You'll spend a lot of time here, so it's important to choose a CMS that's easy to use.

How to buy a credit union website (part 2): Choosing the right CMS

In our last post, “How to buy a credit union website“, we discussed how to  start figuring out what you need in a website, and we provided a simple wish list you can download. In this installment, we’ll delve deeper into how to choose the right CMS (Content Management System) underneath your site and what factors will affect your choices and capabilities.

A CMS is the “back end” of your website, where you add blog posts, update promotions, update page content, add new pages, and update the navigation. You’ll spend a lot of time here, so it’s important to choose a CMS that’s easy to use.

Of course picking the right CMS can seem an overwhelming task, so how do you tell which one is right for you?

Look at the community around the CMS.

One of the reasons we build credit union sites with WordPress* is that it’s the world’s #1 CMS by far, with billions of users and thousands of developers all over the world supporting, maintaining, and securing WordPress. With such widespread adoption, you can be confident that WordPress will continue to be secure, maintained and improved for the foreseeable future, and it’ll always be easy to find resources and information. There are other CMS projects, such as Joomla, Drupal, etc. with fairly large communities, but some of their resources are very limited or even proprietary.

Start with the “cans” (then talk about the “can’ts”).

Use the most important capabilities from your Website Wishlist to help narrow down your CMS choices, then start asking hard questions about the things they can’t do. Are any of these show-stoppers? Can they be added without custom programming? Is there a reasonable workaround? WordPress has a huge variety of available plugins, so there’s usually a way to add whatever capability you need.

Think about future expandability.

Dust off your crystal ball and think about your possible future needs. For example, if you want to add product reviews in a few years, is it as simple as a plugin or will it require expensive custom development? Can your CMS work smoothly with many different email marketing or CRM solutions (most of these offer a WordPress plugin to make integration easy)? When it’s time for a refresh and redesign in a few years, can you re-skin your current site or will you need to change platforms again?

Take a test ride to make sure you feel comfortable.

Is the interface visual, or more like updating fields in a database? Can you click on something to change it, or do you have to chase bits and pieces of content all over the place? While some website companies will give you a test site to stumble around, we prefer to use screen sharing to demonstrate how easy it is to create new pages, update and optimize content, create image or video galleries, update promotional items, update rates, write blog posts, etc.

Ask about any specific needs or pain points.

Are there any missing features in your current site driving you nuts? Have you had trouble in the past integrating your online banking login? Need the ability to manage content in more than one language, do A/B testing or custom home pages? Make sure you specifically address these issues before you make a choice.

You don’t need to be a super-geek to develop an understanding of the pros and cons of each CMS choice. You just need to think carefully about your needs and ask the right questions.

* Full disclosure: we build credit union websites using WordPress as a CMS, paired with a drag and drop page builder and responsive framework that make it easy for our clients to manage their websites.


Brian Wringer

Email this article to a friend or coworker.