So… the web site’s software is failing or being decommissioned and needs replaced?
Yes, this is an issue, although perhaps less than it has been in the past. A lot of the chaff in the content management software field, at least for now, has been cleared.
Still, if you have to move on, this is a BIG decision for the website.
There are only a handful of worthy, sturdy, market-proven content management software packages (CMS) out there that are not required to include the software vendor’s hosting, and then another handful of software-as-a-service content management systems that you have to buy both the software and the hosting from the same provider.
WordPress and Drupal are examples of the former; Wild Apricot and Wix are examples of the latter. (Note: Wix actually states they really aren’t a true CMS, but for marketplace reasons, that is a difference without a distinction.)
So there are a lot of variables you need to consider about content management software. Let me start with a list:
- Community of Users Resources
- Ease of Use
These three are related but not the same for you as the web site’s leader.
Popularity – is the CMS popular in the marketplace, holding a nice sized share?
WordPress is the leader here, and it scores highly in all three of these areas. The reason it is popular? Cost, ease of use, length of time in the marketplace, access to expertise – and an ever growing base of potential employees that have used it in the past. It is MUCH easier to find a potential employee with experience in using WordPress than any other CMS.
And there are lots of communities of WordPress users out there for resources. There are WordCamps, there are WordPress Meetups, there are social media groups dedicated to WordPress. Chances are high that your locality has some sort of WordPress group. There are online resources all over the place for help. It is truly a community. Drupal and Wild Apricot and other software packages have online (and sometimes offline) communities as well, but for sheer volume, WordPress seems by far to have the most.
On Ease of Use – Wix is growing, and it seems to be because of the ease of use, particularly initial setup. WordPress is fairly easy to use as an editor, although for setup most may consider hiring a designer or using WordPress.com for fixed hosting and themes.
There is an issue with ease of use, though…
- Development History
So, how do you keep evolving and expanding software while retaining the ease of use? How do you maximize web site customization for what it can do, while keeping it really simple for anyone to do that?
You have to find a balance. The more complicated a web site needs to be, the likelihood increases that it will also become more customized for how it can be worked within. If the functions of the web site need to be locked down to tighter specifics, so does the process of managing the content.
This is where you can see a slower roll coming from the software-as-a-service content management systems. The reason why they provide the hosting is to limit how things are done on their servers, which is going to limit what you can do with the web site. If you want a five section brochure site, fine. If you want a shopping cart to sell single items, fine. If you want to sell online subscriptions with different starting and ending dates for a variety of services through the same subscriber’s account, that’s probably too complicated at this point. Anything “outside the box” is probably not something you’re going to be able to do early on with a software-as-a-service CMS.
You can refer to the community of users to see if you can see how quickly any of these CMS evolve – basically their development history. You may find those with a slower approach to changing frustrating in the future.
- Revenue Picture
This is hard to know, to be honest. But the history of Content Management Software is littered with packages that died because they didn’t make enough sales. (We know, we tried to build one in the 1990s.) Established CMS that are not popular enough within a market segment are destined to be acquired by somebody else eventually. We’ve seen software that had to rely on their revenue alone to spend for development of the software at too early of a point, and the market evolved quicker than they did, their software was seen as too dated looking, and eventually they were bought by another company. There’s a fine line between paying too much for software and paying too little. You, as a buyer, actually want to be slight overpaying if doing either, because you are investing time and effort to make it work that you won’t get back if the software dies due to underfunding.
- Public Discussion of Future of Software
Are there forums for discussion of the software’s status today and future tomorrow? Absolutely check these out, get a sense of the marketplace comfort level with where the software is going.
All these things actually boil down to these kinds of questions for your organization about the web software you plan to invest your organization into…
- Is it easy to use?
- Is it easy to learn? Does it come with training options?
- Is it easy to find people versed in the software if we need to hire at some point?
- Does it provide the capabilities for expansion and evolution as your organization does more and the Web continues to evolve?
- Will this software be around 5 years from now?
So, in many of these cases, bigger and more popular are more likely to provide a yes answer than smaller and less popular. There are market reasons telling you why.