used car
Buying a CMS can be a lot like picking out a car. Be sure to take it out for a test drive PHOTO: Rodolfo Mari

Selecting a CMS can be daunting. It's kind of like going to a car lot to pick out a new car, except without the annoying salespeople (if you're lucky). 

Before choosing a vehicle to deliver your content, you need to talk to your team — because at the end of the day, you will undoubtedly encounter roadblocks. If your team isn’t on the same page, those roadblocks will turn into permanent barriers.

And once a product is launched, time is not on your side. Your marketing campaign must be surgical, or you risk diluting your message and throwing a wrench in the whole process. 

That's why it’s imperative to acknowledge all possible bumps in the road in advance, identify instances where bureaucracy and red tape may rear their ugly heads.

My 15 years in website deployment have shown me many examples of the selection process melting down due to misaligned priorities. By starting an early dialogue to hear the concerns of each department involved, you encounter less risk before product launch.

While selecting a CMS involves many stakeholders and many questions, paying attention to these three areas can help you avoid some major roadblocks in the future.

Don’t Lift More Than You Can Carry

Ask yourself one question: Can your infrastructure handle spikes in traffic? 

The 2017 Super Bowl ad by 84 Lumber was a perfect example of this. After its controversial ad aired, the website experienced over 300,000 visits within the first minute. Then the site crashed. What could be considered a huge advertising success was a massive marketing failure. At $5 million per 30 seconds, the 90 sec ad lost almost 3 million page views due to being down for 10 minutes.

One way to handle such large spikes in traffic is caching. Most of the time when you hit a website system the site attempts to load dynamically. Meaning, if somebody made a change in the CMS a visitor can see the change within a split second. 

However, this does not play well with large spikes in traffic. Depending on the server(s) hosting the site, a large spike could mean that the servers are getting thousands of requests per second (or even as few as hundreds for some). In most cases, this traffic will put uptime in jeopardy. 

To avoid this, work with a CMS that can switch from dynamic content to a cached version, as that will allow your site to handle large spikes by serving its most recent version statically. Intelligent CMSs will do this automatically when a traffic spike is detected, then revert back to dynamic.

When researching a CMS to run your content, scaleability is a huge factor to consider. Choose a system that has the ability to change from dynamic to static instantly, with zero IT assets required and you’ll be covered if you ever decide to run a super bowl ad.

Safe and Secure is Key

Don’t allow obscure entities with alternate agendas to tamper with your content. Protect your content and make sure the back-end engine is secure. With your standard WordPress site you open yourself up to a breach. It’s the equivalent of breaking into a 1980s Corolla vs. a 2017 Range Rover. It’s no surprise which one is easier to boost.

The Feb. 7 WordPress Hack shows that protecting your content is not something to be taken lightly. In this instance, thousands of websites were totally defenseless to an SEO spam attack. Attacks like these hurt your business's reputation and search engine presence. Hacks can happen to anyone, but simple preventative precautions can be taken.

Something as simple as a Google search could be all you need to verify that a CMS has a credible track record in regards to security and data protection. Also, any CMS provider you choose should have accessible and detailed documentation outlining the security capabilities they provide customers.

Message Deliverability

Can the CMS software allow you to create your message and still have control to edit anytime, without a middleman? If you have a story to tell and have a certain way you want it designed or told, the software should allow you to do that, and edit it at the same time.

Giving authors control of content and editing capabilities without having to rely on IT or engineering assets just makes sense.

CMS software always has authorship tools, but they vary. Some are more flexible than others, but there are trade-offs. For example, you will trade DIY (do-it-yourself) tools for highly customizable and searchable content, and vice versa. If your content demands heavy brand design, be sure the system you are choosing does not require heavy customization that removes the ability to easily edit custom designed content. Some systems will require plugins or custom back-end code to meet specific presentation requirements. 

Do your homework and ask for a demo showing how CMS edits complicate content. As with buying a car, taking a CMS out for a test drive can reveal a lot that all of the talk won't uncover. If your content is simple, you can choose more DIY solutions without worries.

Choosing the right CMS for your company starts with a discussion about your content and department needs. By focusing on infrastructure, security and deliverability, you can avoid the roadblocks along the way.