Content Management System Evaluation Checklist

A good content management system (CMS) can help you develop and maintain a beautiful, functional website with very little or no knowledge of web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The number of content management systems available, however, make choosing the right one difficult, but this checklist can help you narrow your focus and find the CMS that best suits your needs.

Your Organization

  • In which business field do you operate?
  • Are you for-profit or non-profit?
  • How many people are in your organization?
  • Will you be selling goods or services online?

Your Target Audience

  • Will your website target businesses or individuals?
  • What is the basic income level of your audience?
  • Will site visitors be looking to make a purchase, learn something, or interact?
  •  Evaluate typical visitor age, gender, race, ethnicity, and geographic location.
  •  What do your visitors expect from a website?
  • How does your audience prefer to communicate?

Your Administrative Users

  • Who will build and maintain your content management system website?
  • How many departments will make content updates?
  • How much training will staff require to administer the CMS?
  • Will upper management access administrative functions?

Your Website Project

  • How much can you spend?
  • When do you need to start and complete your website implementation?
  • What functionality do you need from your website?
  • How much employee time can you devote to a CMS project?

Potential Content Management Systems

  • How much do the software and associated licenses cost?
  • Is the CMS hosted, or will you need servers and IT staff?
  • Does the CMS work on tablets and smart phones?
  • Is the CMS source code available?
  • What organizations are currently using the CMS?
  • Does the software vendor provide a forum or mailing list for customer interaction?
  • How does the vendor help resolve customer problems?
  • What options exist for helping staff learn your CMS?
  • Can you limit access to certain parts of the content management system?
  • Can you add administrative users without incurring additional costs?

Content Management System Evaluation Checklist Tips

  • Because you will be using a content management system to build the site that represents your organization on the Internet, make sure that the CMS you choose is technically capable of presenting the image that you want to portray.  Some CMS software works well for hobby sites, but not business sites, so pay attention to how the end-product looks.
  • If  your organization has an IT staff, then an open source CMS might be a good choice since it allows for the most customization.  Open source projects also tend to have strong communities around them, so getting help with problems is generally not too difficult.
  • If at all possible, get access to a trial version of each content management system that you are considering.  At the very least, request a live demo from the software vendor.
  • Consult with peers at similar organizations who have recently adopted a new CMS to find out why they made the choices that they did.