19 April 2016

5 things your CMS shouldn't do

Tags:CMS, Squiz

We all know CMSs are fantastic. They are extremely powerful and liberating when you want to take maximum control of your website management and publishing.

They can also sometimes, although probably shouldn’t, seem to be the answer for all of your web problems. I say “probably shouldn’t”, because some of your web problems are beyond what a CMS can solve.

In saying that, there are some specific problems your CMS does and should solve, but solving those aren’t always straightforward and sometimes you need to know that you can get help from the experts when you get stuck.

Usually the lists you see are for what a CMS is capable of, but it’s just as important to understand what it shouldn’t do. These are a few of the common things I commonly discuss with customers when talking about the purposes of a CMS.

1. Re-Invent The Wheel

If you have a CMS that is used primarily for publishing and managing static web pages, then focus on doing that perfectly. A lot of software is flexible enough via custom implementations or 3rd party plugins to extend the functionality of itself to try and act as something more than a CMS, such as a community forum or even a CRM.

You have to be mindful of where the tipping point is on the decision to build something within the CMS, or actually invest in a dedicated 3rd party software and integrate with it instead. And that’s what a great CMS should do well, integrate.

This is something I could go on and on about, but I think the point is obvious enough. Don’t reinvent, integrate instead.

2. Be Impossible To Upgrade

Upgrades to software can be a nightmare, especially if you need to do it yourself. A great CMS puts easy version upgrades as a core and priority feature. What use are all those awesome 3rd party and custom plugins if you can’t use them in the next major release? Even worse, those unsupported and unwarranted plugins can often be the sole showstoppers for getting you to the next big version of your CMS.

Software upgrades should be exciting, encouraging, and stress free. If you are also dealing with an Enterprise CMS with vast amounts of content and data, your vendor needs to be there and ready to help you every step of the way.

3. Fully Rely On Vendor Support

So you’ve got your CMS and your website built or migrated, sweet. Now you want to add some more stuff like new forms, listings, and calendars. You might also want to build a new micro site from scratch. Your CMS should allow you to do these things without needing to go to the vendor every time you want to change the sort order on a list or even to do the complex stuff like integrate with Facebook.

Training and great documentation obviously play a big part in enabling this for you, but the CMS needs to be liberating to allow for it as well. It should be configurable and flexible enough so that you can do the cool things you decided to get a CMS for in the first place.

4. Live Without Vendor Support

Even though your CMS should allow you to do all the things, you should also feel comfortable that someone has your back when those things hit the fan. When you get stuck with an implementation job or a nasty issue arises, you need to have a support network ready to help.

That’s the vendor’s job. After all, they are the expert when it comes to your CMS software. They can also guide and teach you at the same time as they fix your problems. Considering the support of a CMS, or any software for that matter, is just as important as the features of it.

5. Only Have 1 Way of Solving a Problem

This is where the flexibility, configurability, and a great API play a big part. There shouldn’t just be one way to create a registration form, or an out-of-the box widget that can only display events and news in a single format. Every site is different and everyone has different requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to building a website.

Your CMS needs to allow you to be different and innovative. That’s how it allows you to stay true to your brand and who you are. That’s how we create amazing web experiences for our users and customers.

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