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Choosing The Right CMS For Your Website

By Neil Kilgallon on Thursday, 15 February 2024

At ID Studio, we integrate Content Management Systems (CMS) into all websites that we design and develop. It gives our clients the freedom to ensure their website stays fresh, up-to-date and relevant.

Choosing the right CMS is an important decision that can have a significant impact on the success and scalability of your website in the future. A CMS simplifies website management by allowing you to create, edit, and publish digital content without requiring deep technical knowledge. It also plays a crucial role in your digital strategy, influencing everything from user experience to search engine optimisation (SEO). With so many CMS options available, each with its own set of features, capabilities, and limitations, it's essential to choose one that aligns with your business goals, technical abilities, and budget.

The right CMS can empower your team, streamline content workflows, make operating an eCommerce store a breeze, enhance your website's performance, and provide the flexibility to grow and adapt as your business evolves. Conversely, the wrong choice can lead to unnecessary complexity, increased costs, and hindered growth. Therefore, understanding the critical factors when selecting a CMS - such as cost, technical requirements, scalability, and specific business needs, is essential for laying a strong foundation. This decision not only affects day-to-day operations but also shapes your website's future trajectory, making it important to approach this choice with careful consideration and strategic planning.

In this article, we will leverage our extensive experience with various content management systems to provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision in choosing the right CMS for your business.

Understanding Content Management Systems (CMS)

A content management system (CMS) is a type of software that enables users to create, manage, and modify website content without requiring technical expertise. Essentially, a CMS provides a user-friendly interface that allows you to build and manage the structure of your site, arrange content visually, and keep track of all the pages on your website.

Depending on the nature of your website, a CMS can offer a range of additional features. For instance, if you run an eCommerce store, it can manage online orders, stock control, online payment processing, on-page SEO, shipping, and other day-to-day website operations.

Different types of CMS cater to various technical preferences, budget constraints, and business requirements. These can be broadly categorised into three main types:

  1. Open-Source CMS: These platforms are free, can be modified, and are supported by a community of developers who continuously work to improve them. Popular open-source CMSs like WordPress and Joomla offer a wide range of customisation options through their open-source code base, themes and plugins, making them popular with businesses that are looking to tailor the website to their specific look and needs. However, optimising and securing these platforms requires ongoing technical support and maintenance.

    If you are interested, ID Studio wrote a separate article covering the pros and cons of using WordPress on your website.

    If you are looking for a system that offers complete design and customisation freedom along with a higher level of security when compared to other open-source systems, you can opt for ProcessWire.
  2. Proprietary CMS: Proprietary or closed-source CMS platforms are created by a company as a commercial product. To use this type of CMS, users are required to pay licensing fees and sometimes subscription costs that can run into the tens of thousands. These systems usually provide dedicated support and a user-friendly experience but may not offer the same level of customisation and flexibility found in open-source solutions because you generally do not get the freedom to access the source code. Examples of proprietary CMS platforms include Hubspot, Salesforce Experience Cloud, Adobe Experience Manager, Umbraco, and Kentico.
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS) CMS: SaaS CMS platforms are hosted on the cloud and are available through a subscription model. This way, businesses don't have to worry about hosting, security and updates as the provider takes care of them. SaaS CMSs like Wix, Squarespace and Shopify (for eCommerce) are famous for their user-friendliness, making them a great option for businesses looking for a quick and easy solution. However, there are a few downsides to using a SaaS platform, which include not owning the website, limitations on the functionality offered by the system, and a lack of design freedom to customise the website's look and feel according to your brand.

Another option that doesn't fall into any of the above three categories is bespoke CMS development using Laravel or another development framework. Laravel is not a content management system per se but a PHP framework that allows us to build extremely powerful and bespoke content management systems. It literally has no boundaries, so there are no restrictions in terms of the platform we create.

Everything is built from the ground up to your precise design and functional requirements. The only real downside of going down this route is the time and cost it takes to build the platform. Having said that, with the upfront cost and license fees associated with commercial CMS, Laravel might seem reasonable.

Different businesses have different needs, and that's why there are so many different types of CMS available. From open-source platforms that offer high levels of customisation and control to SaaS solutions that are user-friendly and maintenance-free, each CMS has its distinctive features and benefits. It's important to understand these features and benefits to select the right CMS that aligns with your web development goals and business strategy.

