Choosing a content management system (CMS) can be a difficult decision, and as SEOs, we want our clients to have a CMS that’s easy and pleasant for them to use. However, we don’t want that ease of use to come at the expense of the technical flexibility needed for SEO. After working with dozens of content management systems, I’ve learned that the most ‘user-friendly’ CMS can actually turn out to be the hardest to use. Here’s why you should think before you choose the ‘easiest’ CMS.
There’s Still a Learning Curve
Many content management systems preach ease of use, drag and drop capabilities, and the promise of never having to flex a ‘technical’ muscle. However, each CMS still requires a lot of initial time investment to learn their specific platform and the ins and outs of how to use it for what you need to do. There’s going to be a learning curve no matter what, so don’t be swayed in one direction because of the belief that one is less complicated than another.
Is it User-Friendly Because You Can’t Change Anything?
User friendly is a term thrown around to entice people who don’t think of themselves as technically capable, but ‘user-friendly’ is relative. Content management systems are often made more user-friendly by making it impossible to customize elements, or by locking into hyper-rigid templates that may not serve the site’s needs.
When I go into a client’s CMS to help them implement page titles and metadata (a task that should be easy and pain-free), it’s often the platforms that have marketed themselves as the easy-breezy option where I spend the most time on support chats. Sometimes a CMS can be too templatized and so rigid that we waste our time searching for solutions or workarounds for simple tasks.
When choosing a content management system, find one that you can grow with. I often see small businesses start their websites on templatized platforms like Squarespace or Wix, only to find themselves spending lots of time and money moving over to WordPress in the future. If you want to integrate forms, incorporate unique designs, have complete control over your SEO, or simply go beyond the content limits of Squarespace, you’ll eventually need to switch over in order to overcome these limitations.
Take the time to research your needs as an organization: do you plan on creating a blog? Do you plan to add a shopping cart or other e-commerce elements? Do you need to optimize your content easily? Or are you simply creating a “brochure”-style website so users have a place to land?
For businesses that rely solely on referral business, you might not need a CMS that provides flexibility, and a templatized CMS might be the best choice. Examine your current and future needs and decide from there. That said, our five-page site might not need a lot of flexibility or open-source capabilities initially, but in a few years, your 150-page website will need these options. Your future self will thank you for choosing a CMS that can grow with you.
Community Support is Important
When looking for a content management system, take a look at the most popular platforms. Are there lots of forums, a big community, and dedicated support resources? WordPress, for example, is the most popular open-source CMS in the world, powering over a quarter of the world’s websites. Thousands of users have tested this highly popular platform, resulting in a vast community and support resources—the more information out there, the better. A niche CMS may have features that seem perfect for your needs, but if there’s not much information out there to help you troubleshoot issues as they come up, it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
What Do The Experts Think?
Which platforms do the experts recommend? Poll people who work on websites for a living. If you don’t know any ‘experts,’ do some research. Do other websites within your industry have a favorite CMS? What do your developers love? What about your SEO vendor? Do your web designers have their favorite? Creating a business for the long-term often means you might be hiring designers, developers, SEOs, and other vendors to help your business grow, so even if you don’t have all these people on your team today, poll the experts in your network and see what they prefer! In the end, you will always have final say, but it can’t hurt to know which platforms are preferred.
Hint: I love WordPress!
You’re smart! I genuinely believe most people can thrive on a CMS previously thought of as too difficult. Additionally, many content management systems that were once deemed ‘not user-friendly’ or ‘difficult’ are changing their interface to make them more accessible to all users.
Choosing a content management system is a big deal; I’m so passionate about the topic, I wrote about it before. When it comes to your business, do yourself a favor and put in the extra time to find a CMS that will fit your needs now and in the long run. Your future self will thank you.