5 pitfalls when changing CMSVegard Ottervig on
Here are common mistakes and disadvantages that occur when organisations change their content management systems.
Changing the CMS of your organisation is not like changing a mobile phone or choosing a new work attire—it’s much more fundamental than that. A CMS is the engine behind your digital experiences, it impacts the channels where you interact with your audience or customers, and it is a daily tool for web editors. In addition, you will have to live with the solution for several years, given the cost and resources gone into implementing it.
So, changing CMS is no task to be treated lightly. Because the stakes are so high and the potential problems can be business disruptive, it is worth considering common pitfalls and mistakes organisations encounter when changing their CMS.
It is also handy to have a checklist for choosing the right CMS in the first place:
1. Too complex
It is easy to be blinded by big words and a fancy demonstration of a new, potential CMS. “Look at all these advanced features! Look at the spectacular websites you can make with our tool!” But it is equally easy to forget that web editors and content creators are supposed to work with this tool every day.
The user experience of a CMS is more important than you think. It doesn’t matter how many advanced functions it can offer if the regular users don’t know how to use them, or if they are too tedious to use on a daily basis. Make sure to pick a CMS with a tidy overview, logical workflow, and easily accessible user support.
Also, complexity doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to non-technical users. A given solution can be so complex and taxing that even developers will struggle when implementing it. Be sure to make a thorough investigation into all the requirements and processes before making a choice.
2. Missing core features
A CMS can indeed be too complex for its own good, but there’s a flip-side—a CMS can be too simple as well. A toolbox without a hammer, screwdriver, spanner, and plier is a poor toolbox—and the same principle goes for your CMS.
As a minimal default, a new quality CMS should at least offer image handling, search functionality, custom content types, landing page editor, and previewing your content. You would be surprised how many content management systems lack one or more of these crucial features.
3. Inadequate APIs
One common pitfall with a new CMS is that it lacks crucial APIs. “API” stands for “Application Programming Interface” and is essentially a toolbox enabling different systems to communicate with each other.
For our purposes in the realm of CMS pitfalls, inadequate APIs mean that a CMS is “locked”—that it is meant for a specific, interlocked content and presentation. For instance, the new CMS only supports content on your website, within the given design templates.
A modern and flexible CMS should be a hybrid CMS, meaning that you can reuse content for other purposes than the plain, old website. Think apps, snippets on other websites, IoT, wearables, digital signage, and so on. Adequate APIs will allow your developers to deliver content across different channels, and should therefore be a priority if you are considering changing your CMS.
4. Too few resources
While finding, testing, and validating a new CMS certainly is no easy task, it's a piece of cake compared to the actual job of implementing it. Granted, none of these tasks are easy, but doing the hard work of implementation is easier said than done.
Before venturing out on an epic CMS quest, you should make sure you have access to competent developers with the right skills. Whether an internal department or an external agency, the developers should be both skilled and available in the given time frame.
5. Costly project implementation
Envisioning a budget for future endeavours is no exact science, and can be complicated by several foreseen and unforeseen factors. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but sometimes it is useful to point out the obvious: it is difficult to estimate the cost of changing CMS when you have been using an old solution for a long time.
Not knowing the exact scope and ramifications of a digital project, the best way to solve the problem is to go for an agile approach in the project management. In other words, start small and perform test cases, before scaling up gradually.
When changing CMS you will likely encounter one or more of these pitfalls. Carrying out counter-measurements at an early stage will likely mitigate cost in the form of both time and money, and will put your organisation on the path to a new and flexible CMS faster, better, and more securely.
Frequently asked questions
What is a CMS?
How does a CMS work?
A user adds information to a database through a GUI, which are fetched by template code and published as e.g. a web page.
What types of CMS exist?
How to choose a CMS?
Consider the requirements of your organisation: your audience channels, your budget, self-hosting vs. cloud, and the UX of the CMS.