If you’re doing business in the 21st century, having an online presence is a necessity, especially a website, and one of the biggest struggles of doing business online is building and maintaining a strong website that is user-friendly for both you and your consumers.
After all the “parts and pieces” of the structure have been identified, and your website has been designed, you have two choices: 1) hire an in-house “web master” to maintain and keep your site fresh and up-to-date; or 2) for a more cost-conscious option, include a content management system (CMS) on your shiny new site.
Luckily, content management systems (CMS) help both new and established business owners upload content and manage your website. Not only can help increase your overall search engine optimization (SEO) rankings, they can also assist in easy mobile optimization.
Each also comes with its own unique content management system features that allow for easy use by everyone from website novices to skilled web designers. Because features vary by platform, it’s important to decide what your business needs to be successful online. To help you decide which CMS is best for you, we’ve broken down the most commonly sought-after features and most popular CMS platforms.
Every website is developed using a type of code. This is where your CMS lives. Normally, a website’s code can only be modified by the owner or creator, meaning that only the CMS owner or web developer could change it. Open-source coding allows for anyone to edit the code, including you.
Open-source coding allows for unlimited customization if you have the ability to code or hire someone who does. In addition, open-source coding doesn’t require you to pay licensing fees to operate your website, which as we all know that in business, a penny saved is a penny earned. While you're inspecting your website's code and adding or modifying any CMS code, be sure that your website is mobile-friendly and coded for responsive design.
For several businesses, one of the most important content management system features of their website is an ecommerce store to not only monitor their inventory, but also for their consumers to shop online. Many CMS platforms use free or customized plug-ins, or coded software components, on their website for ecommerce, which allow visitors to an online store to add items to a shopping cart, create wish lists and buy items online.
If you operate in both the US and internationally, consider whether your ecommerce store needs the ability to install foreign currency support or other plug-in features. However, some CMS platforms, like Magneto, are specifically built for ecommerce. Magneto is one of the most popular CMS systems for ecommerce businesses, and it is used by businesses of all sizes, like Burger King, Nestle, and Zumiez.
Although open-source code allows for unlimited customization, there are other customization features to consider if you’re not a coding wiz. Most CMS platforms offer website layout templates and themes that can be bought and customized with preset options or with supplemental code. With the evergrowing small business market, many CMS systems have simplified the web design process for non-web developers and allow you to build your website with drag-and-drop features.
You should also think of the add-ons you may need on your website. CMS platforms like WordPress offer a large amount of community-contributed online plug-ins and widgets, which are third-party stand-alone applications that can be embedded into your website (like PayPal).
As a business owner, it’ important that your consumers be able to find you online. Luckily, most CMS platforms will allow you to create a custom domain name and URL for your website with a paid subscription to the platform if you don’t want to buy a domain name off of sites like GoDaddy or Google Domains.
You should also consider features such as live chats, customer support, and email. Some content management systems allow users to create domain email addresses and support 24/7 live chat customer service. Most importantly, think of your customers, and ask yourself what ways they would prefer to contact you. Your website should be built and displayed in a way that makes navigation easy and makes gather information or getting in touch with your business easier rather than harder for consumers.
Choosing the platform for you
Like most business decisions, selecting a platform ultimately depends on what content management system features your business needs. Take a look at your business' priorities and goals to assess what you need to properly express your brand and reach customers on the web. While there are hundreds of options available, most often, small businesses use an online CMS source.
Some of the most popular online CMS providers are:
- WordPress: WordPress is by far the most commonly used CMS platform. Top Ten Reviews named it the best overall CMS for 2017, and it is estimated that 60 percent of website owners using a CMS use WordPress. This CMS provides tools for every level of web design along with a mix of pre-made and third-party add-ons to customize your site. It is even used by The New Yorker, Best Buy and Xerox to host their sites.
- Squarespace: Squarespace is the website builder for small-business owners without any web design experience. It is not open-source, but it is an integrated website builder with a blogging platform and hosting abilities. Squarespace also offers a commerce platform, which allows you to build and manage your online store.
- Wix: Wix is a cloud-based website builder, which allows you to host your site on Wix’s platform or export it to another CMS after building it. It’s user-friendly builder allows you to add their own HTML code and uses drag-and-drop features to customize your website. However, Wix does not offer custom email addresses or extensive analytics.
- Drupal: Drupal is the ultimate CMS for the advanced web designer. It was named the 2017 best CMS for SEO by Top Ten Reviews and is used by The Economist, Weather.com, and Fox to host their sites. Drupal is also praised as one of the most secure open-source content management systems.
When it comes to designing your website and building an online presence, a well-designed, responsive site is a must. Consumers are spending more time online, which means you need to be established on the web and easy for them to find. A CMS makes operating your website easier, helps improve your website's user interface and allows you to truly share your brand online. Once you’ve found the right content management system features for your business, you can start promoting and connecting with consumers on the world wide web!