Wait, wait, wait - what does a CMS have anything to do with a website redesign? Well, redesigning your website isn’t just a one-time project, it’s an ongoing process that’ll affect your web presence for years to come. As your web team moves through the redesign phases, you might find that a new CMS would better support your new site’s needs and structure. Some CMSs even come with built-in tools that could make the redesign and content migration process much simpler.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a new CMS for your website:

1. Understand why you’re purchasing a CMS in the first place

Your CMS should do exactly what you need it to do. No more, no less. So what problem(s) are you trying to solve? What is your current CMS lacking? Which key features are necessary?

On the flip-side, which features have you found to be a hassle? What are your big deal-breakers? Creating a

Requirements Matrix can help answer these questions and compare/contrast different CMS options. (These are also known as a CMS Features Matrix or Evaluation Matrix.)

2. Create usage scenarios

Usage scenarios describe how your team will interact with the CMS when performing their common tasks. For example, if Rebecca typically logs into the CMS and updates employee bios, how does she find the webpages to edit in the CMS? Does she use a search function within the CMS or manually scroll through? Does she rely on the CMS filtering her results by department?

What would happen if the CMS was missing the features needed in Rebecca’s usage scenario? How would it interrupt her workflow? This is a great way to test the practical use of various CMS choices based on your teams’ needs and daily workflow, especially during demos.

3. Compare open source options vs. proprietary options

Remember: free is not really free. Open source options often require customization and additional support. What might appear “free” at first may actually cost more after you discover extra plug-ins and paid features are required for the CMS to operate at the level you require. Weigh the pros/cons of each, and determine which option is the best fit for your IT infrastructure and organizational culture.

4. Focus on the needs and the abilities of the people who will be using the system

This one is simple: your CMS should be easy to use. If the user interface is too complex, it can cause users to actually not use the CMS.

5. Don’t get starry-eyed at the demo – get hands-on

During a demo, you’re seeing the product in the best possible light. The CMS you purchase shouldn’t just be the one with the best demonstration put on by the best salespeople, but the one that best meets your needs. While demos are important, they’re highly polished and done in a very controlled environment.

Escape the controlled demo environment and give your usage scenarios some play time with hands-on experience. Explore the CMS on your own and see how it performs under different conditions with different users. Still looking so starry?

6. Determine level of training and support

When the going gets tough, does your CMS keep going? Find out what support and technical resources each vendor has available if your CMS goes down, before it actually does. You don’t want to purchase a CMS and then be left scrambling with no backup or support if you can’t access it.

Even worse, you don’t want your CMS to go down and then discover the vendor package you purchased doesn’t include account-dedicated support. If your vendor offers CMS packages with varying support levels, make sure you purchase the correct one for your team’s level of expertise and needs.

7. Check references with similar organizations

If possible, go beyond the list of references provided by the CMS vendor and find someone you trust who may provide a more objective view. Have other organizations you have a working relationship with purchased the CMS? Has it been successful for them?

Many industry web professionals also have their own online forums and groups to discuss experiences with different web products and vendors, as well as turn to each other for trusted recommendations. You can easily connect with a group in your field or location via LinkedIn or Facebook.  Sometimes, finding these forums is as easy as Googling the CMS vendor name and “reviews."

8. Consider the role of web governance tools

While web governance tools are not a CMS, they want to be your CMS’s best friend. Web governance tools integrate directly with your CMS to check issues many standard CMSs can’t detect, like broken links, editorial style guide errors, accessibility, and more. They’re the bacon to your eggs, the gravy to your fries (looking at you, Toronto), the wine with your cheese…you get the idea. Check out our previous blog post “How Web Governance Supports Your Current CMS” for more examples.


Want to learn more about where your CMS fits into the website redesign process? Get started with "The 7 Phases of a Website Redesign" guide.


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