes to bugs whenever they find them, and you need to make sure that the server is almost always online except for routine maintenance.

Add-on Availability and Plugins

At some point you will want to expand your business – maybe sell products online or offer new functionality. So it is important to have the ability to add new functionality without major design or code changes

In order to have a proper content management system, your system must be able to work with other sites online. This means that you are able to add widgets and other media items from other pages to yours without creating an error in your editor. In the world of social media, this also means adding links and updates from sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It would also be wise to make sure that your site is compatible with mobile technologies. Some systems even allow administrators to create a mobile site as well in order to keep up with the mobile technologies out there today.

Third Party Integration

Many companies want to integrate their email marketing like Mailchimp or sales process like sales force into their website.

This is a vital part of choosing a CMS, as if your framework does not integrate with the websites that help you market and manage your business, as well as those that your users use to engage with your website, it could cause major issues.


Customization has become the buzz word for the internet. Not only does it allow administrators to better represent their brand online, but it also helps users get around and get to know your brand.

When it comes to a well-developed CMS, customization is key as well. This will allow you to set up your content in any way that you want. You can set up menus, pages, and even change the fonts to help better represent yourself and your content. However, be careful to not get too distracted by being meticulous with customizations to the point where your site is so far removed from others that your users have a hard time finding their way around.

User Interface

The editor of your CMS is arguably one of the most important features, especially when it comes to content creation and sharing. Many management systems use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editor, which is extremely useful if you are not very skilled at writing code. However, sometimes these editors have glitches that do not allow them to include media or other non-text content within the body of the page. Be sure to ask the CMS creator to test out the editor before you lock in a deal for your CMS.

Roles and permissions are also an important item to review before settling on your system. Roles are specific identities that you give to yourself, your employees, and your users. These roles allow certain people to see and edit certain items in your system. The roles and permissions must be well-developed in order for your system to run properly. This means that your CMS must be able to segregate roles, otherwise certain people will have access and permissions that you may not want them to have.


Needless to say, anything on the internet these days has to be fully functional in order to be of use to anyone. With advances in Web site technology, being functional also means being easy to use for both administrators and for users. When a user is going through your content, they should be provided with a setting in which they know exactly where to go and exactly how to get there. This means that the CMS must have clear direction.

You must also make sure that there is a place where users can provide you with any feedback about both your content and the usability of the CMS. This will ensure that your CMS remains easy to use for your users.

Search Functionality

Searching has become an essential feature for nearly every single page, platform, and site that uses the internet. Your users want to be able to quickly type in what they are looking for or be able to select their query from a drop-down list in less than five seconds. In order to do this, well-designed searches are necessary.

In order for your search function to be the best it can be, you need to be aware of certain search terms used in your search functions algorithm. The search function has to be thorough and bring up not only pages, but also documents such as PDFs and Excel files. The indexes in your search system also have to be continuously updated in order to keep from getting stale search results as your site changes. You also need to be aware of how your page ranks results in order to give users the best match for their search query.

What Happens If You Choose The Wrong CMS?

When searching for the best CMS for your small business make sure you choose wisely (we recommend WordPress) because choosing the wrong CMS can have a major negative impacts on your website’s traffic, user experience, and overall sales.

We have working with many businesses, both small and mid-market, who either have moved to a new CMS and are having issues (which we help resolve), or are thinking about switching and want our insights on which one to choose. Let us know if you need help choosing the best CMS for your small business.

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