There are a ton of different content management systems (CMS) on the market these days. Each CMS is designed to do something well.
WordPress is a great all-around blogging CMS. Shopify is perfect for eCommerce websites. Contentful is headless-friendly and very flexible, making it perfect for custom software development.
So how do you decide which CMS is right for you? This article will cover the 10 most important factors to consider before selecting your CMS!
Here’s what we’ll be covering in the article if you feel like jumping ahead:
Here are 10 Factors For Choosing The Right CMS
1. Ease of use
Ease of use is arguably the most important place to start when figuring out which CMS to choose. How easy is it to add your content? How easy is it to edit existing content?
How easy is it to manage users and permissions? If you’re not comfortable using the CMS, you won’t be able to produce content for your website.
WordPress is one of the easiest content management systems to use. It’s perfect for beginners who are just starting out with blogging or website development.
The user interface is very intuitive, and it’s easy to add new content and edit existing content.
WordPress is also very versatile, allowing you to create any type of website you want.
If you’ve already tried WordPress and found that it’s not your cup of tea, you could dial it back to a less complicated platform like Squarespace or Wix.
Before you commit to picking a CMS, you should consider whether it’s going to be flexible enough to let you do everything you want.
Flexibility is often a tradeoff for ease of use. The easier the platform is to use, the more functionality is committed to making it simple.
Ask yourself if the CMS you’re planning to use will let you add custom functionality? Or will you be limited to the features that are built-in? As a general rule, if there’s drag-and-drop functionality, then the flexibility will be low.
If you’re looking for a highly flexible CMS, then Contentful is a great option but you need development help to get it set up.
Paying for pros to help with the setup adds a decent amount of cost to your project. If this was already part of your plan, then Contentful is a winner!
Each CMS has its own set of features, and some platforms are more versatile than others. You’ll want to make sure the CMS you choose has all the features you need to create the website you want.
If you’re looking for a basic website, then you probably don’t need a CMS with a ton of features. A simple platform like Wix or Squarespace will have everything you need to get started.
If you’re planning on selling products and writing content then Shopify is the way to go. It has all the features you need to create a successful online store.
You can also add features to your Shopify store with apps from the Shopify app store (although the price can add up quickly).
If you’re looking for a more complex website, then you’ll need a CMS with more features.
WordPress is a great option because it has a ton of plugins and themes that you can use to add any type of functionality or design to your website.
However, if you want to make WordPress do something custom, you’ll probably end up needing professional help.
The cost of the CMS is another important factor to consider. Some platforms are free, while others have monthly or yearly subscription fees.
If you’re on a tight budget, then you’ll want to choose a free platform like WordPress.
It’s worth noting that open source platforms like WordPress and Joomla are free to download and use, you’ll need to pay for hosting for other people to access your website.
At a minimum, you’re looking at $5 – $10/month for a private virtual server that achieves awesome performance.
DigitalOcean, Linode, AWS, and Cloudways are good options, but all require some configuration. Make sure you research the right host to ensure your site runs fast.
Most of the content management systems that feature drag and drop functionality, or advertise that you don’t need to know anything technical come with higher price points once your website scales.
If you’re spinning up a hobby website then this probably won’t be a problem.
However, if you’re using your website to generate business and actively trying to grow your traffic, then be aware that Wix, Squarespace, and Webflow can get expensive.
As your website grows, you’ll need a CMS that can handle the increased traffic. Some CMS platforms are more scalable than others.
WordPress is a decent option for scalability because it can be highly customized to suit your growing team’s needs. However, an even better option is Contentful, Sanity or Prismic.
These platforms provide tools for multiple content writers to be moving articles through customized workflows. This is super handy if you’re planning on pumping out a ton of content.
A less obvious factor to consider is how well the CMS is supported by the core development team.
If you run into any problems or need help setting up your website, you’ll want to be able to easily get in touch with someone who can help you out.
WordPress has a large community of developers and support staff who are always happy to help out. However, because it’s such a popular platform, the WordPress support forums can be overwhelming for beginners.
Shopify also has great customer support. They have a team of experts available 24/seven to answer any questions you have about setting up or running your online store.
Contentful, Sanity, and Prismic are newer CMS platforms that have smaller teams behind them. However, they all offer excellent customer support and are always happy to help out with any problems you might have.
Generally, open-source platforms (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) are harder to get support than proprietary platforms (Webflow, Wix, Squarespace, Contentful), because there’s no team getting paid to keep users happy.
If you’re planning to deal with any kind of sensitive information, or your CMS is capturing any kind of financial data, then security might be a factor to think through.
As a rule of thumb, paid platforms are very secure. Their reputation depends on it, and they have engineering teams ensuring the platform stays locked down.
Open-source platforms can also be very secure if they’re set up correctly and kept up to date.
When it comes to performance, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Some CMS platforms are faster than others, and some are more suited to certain types of websites.
Headless content management systems like Sanity, Contentful, Strapi, Tina, and headless WordPress (using its REST API) have the advantage here because they’re built specifically with performance in mind.
Another important factor to consider is how easy it is to create a beautiful website with your CMS.
If you’re planning on building a simple website by yourself and you don’t know how to code, then you’ll need to pick a CMS that gives you the option to simply create a design.
Platforms like Squarespace and Wix make this step easy. WordPress paired with a theme like Elementor or Divi is another choice.
However, if you’re looking to create an impressive design and you’re not afraid of a more technically challenging platform, then you might want to consider a platform like Webflow.
Webflow gives you complete control over the design of your website and lets you create custom animations and interactions that wouldn’t be possible with other CMS platforms.
It’s still a drag-and-drop CMS but provides a ton of customization options and flexibility.
This is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a CMS. If you’re not comfortable using the platform, then it’s not going to be worth your time.
The last factor to consider is how extensible the platform is. This basically means how easy it is to add custom functionality to your website.
If you’re planning on adding a lot of features and integrations to your website, then you’ll need to make sure that your CMS can accommodate them.
WordPress is probably the most extensible platform out there. There’s a plugin for just about everything, and if there’s not, then you can always hire a developer to create one for you.
Shopify is also fairly extensible. While it doesn’t have as many plugins like WordPress, it does have a lot of apps that allow you to add custom functionality to your online store.
It’s also harder to find really good Shopify developers because it’s built on top of Liquid which is more of a niche programming framework to master.
Contentful, Sanity, and Prismic are also very extensible platforms. They’re often used to power custom software applications, so they can easily be integrated into just about anything.
Now that you know the 10 factors to consider when choosing a CMS, it’s time to make a decision.
Take into account your goals, experience level, and how much design control you want. If you’re not sure which platform is right for you, give each a trial and see if it suits the way you want to work.