Assessing Your Business Needs

Before you start exploring various CMS options, it's important to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your business needs. This self-reflective process ensures that the CMS you choose not only meets your current requirements but also has the potential to adapt to future growth and changes. The first step in this assessment is to identify the primary purpose and goals of your website.

Unlike many web design agencies, ID Studio has no aligence regarding the CMS you use. Our developers have worked with many different systems, and we will advise you on the best platform for your particular business needs and goals.

Identifying Your Website's Primary Purpose and Goals

Every business website has a unique purpose, whether it's to provide information, showcase a portfolio, sell products or services, or facilitate customer engagement. The primary purpose of your website should guide the functionalities you need in a CMS. For example, an eCommerce website requires a CMS with product management, shopping cart, and payment processing features, while a content-driven site might prioritise ease of publishing, content organisation, and SEO capabilities. It's important to set clear and measurable goals for your website, such as increasing sales, boosting traffic, or improving customer interaction, as this will help you choose a CMS that can effectively help achieve these objectives.

Understanding Your Content Strategy and Its Alignment with Your CMS Choice

Your content strategy outlines how you plan to use content to meet your business goals and satisfy your target audience's needs. It encompasses content creation, publication, management, and optimisation. The right CMS should not only make these processes efficient but also offer tools and features that enhance your content's impact. For example, if your strategy involves a heavy reliance on multimedia content, you'll need a CMS that supports easy integration of images, videos (as well as third-party encoding and streaming services like Vimeo Pro), and audio. Similarly, if regular content updates and a dynamic content calendar are part of your strategy, look for a CMS with intuitive content scheduling and workflow management features. Understanding your content strategy will allow you to choose a CMS that supports your vision rather than forcing your strategy to fit within the constraints of an ill-suited platform.

Cost Considerations

The costs of different Content Management Systems can vary greatly, and it is important to choose one that fits both your budgetary limits and long-term investment goals. You should have a clear understanding of the financial implications of each platform, from the initial setup expenses to ongoing licensing fees. This understanding should also include any hidden and ongoing costs that could affect your total cost of ownership.

Initial Setup Costs and Long-Term Investment

The cost of setting up a CMS can differ considerably, depending on the requirements of your website and the platform you select. If you go for a custom-designed website on an open-source CMS, the initial expenses may include web design, development, and hosting. Conversely, SaaS CMS platforms usually offer themes that are already developed, which may reduce upfront expenses but necessitate ongoing licensing investment.

Comparison of Free vs. Paid CMS Platforms

Free CMS platforms, such as WordPress, offer the core system without charge, potentially lowering the entry barrier for smaller businesses and startups. However, these platforms often require additional investment in design, plugins, and possibly custom development to tailor the site to your needs. Paid CMS platforms, meanwhile, might offer more out-of-the-box features and dedicated support, which could justify their subscription or licensing fees by saving time and resources initially.

Hidden Costs to Watch Out for

When budgeting for a CMS, you need to account for hidden costs that can accumulate over time. These can include:

  • Extensions and Plugins: While the base CMS might be free or offered at a fixed rate, premium features often require paid extensions, plugins or additional licensing fees.
  • Custom Development: Customising a CMS to fit specific needs might require hiring developers, which can increase costs.
  • Updates and Maintenance: Regular updates are essential for security and functionality but may require developer assistance, especially for major version upgrades. Some CMS like WordPress are more prone to cyber-attacks and need regular ongoing support and maintenance.
  • Training and Support: Ensuring your team can effectively use the CMS might involve training sessions or ongoing support services, which could incur additional costs.

By carefully evaluating these cost considerations - initial and long-term investments, the differences between free and paid platforms, and potential hidden costs, you can better align your CMS choice with your budget and website objectives.

Technical Requirements and Ease of Use

When choosing a Content Management System (CMS) for your business, it's important to balance technical requirements and ease of use. This balance affects not only the initial deployment of your website but also its day-to-day management and scalability.

Technical Skill Requirements for Managing the CMS

Different CMS platforms come with varying levels of complexity and technical demands. Some systems might require programming knowledge for customisation and maintenance, whereas others are designed with drag-and-drop interfaces that require minimal technical know-how. Whilst drag-and-drop sounds good, it has limitations and can produce bloated code, so quick and easy is not always best.

