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5 Questions You Should Ask Before Figuring Out Your New Website’s Platform

So, you need a new website. You know you want a content management system (CMS) to make things easy. But where do you go from there?

Websites -- everyone from a small startup business to large enterprises to non-profit organizations needs one.

Even most freelancers -- those rogue agents thriving off social media networking -- have a website (or two) for their business.

Most websites stem from some form of a content management system (CMS). CMS platforms allow for easy content management, can be optimized for mobile, and gives your marketing teams the ability to build campaigns in multiple channels. Chances are that if you’re looking to migrate your website to a fresh platform or if you’ve built one before, you probably use a CMS. In short, CMS platforms are the way to go for a website.

Now comes the big question: What CMS is right for me?

Asking that question is like asking yourself “Do I need to bake this meal or refrigerate it?” The answer depends on what you’re cooking up.

You need a list of ingredients first with some sort of plan on how you’ll create your meal. So, in order to help you figure out the best way to craft your website, here are five questions any organization big or small should ask themselves when deciding on a different CMS for you new (or reimagined) website:

1) So… why do I need a new website again?

Developing a new website (or even migrating pages) can be a bit like running another marathon. By mile 19 or 20, you can’t see the finish line, you’re drained, and you’ve forgotten why you started. Even though you know you’ve run this distance before, you realize each race is different from the last. However, if you have a list of why you need a refreshed website at the very start, you’ll keep moving forward to pursue your dream website.

Are you sharing more information? Do you want to land more clients? Have you outgrown your original website? If you’re still struggling to figure out reasons why you need a new website, these steps might help you iron out answers:

Figure out what’s not working.

Say it with me: “No website is perfect, not even my own.”

No one likes owning up to their faults -- and the same goes for a website. Admitting that your website has room for improvement and isn’t working will help you narrow down CMS options to one that doesn’t lead to those same issues. 

Take an honest, hard look at your website and see what doesn't work from a UX/UI end. 

Because guess what? Your website users don’t think your flawed website is as “perfectly imperfect” as you do.

Figure out why those website elements aren’t working.

Once you’ve uncovered what’s not working, you should take a look at why those pieces aren’t effective for your website. If you don’t figure out why they’re not working, you’ll be doomed to make the same mistakes with a new website.

Get specific about how you want to grow.

Don’t just say “I want more visitors.” Give yourself an actionable way to define “more.” Do you want a 10% boost in CTR? Do you want to improve UX/UI for visitors? Knowing how you’ll quantify your goals not only gives your team a baseline for a new website, but it also gives your potential CMS an understanding of your goals with a new website.

2) What do I want the CMS to do for me?

Some people want a CMS that is so automated, it could do everything but make your bed. Other organizations need a more bare-bones approach because they’d rather do it themselves.

Decide before you start your look what your must-haves are from a CMS and what you can live without.

There are a few key things to look for across the board for any effective CMS, however. A CMS should be easy to navigate. Before investing in a CMS, make sure that everyone can use the platform -- not just your IT guys.

Another important key to your CMS is help. Take a look at the support for your CMS before deciding, especially the support should an emergency strike. The goal would be finding a provider that offers 24/7/365 support. And, ideally, that support team knows your website intimately enough to remedy situations in the best interest of your website first and foremost.

Finally, a CMS needs to be quickly adaptable and updated in order to keep up with software changes and security requirements. Some CMS providers go through quarterly updates to make sure that you’re up-to-date and secure -- without those updates affecting your website.

3) How quickly do I need this website?

Building a new website (or even migrating old content to a new platform) takes time. Even with the fastest internet speeds around, building functional, well-crafted websites take time.

Those on a time crunch will be sorely disappointed that you can’t snap your fingers and have a website However, it’s important to tell potential CMS builders your needs.

Your transparency will give them a better idea of if your timeline is a) reasonable given what you need from a CMS or b) too much to handle with a short turnaround.

4) What level of customization do I need?

Answering this question will save you a ton of time, money, and headaches. Go into your search with a firm understanding of what specific tweaks you’ll need. What external integrations does your website have to have? How do you want your website’s stack to work with the CMS? An excellent CMS makes adding your favorite tools easy and removing them just as simple if you no longer use them.

5) How many people will help me contribute to the website regularly?

Determining levels of access can be one of the biggest headaches for any website administrator -- especially when you’re a larger organization who needs to keep tabs on who can post, remove, or edit particular content. (Or, if your a SMB startup who needs to make sure the office intern sends you his most recent blog post before it goes live without any sort of revision.)

You’ll also need to figure out the technical expertise of your contributors. Are they web developers with a strong understanding of coding, or are they content marketers with a basic knowledge of HTML? Get input from your entire team of contributors as to what they would like to see and look for a CMS willing to accomodate most of (ideally all of) those levels. Better still, find a CMS with extensive customer support. Some CMS platforms even offer training sessions to build up the skills of everyone involved with a new website and put everyone on an equal playing field.

These are far from the only questions you might have as you start comparing various CMS platforms, but never to fear! More resources exist! There are plenty of comparison guides floating around the internet that show you the differences between the world’s most popular CMS providers. 

Shelby Rogers
Contributions Editor here at Solodev. Want to be featured on the Solodev Blog? Get in touch.
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