Selecting the right content management system can be a difficult process unless you know what to look for, in this Q&A consultant Jessica Rowe of Meta Consults explains her experiences and approach.
What’s been the major changes in your experience?
I’ve had over thirteen years experience in digital marketing, back when I started there was a lot of hard coding and not a lot of that CMS stuff. It was still pre-mobile, pre-complexity. However today, mobile is of the essence. Because of that there’s an increasing need for simplicity not only from a user experience standpoint, but also from the content management standpoint, which is: how do you manage the content you’re delivering on your website? Both have to be easy to deal with.
What’s your main objectives?
The key thing is creating a solid digital hub with your website at the core. What goes around the core are social media outposts, email, e-commerce, offline advertising and promotion, paid search, organic search etc. You better have a strong foundation for your hub, because everything you do connects to that core — that website and its content. Accepting that in modern marketing ‘content is king’, one of the most important steps in the digital strategy is: how do you drive people to that content? That steers the right people to the right content at the right time. If your digital hub isn’t set up to be able to do that, you cannot do your job as a marketer. In order to get that great website and guide people to check out our content, naturally, we need a great CMS to make their experience smooth.
How do you go about deciding what the right CMS is?
The main problem with many CMSs today is that they have exceptionally high price tags, lack of flexibility, or too much development needed post-launch. You have two options; either select an agency and let them steer the CMS selection process; or select the CMS yourself and then choose a partner/agency who can implement it. My last experience with the first option was a trainwreck. The clients had an expensive CMS, but they didn’t know what they were doing. They had no control over the project. They overestimated their abilities in implementing the tool and because of that they didn’t have enough resources. It took us a lot of time to do it right. It created a lot of re-work. I went the second way. Things with option number two are not always easy of course as it requires a lot of legwork and research. Some organizations may spend months selecting a CMS, however it doesn’t have to be this way.
So how did you decide what criteria to use?
It is all about assessing what really matters for you as an organization, what your have-to-haves and want-to-haves are. Let me tell you about the process me and my team went through: We developed 10 categories of needs and wants, defined them and weighed them in terms of importance to use as a scorecard during the evaluation process. These categories allowed us to determine what a CMS had to have and what we wanted it to have. And then based on these things — what’s most important, what’s least important. Also, you don’t want to leave things open for personal interpretation. For example, what are we talking about when we say it has to be secure? So we defined what each of the categories meant exactly. Then we chose CMSs to evaluate. The majority of what we’ve evaluated was either .NET (the background of most of our developers) based CMSs or the ones that everybody had heard of. We ended up evaluating WordPress, Drupal, Sitecore and Umbraco against these criteria:
- Usability Wordpress: 10 Umbraco: 10 Drupal: 8 Sitecore: 9
- Security Wordpress: 3 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 4 Sitecore: 9
- Administration Wordpress: 8 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 8 Sitecore: 9
- Editing Wordpress: 8 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 4 Sitecore: 8
- Digital Asset Management Wordpress: 8 Umbraco: 8 Drupal: 6 Sitecore: 9
- SEO Wordpress: 7 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 6 Sitecore: 9
- Analytics Wordpress: 7 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 6 Sitecore: 10
- Development Wordpress: 9 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 6 Sitecore: 9
- Form Management Wordpress: 8 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 5 Sitecore: 8
- Cost Wordpress: 9 Umbraco: 9 Drupal: 6 Sitecore: 2
- Wordpress: 622
- Umbraco: 740
- Drupal: 489
- Sitecore: 665
We were especially focusing on security, however overall the features are broadly applicable or at least serve as a good resource. Additionally, features like flexibility, ability to reuse widgets or have different levels of access, keeping people from breaking things — these are key elements for a CMS project in any field. These also are features that stood out for us in Umbraco. In the end this CMS got the most points as you can see.
Did it actually prove its worth when working on real projects?
The results from two projects I’ve done with Umbraco are very positive. Firstly, NASB.com, the North American Savings Bank website. Before Umbraco their organic leads were less than 100 per month with less than 8 loans, now the website generates more than 50 loans each month and the number is still growing. Through implementation of a streamlining process we brought deposit services to their knees with one campaign to drive new accounts. Prior to this, they had a few hundred accounts opened online in the 3 plus years of offering the older “clunky” version. In two months, we drove 939 new accounts opened online.
Secondly, mybbmc.com the BBMC Mortgage website. In the first month after the launch alone over 1,000 keywords improved in rank including being indexed for 342 keywords they’ve never ranked for before. The flexibility of Umbraco and some creativity enabled us to save a recurring $15,000 a month and upgrade capabilities. In the month just prior to the website redesign none of the top 10 organic search landing pages on mybbmc.com were related to VA loans. After launch 4 pages in top 10 organic result landing pages are now related to VA loans. After years of BBMC’s relative flat organic traffic, there has been a steady up-tick since the launch of their new site. The results for both projects were faster than I expected. You can foresee things like better functionality, but for example the SEO results were surprising we reached the set goals a lot faster (6 to 12 months faster) than what we were anticipating in both instances.
Overall, how would you summarise your experience?
If you stayed with me on this journey, you probably already know the conclusion: your digital project should start with a CMS selection process. Do a thorough evaluation based on your needs, do not assume for a second that the most expensive CMS is probably the best.There’s a lot of perception from some, that if a CMS costs a lot of money, it must be better. I’ve worked with Sitecore before. We spent 100 thousand dollars on a licensing fee to buy their CMS and around a million dollars designing the website. However, the CMS was never implemented correctly, it never worked the way it was intended. I am sure that there are Sitecore implementations that work beautifully, but at the end of the day for us it was a complete overkill to what we were trying to accomplish. With Umbraco it’s always like: “Wow, what do you mean it doesn’t cost?” It allows us the ultimate flexibility: what tools we want to put into, how we want to function and look and feel, and how we want to manage it. For me as a marketing person it was beautiful — a huge win. “Creating a solid digital hub should start with a CMS selection process. Do a thorough evaluation based on your needs, do not assume for a second that the most expensive CMS is probably the best.”