Assessing the technical proficiency of your team is important when choosing a CMS that they can manage effectively, reducing reliance on IT support for everyday content updates.

The Ease of Use for Non-Technical Team Members

Ease of use is an important consideration, especially for teams with limited technical expertise. A CMS that features a user-friendly, intuitive interface allows non-technical team members to contribute to the website's content creation, management, and publishing processes. This not only speeds up content updates but also encourages a more collaborative and dynamic approach to maintaining your website.

Scalability and Flexibility

The scalability and flexibility of a CMS determine not only its ability to handle growing amounts of traffic and content over time but also how well it can accommodate new business needs, functionalities, and integrations as your business evolves. These factors are important in ensuring that you can expand without being hamstrung by technical limitations or requiring a complete platform overhaul down the line.

Scalability: How Well the CMS Can Grow with Your Business

Scalability involves more than just handling increased traffic; it also encompasses the CMS's capability to manage a growing volume of content, users, and complex data interactions without compromising performance. A scalable CMS ensures that as your business expands, your website can maintain, or even improve, its speed, reliability, and user experience.

Flexibility: Adding New Features or Integrating with Other Systems

As your business strategy changes and evolves, you may need to add new features like eCommerce capabilities, social media integrations, or customer relationship management (CRM) tools. A flexible CMS can provide the foundation to seamlessly add these features, either through built-in functionality, plugins, or third-party integrations. This adaptability also extends to the CMS's ability to integrate with other systems, such as marketing automation tools or analytics platforms, ensuring an efficient all-in-one platform.

Choosing a scalable and flexible CMS means investing in a platform that can support your business's growth and adapt to changing business goals and strategies without migrating to a new system.

Security Features

Cyber Security is becoming more important, making it a critical factor to consider when choosing a content management system for your business. The ideal CMS should not only come equipped with robust built-in security features but also offer straightforward options for enhancing security measures as needed. This focus on security ensures that your website can safeguard sensitive data against cyber threats, such as hacking, data breaches, and malware, thereby protecting your business's reputation and your customers' trust.

Certain CMS are more prone to potential cyber-attacks (here's looking at you, WordPress). If you decide to go with one of these platforms, you must allocate ongoing resources to ensure that the system is constantly updated and patched. A web design agency like ID Studio can help ensure your WordPress CMS is monitored and patched on an ongoing basis.

Realising the increase in threats and the importance of security, ID Studio has recently created a new cyber security division within the company to provide enhanced cybersecurity-related services to our clients. Additional details will be published on our website shortly.

Built-in Security Measures

A strong CMS foundation starts with comprehensive built-in security measures. These can include features such as advanced user authentication, automatic encryption of sensitive data, protection against SQL injection attacks, and cross-site scripting (XSS) defences. The presence of these features out of the box provides a solid baseline of security, ensuring that the platform is equipped to handle common vulnerabilities without requiring immediate additional intervention.

Ease of Implementing Additional Security Protocols

While built-in features form the core of a CMS's security posture, the threat landscape is always evolving, necessitating the ability to implement additional security protocols easily.

This might involve integrating third-party security plugins, enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) for user logins, or setting up web application firewalls (WAFs). A CMS that allows for the easy installation of these layers of security ensures that your website can adapt to new threats as they emerge, maintaining a strong defence against potential attacks.

Regular Updates and Patches

The ongoing maintenance of a CMS's security involves regular updates and patches released by the CMS provider or community. These updates address newly discovered vulnerabilities and ensure that the system remains protected against the latest threats. A CMS that offers automatic updates, or at least makes the process of applying updates straightforward, significantly reduces the risk of security breaches by ensuring that your site is always running the most secure version of the software.

SEO and Marketing Tools

The ability of a CMS to support strong Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and integrate seamlessly with various marketing tools is essential. A CMS that comes equipped with built-in SEO features and offers compatibility with SEO plugins can significantly enhance your website's visibility and ranking on search engines.

Built-in SEO Features and Compatibility with SEO Plugins

Effective SEO involves many different factors, from site speed and mobile responsiveness to heading tags and structured data. A CMS with built-in SEO capabilities ensures that your site is optimised for search engines out of the box. Features like customisable URL structures, automatic sitemap generation, and easy meta-tag editing are critical in enhancing your site's SEO. Additionally, the ability to extend these capabilities through SEO plugins or extensions allows for further optimisation tailored to your specific needs.

