Ask questions before you buy

Pg17Column-dignbat-Frank-Iacono1By Frank Iacono
Guest Columnist

A content management system (CMS) is an application designed to add, edit, and manage the content of a website. Typically, a CMS consists of two primary elements: the content management application and the content delivery application.

A CMS can be reasonably simple or very complex. There is a wide range of CMS products available, developed by providers like Microsoft and Oracle, the open source community such as Joomla and Alfresco, and other small development companies. Choosing the right CMS can be a very daunting. However, asking these questions will assist in your company’s selection process.


  • What is the company’s overall vision on content strategy?
  • What goals are and are not currently being met?
  • Is Proprietary, Open Source, Commercial Open Source, or SAAS/Hosted best for you?
  • How much integration is required with other systems?

Content Providers

  • Who is creating and/or editing the content?
  • What is the frequency of the updates?
  • Who plans and approves the content?
  • How is the content being utilized?
  • How does the system handle version control?

Content Inputs

  • How do you currently manage the content creation process?
  • What are the problems and/or frustrations faced today?
  • What tools do you use in authoring today? How effective are they?
  • What is the format of the content you create? What source is the content dependent on?

Content Process Flow

  • What is the workflow process?
  • How do you handle the approval process?
  • Who is in charge of editing the content?
  • How is the content classified so it can be optimized for Search Engine Optimization?
  • What relates content within the website?

Content Outputs

  • What is the required format of the content?
  • How much of the content should be reusable?
  • What site templates are required?
  • What are the search requirements?
  • What other site functionality is required?

General CMS Questions

  • Is the CMS intuitive (i.e., is it easy to learn and use from an administrative perspective)?
  • Is it possible to paste text from MS Word or similar content-based programs and retain all of its formatting?
  • Does the CMS let you preview the page before publishing it?
  • How good is the search function in the CMS?
  • How easy is it to integrate the CMS into the site design you’ve selected?
  • Does the CMS have a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor?
  • Does the CMS allow you to define metadata?
  • Can you describe your CMS’s access control?
  • Can you configure the CMS to work with a testing environment?
  • How does the CMS create and handle dynamic links versus static links?
  • Does the CMS apply best practices to the major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, and Bing?
  • How easy is it to incorporate site redesigns into the CMS?

Before deciding on a CMS solution, it is a good idea to review multiple options so that the best choice fits your company’s goals and objectives. This evaluation includes interviewing internal content providers, creating a functional requirements document, scheduling product demonstrations, and checking vendor references.

Every CMS initiative should start with a thoughtful, intentional, and agreed-upon set of plans for design and implementation worked out long before you start to use it. ♦

Frank Iacono is a Senior Internet Marketing Manager for Mobile Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in the greater Philadelphia area. Email him at [email protected]

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