Recently, a friend of mine asked about website strategy and my thoughts on how she could improve her site. And, a couple of basic questions arose:
1) What exactly is a content management system (CMS)?
2) Do I need to use one?
So, like any smart aleck friend, I grabbed my phone and went straight to Wikipedia to read its definition of CMS: “A CMS is a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Such systems of content management provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment … These procedures can be manual steps or an automated cascade. CMSs have been available since the late 1990s.”
That really didn’t help, so I gave her my definition: “It’s, uh, basically a tool to help manage your website’s content, updates, features and functionality. Oh, and CMSs are particularly useful if you need to make updates quickly and without the assistance of a programmer.”
“But, do I need to use one?” she replied.
“No, you do not need to use one,” I responded.
I heard a sigh of relief.
But, then I asked the following questions (and so should you):
Questions to ask to determine if you should use a content management system
1) Do you have pages that need updates somewhat frequently?
From the obvious requirement of page additions to updating simple features like a newsfeed, tools offered in CMSs almost always facilitate this process.
2) Do you have plans to add new features to your site?
Features like blogs, e-commerce, polling, chat, etc. are often plugins or extensions offered by many CMS platforms.
3) Are you able to easily add content and new pages to your site?
Adding good content to your site is not only great for your audience to have more resources to help research a product or service, but it’s nearly essential for search engines to notice your site.
4) Do you care to actively manage your SEO?
The ability to easily change your page names, meta tags, keyword density, titles and content organization is key to having an effective SEO program.
5) Do you need multiple people to be able to update your site?
Even if you don’t have a team managing your site now, using a well-known CMS gives you the ability to find a large community of resources to help you add features or manage pieces of your site when you’re ready to expand.
If none of the above matters to you, then why do you even have a website? If your site is important to your organization, in my humble opinion, more often than not a content management system is the way to go.