Marketing Tools Integration

Digital marketing encompasses email campaigns, social media engagement, and more. A CMS that facilitates the integration of these marketing tools can streamline your marketing efforts, making it easier to create a cohesive online presence. Integration capabilities allow for the automatic sharing of content across platforms, the use of email marketing software to capture leads directly from your site, and the analysis of user engagement through integrated analytics tools. This interconnected approach enables a more efficient and effective digital marketing strategy, driving traffic back to your site and increasing conversion rates.

Customisation and Design Options

With design trends and branding strategies frequently changing, a CMS that allows for easy updates and redesigns without overhauling the entire site is a major benefit. This flexibility means that you can refresh your website's design, implement new features, or rebrand completely without starting from scratch. Such adaptability is important for keeping your website up-to-date with the latest design trends and ensuring that your online presence evolves with your brand.

Performance and Speed

Website performance and loading speed are factors that directly impact user experience and SEO, making them essential considerations when selecting a CMS.

How the CMS Handles Website Performance and Loading Speed

The efficiency of a CMS in handling website performance hinges on its ability to manage resources, optimise content, and minimise load times. Features such as automatic image compression, efficient code rendering, and caching capabilities are integral to maintaining high-speed website performance. A well-designed CMS with performance in mind should also be optimised for mobile devices, ensuring that your site loads quickly across all platforms and devices. This is particularly important given the increasing use of mobile internet.

Impact on User Experience and SEO

The speed at which your website loads has a profound effect on user experience. Websites that load quickly tend to retain visitors longer, reducing bounce rates and encouraging engagement with your content. This positive user experience signals to search engines that your site is valuable, thereby improving your SEO rankings. Conversely, slow-loading websites can frustrate users, leading to higher bounce rates and negatively affecting your site's search engine performance.

Search engines like Google explicitly include page speed as a ranking factor in their algorithms. This means that your site's loading speed not only affects the immediate experience of your visitors but also determines your visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), impacting your ability to attract new visitors.

Vendor Support and Community

The availability and quality of support from your Content Management System (CMS) vendor and its user community can significantly influence your website's success. A CMS backed by reliable vendor support and an active, supportive community ensures that you have the resources and collective knowledge needed to overcome challenges, optimise your site, and stay up-to-date.

Availability of Vendor Support, Documentation, and Training Materials

Vendor support plays a crucial role in helping users navigate the CMS effectively. It encompasses a wide range of resources, from troubleshooting technical issues to implementing advanced features. This support comes in various forms, including direct customer service, comprehensive documentation, and detailed training materials. Having access to responsive and knowledgeable support can minimise downtime and streamline website management. With reliable support in place, you can focus on content and strategy rather than getting caught up in technical obstacles.

Documentation and training materials serve as resources for users at all levels of expertise, offering step-by-step guides, best practices, and tips for making the most of the CMS's features. These resources facilitate a smoother onboarding process for new users and also support ongoing education and skill development for more experienced team members.

Strength and Activity of the CMS Community for Advice and Troubleshooting

In addition to official support channels, a thriving and engaged user community is a valuable asset for CMS users. These communities, often found on online forums, social media groups, or dedicated platforms, provide a space for users to share their experiences, offer solutions, and exchange helpful tips. The collective knowledge and expertise of an active community can be especially beneficial when it comes to solving unique challenges, discovering innovative ways to use the CMS, and staying up-to-date with updates and best practices.

Furthermore, an active community contributes to the development of a diverse ecosystem of plugins, themes, and extensions, which further enhances the functionality and flexibility of the CMS.


In summary, when evaluating a Content Management System, it is essential to consider its integration capabilities, customisation and design options, performance and speed, along with the vendor support and community engagement available. These facets collectively define the efficacy of your CMS and its alignment with your digital marketing strategy, enhancing your brand's online presence.

Choose a CMS with the foresight of scalability, acknowledging that it is an investment not just for the immediate needs but also for the future growth of your business. It is the building block upon which your website will expand, adapting to new trends and technological advancements.

The right CMS will facilitate seamless user experiences and higher SEO rankings while giving your team the confidence to innovate and adapt. Remember, the choices you make now will resonate as your brand expands later on. As such, choose a CMS that embodies both your current objectives and future objectives, ensuring lasting results now and later on.