Planning: The Key Step in Selecting a CMS

Went to “Evaluating Content Management Systems” last night. This meetup, put on by Web Content Mavens, featured David Hobbs who talked about CMS review and selection. David mapped out a five-step process in evaluating content management systems:

Vision -> Plan -> Pilot -> Implement -> Maintain

His talk concentrated on the first two steps of this process and the importance in planning before settling on a CMS for your web site.

Vision

In the first step, David asks that you come up with a Vision Statement as a guide to picking the right CMS. What’s your vision for the future? A CMS that will allow editors to easily update the web site while also seamlessly delivering a mobile version to users? Write it down and use it as a guide throughout the process. The vision statement must be a definite improvement on the current state. The switching process is painful. The Vision Statement should concisely explain why it’s worth it.

Plan

Guided by your vision for the future, the next step is develop Use Cases. How do editors, developers and others actually use the web site? What do they want to do in the future? For example, a developer Use Case might talk about the need for cross-platform compatibility, scalability and clean code. An editor might wish for a CMS that allows them to publish to the site instantly. A communications director’s Use Case might include the requirement to approve all content before it goes live or to rollback the site to a previous version. Use Cases are a learning process, to determine the needs of the people who build your web site.

With your Vision Statement and Use Cases, you can then approach vendors (or investigate CMSes yourself) to determine which solution matches up best with your needs. You should evaluate CMSes against your requirements, not what a CMS does best or what a salesman wants to show you.

I think this is a really good approach. To select the best CMS, investigate your organization’s needs in an honest manner and then evaluate the contenders on their suitability.

Don’t be sold on whatever is sexy this year. A CMS is not magic. Not even Drupal.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer and photographer from Washington, DC. He is the author of the mystery novel The Swamp, as well as articles, short stories and screenplays. In his spare time, he likes wandering about the city with a camera.

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