4 techy things you should know about CMS
On the lookout for a new and better CMS? Here are some technical considerations.
When choosing a CMS there are several technical aspects to consider, best left in the competent hands of your organization’s developers or IT department. But you should be aware of them, too. Here are four of them.
1. Install and upgrade wizards
Whenever you are going to install a new piece of software, you stand before two choices:
- Download, install and configure the files manually
- Do the same more or less automatically, with a so-called “wizard”
A wizard, also known as a setup assistant, is a form of program with a user interface that presents you with a sequence of dialogue boxes leading you through a series of well-defined steps. Tasks and processes that may be complex, rarely executed, or unfamiliar are usually easier to perform with the help of a wizard.
Depending on how tech-savvy your team or organization are, consider if you need a wizard for installing and, more importantly, upgrading your CMS in an easy and safe matter.
Are your digital experiences lacking? Make sure you at least have the right CMS:
Most of the time, your developers or IT department will be responsible for managing installation and upgrading your chosen CMS, but as this may not apply to every organization, it is well worth to consider this aspect when looking for a new content management system.
A wizard might also be used for other tasks than installing and upgrading your CMS. For instance, tutorials and the creation of new articles, uploading new images, etc. can be made easier with a wizard. As always, what you need is up to you, and there are no universal rules for when you should opt in for a wizard – it all depends on the context.
2. Modularity and extensibility
A great CMS should be modular by its nature—you should be able to add, remove, and change whatever element you want from the content management system (within reason).
A CMS should provide your developers with a framework—or an API to fetch content to any front-end framework—that enables you to create exactly what you want, either if it’s a website, intranet, mobile app, or a combination.
Some CMSs aimed toward people outside of the programmer environment solve the quest of modularity by providing a foundation, then opening for third-party plugins that fulfill whatever you desire. However, plugins can pose a security problem in the form that they add several new gates at your CMS stronghold—which malevolent invaders know to exploit.
An alternative to plugins are verified marketplaces, where users and developers alike can browse and install applications, libraries, and starter kits that are approved by the CMS vendor, just like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. This might prove a more secure option than third-party plugins with weaknesses that can be exploited.
Also, libraries and starter kits are meant for developers to speed up the development of your digital experiences, making it both a tailored and safe solution, as it was made “in-house.”
Whatever your choose as your CMS, make sure it’s modular friendly and that you can extend it by need, say, if your organization’s portfolio grows and you need to build upon your existing website or expand to apps.
3. Search, index, and retrieval
You might have noticed that many websites feature a search field. No surprises there, but the search function is actually an important one, as it makes it easy for both your visitors and your own team to easily find content that is not readily available in the menu.
With a search tool you should be able to decide what content shows on the result page and in what form. For instance, you can decide to display only pages and not images, PDFs and other content, or you can choose to include all content types.
Search is not only for “external” purposes like this, but also for “internal” purposes, i.e. searching in the CMS itself. When you are looking for a previously uploaded image to your article or are looking for a specific asset, the internal search will help you in your quest.
Also, a great search and database function makes it easy for your system to retrieve and use various code and content, across levels and tags.
Find out more: Elevating enterprise search with Enonic »
Indexing and retrieval are topics that are closely related to search and database. Indexes are used to quickly locate data without having to search every row in a database every time. This makes searching faster and less demanding for the system.
Retrieval is the obtaining of data from a database management system, with a structured and non-ambiguous presentation of the data. In order to retrieve the desired data the user presents a set of criteria by a query, and then the database management system selects the demanded data from the database. Retrieved data may be viewed on the screen, stored in a file, or printed. Queries are managed by query languages, such as “structured query language” (SQL).
These technical aspects of a CMS may be hard to fathom, but they are nonetheless specifications that your developers love to consider when your organization will decide for a CMS. Having a cursory knowledge about the topic is therefore an advantage for both you and your organization.
4. Service and support
Oh, that feature didn’t work as you expected? Or that nifty function that were present as late as yesterday are now nowhere to be found? Or you’ve encountered a plain, old bug in the system?
These are daily occurrences in the world of digital experiences, and they will happen to you sooner or later in your CMS, no matter the size, price, and scope of it.
The question is: Who will fix the bug? If you work for a large-scale, international enterprise, you probably have a dedicated support team somewhere that will solve your troubles, some hours or days after going through the tickets treadmill.
If you work in a small or medium-sized company, you might source in support from the vendor, an agency, or something else.
In either way, you better read the fine lines of any contract you’re supposed to enter with a CMS vendor or the like: This will tell you whether or not you can expect help from the cavalry if or when something goes wrong.
Choosing a supported or non-supported CMS is entirely up to you and your organization, but you will need to consider the pros and cons of both approaches, as well as including several other factors in your equation—like pricing, availability of the support team, functionality, and safety.
If you value a cheap and easy to manage CMS, you might steer clear of a deal that includes support and technical complexities. However, most organizations value risk mitigation and custom solutions, making support and service a must. Choose wisely together with a team of stakeholders, involving IT, legal, operations, sales, and marketing.
Whether you or your developers are looking at installation, modules, search, index and retrieval, or service and support in a CMS, always keep in mind the purpose of your organization. What are you trying to achieve, and how can these technical aspects help you reach that goal?
First published 10 October 2018, updated 5 August 2022.