Marketers historically have a love/hate relationship with technology. That’s changing as the lines separating the two disciplines continue to blur. These days, it’s often the marketers who are championing what’s new and next.
Automated capabilities now account for a significant component of the marketing function, and no-code interfaces that hide complexities behind the scenes are empowering marketers with a high degree of ownership over updates and ongoing maintenance of their sites.
Even though new technological capabilities are well within the comfort zones of a good portion of the digital natives and seasoned veterans who hold marketing roles, big choices and major technology challenges call for more strategic wrangling than ever before. Never is this more true than when choosing a platform for a website.
Solid Expertise and Advocacy
Planning ahead for growth means never having to say, “I’m sorry I chose that CMS,” but too often, that’s what happens without adequate planning.
Our advice for the Marketing Director who might find himself or herself in a turf battle or two with IT, while balancing multiple demands from sales, C-level execs, and vendors touting the latest and greatest: seek out solid support. A digital agency that offers perspective relative to various options, lends insight based upon what it is you are trying to accomplish, and helps to position you for growth, can serve as your greatest source of advocacy and expertise.
In a recent webinar entitled, Prepping for a Website Redesign: Why Good Marketing Teams Care about Technology, we looked at the current Content Management System (CMS) landscape, shared our thoughts on available options, and recommended some approaches to help Marketing Directors to get on a path to identify optimal solutions.
New World of CMS Options
The good news for marketing teams is that managing and updating a website no longer requires coding expertise. Streamlined and easy-to-learn CMS interfaces allow for updates to be completed quickly without the help of a developer. Getting to the point though, of confidently selecting an easy to manage CMS that works for your team, your organization, and your audience can feel overwhelming.
There are currently more than 500 Content Management Systems from which to choose. The global CMS market was globally valued at $36 billion dollars in 2018, and by 2026 it’s projected to reach nearly $124 billion.
Sorting through the options can involve a lot of research in order to:
- Recognize common pitfalls and how to avoid them,
- Understand sources of security breaches,
- Steer clear of vendor lock-in,
- Build in the flexibility to keep up with changing technology, and
- A lot more.
In the early CMS days you had to be familiar with all the technologies you used. Today’s CMS options tend to have such sophisticated interfaces that the technology is tucked away on the back end. It’s still there though and it matters for a lot of reasons. Among them is the fact that the codebase needs to be understandable and popular enough to be able to easily find developers who can work in them.
Another big factor that needs to be taken into account is the ability to integrate with various business applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning tools and Customer Relationship Management systems.
Spectrum of Simplicity and Scalability: Finding the Sweet Spot
Avoiding complexity is an understandable goal, but if the platform you choose is too simple, chances are you won’t find it to be flexible or scalable enough to meet your needs. This is the case for many SaaS website builders such as WIX and Shopify. These types of platforms can be ideal for hobbyists and those who require a very simple web presence. These types of CMS platforms can be very easy to set up, but also very difficult to customize and grow with.
On the other end of the spectrum is a platform that offers a high degree of flexibility and scalability for whatever levels of customization you seek. Some agencies suggest the custom build of a CMS to your exact specifications. This can sound good initially, but the tradeoff is a lot of complexity. The ongoing maintenance and updating of these types of sites is often limited to the people who built it.
We had a client reach out to us because they found themselves stuck with a little-known CMS for which they were never given admin login credentials, and the vendor that developed it was no longer in business. That’s vendor lock-in at its worst.
The objective is to find the sweet spot of a platform that is flexible enough to do everything you need it to do, along with a technology that is widely used and can be easily maintained.
It’s a decision that needs to be considered carefully, since you are building a house you will have to live in for potentially quite a while.
Multi-Faceted Focus on Security
Security, of course, is a huge factor in the CMS selection process. The platform and extensions you pick, the patching cadence, and how frequently you update them, all have an impact on security.
At Solid Digital we often use WordPress, which we believe is a highly secure option. The security of the complex, open source codebase is consistently enhanced by the number of people using, testing, and working on it.
Another security factor is the maturity of the WordPress platform itself. Hacking activity tends to peak during growth phases, and as such, reliability increases as vulnerabilities are addressed and fixed over time.
That said, WordPress site owners need to realize the importance of keeping their sites up to date. We sometimes get requests to fix a WordPress site that has been hacked and invariably what’s at issue is that either the Plugins or the WordPress core site has fallen behind current releases.
Two other critical security factors are passwords and hosting. Weak passwords create unnecessary vulnerabilities. As far as hosting: most, but not all, commercial hosting providers are reliable. We often use WP Engine for reasons that include a strong prioritization on security.
Technology Choices Driven by Objectives
Despite my emphasis on technology, I am not suggesting that the optimal approach for building a website is an overriding emphasis on the platform itself and the associated technologies. A far more effective approach is to first decide what you need to accomplish and where you want to go and then let that guide you toward the right technologies.
Some examples of desired outcomes include:
- An easy to manage CMS,
- Low cost of maintenance,
- Control over content updates and publishing new content, or
- The ability to tweak styling as needed.
How much ownership you want over your website will be a significant factor in the technologies that you select to integrate into it. It makes a difference whether you are looking to completely outsource the creation, maintenance, and content management versus a preference for maintaining closer control. Most of our clients desire a high level of ownership, and they want to be able to control what happens with their own websites. This seems reasonable to us, and a WordPress page builder called Elementor has proven to be very successful in enabling us to turn over to our clients the keys to their website, once the design is completed.
Finally, last but certainly not least, the scope and complexity of websites these days means that you will have many interactions over a long period of time with the agency that designs and develops your website. Ideally, that same agency will also help you maintain the website. A trusting and enjoyable working relationship matters a lot, and we recommend you view it as an important criteria that’s near the top of the list.