Five Pillars of a great CMS

As an online marketer, I used to work in different environments, but since joining Foliovision, I spend virtually all my time on our clients’ content management systems. Some days ago, I logged into a completely different CMS after a long time. It didn’t look bad at first glance, but spending just a few minutes working with this interface was enough to see the striking difference between this CMS and our own; this one was really medieval! I am a marketer, certainly not a hard-boiled developer, and for the first time, I’ve summarized my thoughts about what makes a good CMS. These are the pillars of success but also the risks involved.

I. Low initial costs

This means open source, choosing from the three respective candidates (here we explain why we chose Wordpress out of these three). There is a crowdsource counting dozens of millions of people who develop, test, rate, and upgrade several open source CMSs. You can’t beat this crowd with your team. Spending weeks developing your own or buying some obscure CMS from another company means you’ve wasted money form the beginning.

RISK: Some open source projects serve for years with the same or even increasing quality. Unfortunately, some start to slide backward as the time passes, and you have to leave the sinking ship at the right moment.

II. For all clients and purposes

Of course, you have to add “within the range of what CMS should provide.” There is nothing worse than getting your first BIG client and then realizing that the wooden legs of your CMS can’t accomodate your vision. Our example: we need to serve both a local Toronto realtor and a major Canadian insurance broker with different traffic, database requirements, and marketing strategies — not an easy task if you’re not prepared for it.

RISK: Don’t try to create a “one to rule them all” solution. You always need to get your (programmers’) hands dirty to fit the solution for your client.

III. Flexible

The Web changes faster than Lady Gaga’s outfit. You have to react in a timely manner if you want to stay on top. A good CMS makes it easier for your tech team to implement the latest fashion trends (like this rel-author hack).

RISK: Security. Let’s be honest, this is one of the problems of open source CMS solutions from crowdsourcing, but it’s only a problem when you’re too reckless.

IV. Good-looking and user friendly

A good-looking site attracts business; no doubt about it. Your design team can do the job and create a piece of art, but don’t forget its CMS. Someone will be adding text, pictures, and videos constantly. Without robust type and media solutions, the site will turn into a mess. This goes hand in hand with an intuitive and simple user interface.

RISK: Avoid being flooded by support requests from clients who’ve clicked a link you shouldn’t have given them. There are games if they want to play.

V. SEO, SEO, SEO!

So, you have a bulletproof site, running like a Swiss clock, looking great, that is pleasure to use both for admins and visitors. However, there are no visitors. Even after all these years, SEO is viewed as an obscure black magic by many clients, developers, and boards and business owners. It doesn’t change the fact that moving one step up the Google ladder could mean new business worth millions. We’re now in the year 2012, and you have to wonder sometimes how many sites still ignore the absolute onsite SEO basics.

RISK: Don’t get comforted by your initial SEO success. Google’s algorithm changes every once in a while and the effect of your innovative solution could vanish. Good content is what counts at the end of the day.