Too Many Choices (courtesy of Pinto and the Bean) This is a tough question for most communicators. Sometimes it’s because they are unfamiliar with the technical aspects of a CMS. Sometimes it’s because there are too many choices out there. At ND, we have tons of different CMSes and it’s difficult to know which one will be the right one to choose. I know because I’ve had to help them make the choice before – for my past clients and for current clients.

So what are some good questions to ask yourself when you are picking your CMS?  I’ve got five questions that you should answer before buying one.

1. How easy is it to use?

This may seem like a silly question but if you want other people than yourself to put content on your website (which you should – there should never be a bottleneck of one content person), the CMS better we crazy easy to use. It should be “log in”, “select the page”, and “type into the content”, then “save” or “publish”. If you make it too hard or give people too many bells and whistles available, they won’t login again and they won’t help you load content.

BTW, if you have a system where only one person in your office can use the system at a time – that’s not good. Make sure the interface is easy and clear for someone who doesn’t play on the internet all day.

2. What are special content needs for my website?

We get this a lot.  People want a website but don’t know exactly what they’ll put in it.  You’ll save yourself and your team a ton of time, money and frustration if you just do some homework and get your content together first.

This way you’ll get a really, really (that’s two reallys) good understanding of what content is for your audiences. If you don’t have a good idea of the content, then you need to stop your CMS buying process and go back to the whiteboard. Laying out all your content will help inform your decision the best.

Well, what if you don’t know what all your content is.  What do you ask yourself to help you find all your content.  Here’s what I do.

Write down all the content you currently have, what it is and where it is. Text, video, photos, audio, pdfs or word documents, etc…  Is digital or in hard copy form?

Once you have it all down, think of how you’ll want to display it.

When it comes to video, do I want to use YouTube and embed it on the page or do I want people to download them and play them locally on their machine (I don’t recommend this)?

When it comes to photos, do I want to have them access to my flickr account? Do I want a photo gallery where they can see all the photos on my website? Do I want to make a slideshow? Or maybe display all photos in a lightbox?  What is best practice for displaying a photo?

Do I want to people to be able to download my presentations or embed them on the page using something like Slideshare or Speakerdeck?

Do I want an automatic news feed so I don’t have to index news items? Do I want it to be shared with other sites on campus? Do I want an RSS feed?

What about events? Do I want events to be auto archived after the event is over? Can sync with my website? Do I want it to be easily shared to social media?

Speaking of social media, how will I handle social media pages on my website? Can I get an feed from my twitter? Do I want people to see my Linkedin company profile, etc…

What about forms? How will people contact me through the website? Can they sign up of a newsletter? Do I want to have a newsletter? (Which I recommend)

What we usually find is that people make a selection of a CMS without really looking through the content or structure or audience or any of that. This should be done before you move forward.

3. Is the code up to standards? Continue reading