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Choosing content management software 

Photo: Millist CMSi valida – Riho Pihelpuu
Photo: Millist CMSi valida – Riho Pihelpuu

Understanding the needs of a business is more important than understanding technology when choosing content management software.

Interview with Riho Pihelpuu, CEO of ADM Interactive: How have content management systems changed over the last few years? What are the trends? How important is the hosting location of a page? Why do users get lost even on the best and biggest websites? How frequently should a site be updated?

Riho has been an active player on the digital landscape for over 18 years and in that time he’s learned all about its nooks and crannies – from writing code to managing international digital projects.

On 1 – 2 of November, the Best Internet conference will be held in Tallinn, where Riho Pihelpuu, the CEO of ADM Interactive, will be speaking about content management software, why it’s important, and how to choose a suitable system. 

How have content management systems (CMS) changed over the last few years? What are the trends?

There are several important trends here. Firstly, specialization has happened, and several certain niches have been found – for example, Drupal CMS is applied in projects with more complex and extensive content management requirements. WordPress has also taken steps forward – mainly in combinations where WordPress is taking care of content management and specialized solutions that need to be added are being developed separately. And finally – for the simplest sites where standard solutions are sufficient, SaaS solutions are being more widely used.

How this all came to be is what I’ll be addressing in more detail at the Best Internet conference.

Estonia is pretty much keeping pace with the rest of the world and the changes are similar. I could maybe point out that Joomla is fading away and practically no new projects are being started on that platform.

What are the most important things to keep in mind when a company is choosing a CMS?

The first thing is to start by analysing the needs of the users and the company’s own business processes and project where you want to be with this solution after, say, three years. It must be done with a sense of perspective and an understanding that an organisation’s home online should, on average, get a major renovation every 3-5 years. When it’s in place, then you can get a sense of what functionality is actually needed and which CMS will best correspond to your needs. Certainly, there’s no point in starting by comparing CMS’s side by side with all their bells and whistles and then choosing based on which one has more.

Who are the people that should be involved in that selection process?

Everyone who will be working with the CMS on a regular basis should be involved. Depending on the size and structure of the organization, that may be the people in charge of content creation and solution development, for example, or those responsible for ordering those services, but also system admins or others who are responsible for IT solutions. Certainly, it’s important to involve customer service, marketing, or production managers, or the person responsible for customer experience and the customer’s viewpoint.

How important is the budget when choosing a CMS and what needs to be factored into its planning?

The budget is always important, but when choosing a CMS, the costs need to be viewed from a wider perspective than just the software itself. Content creation, web management, integration with existing solutions, all of these are important aspects. Instead of just the present cost of the development, one should take the long-term view and calculate the TCO (total cost of ownership), or what the total cost would be over the course of 3-5 years – development, implementation, management, updating, uploading content, infrastructure changes, etc. That can help determine the potential profitability.

The budget can also be affected by the use of an existing template, or if a UX-optimised option is ordered to meet exactly specific business or customer needs, or if standard solutions can be applied. And finally, costs are also impacted by how quickly the solution needs to be presented.

If a more economical solution is needed, then I would suggest choosing a standard CMS and to make the choice with a sense of perspective. It’s useful to consider that generally needs, as well as opportunities, increase over time, and a CMS can always be supplemented in the future.

Regardless of the budget, one should always try to understand what type of project and investment are in play, meaning, will the investment in web management pay for itself directly, or will money be saved on other processes because of it.

You mentioned the importance of TCO in planning the budget. How do you suggest taking that into account?

In the case of a website, you should budget for the total cost over a period of 3-5 years of analysis, initial development, essential IT infrastructure and its maintenance, content creation, content management and editing, entry and website updating.

How important is the hosting of a website?

Excluding specific peculiarities, hosting plays no major direct role from the standpoint of a CMS. It’s a little different with SaaS (Software as a Service) CMS-s, where the platform is already mostly associated with hosting, but in general all hosting solutions can be set up or chosen according to the CMS requirements.

Is CMS connected with SEO (search engine optimization), and if so, how?

Of course, a CMS should support the SEO solutions that one wants to use, but in general all the most common CMS platforms include the necessary solutions. Even if they’re not in the standard package, they can be added as modules or configured when setting up the CMS.

There are so many different content management systems. Is there one that you would most highly recommend based on your own experience?

I really couldn’t give that kind of recommendation, because it all depends on the needs and opportunities of the business and how the solution would work for them.

When the budget is set and the CMS has been chosen, then upon what basis do you choose whether the company should deal with the CMS themselves or hire a third party?

Well, again that depends on the in-house processes, existing development team, functionality, and capacities.

You should consider doing it yourself if the web environment being created is one of the core solutions of the company and the capacity is such that it could provide consistent work for 5-10 people.

But it can also be that larger developments are ordered in and the maintenance and upgrades are handled in-house. Outsourcing is suitable when, for example, there is a development cycle with certain stages, and the company’s own team can’t make all the work happen quickly enough, but at the same time there wouldn’t be enough work for a larger team all year round.

In what sort of situation would you recommend a tailor-made solution rather than purchasing a CMS?

Generally, when there are very specific functionality demands and when the CMS is only of marginal importance to the overall web solution. But this is different with every client, because the specifics of business and each customer’s needs vary.

But why are users still getting lost even on the biggest and best websites? Why aren’t websites made so that people can just write what they need into the search bar and it pops right up? In other words, isn’t it possible to make like really convenient websites?

There are always different limitations and x-factors to consider when creating a website. So, for instance, there will be things that can’t be made differently or better because the web development budget didn’t allow for it or there just wasn’t enough time to create a better solution. And then there are the wishes and preferences of the users, which tend to be diverse rather than homogenous. All these aspects have to be balanced together to create the best user experience.

Finding the optimal middle ground can sometimes be pretty complicated.

And by the way, it’s often not even a question of the design of a website or content management platform, but rather when a website is trying to create a one-to-one reflection of the internal structure and services of the company, which frequently doesn’t match the users’ expectations or understandings of the given product and/or services.

How frequently should a website be updated?

As a rule of thumb, I can say that a website should be updated every 3-5 years. At the same time, of course, small changes should be made all the time so that the website is keeping pace with the development of the company, the market, and the customers.

The presentation of the CEO of ADM Interactive, Riho Pihelpuu, on the topic of which CMS (content management system) to choose, from November 1st, 2018 at Estonia’s annual digital marketing conference Best Internet, can be found here.

WordPress? Joomla? Flow? Creating a unique tailor-made platform? Which are the simplest from a web management standpoint (so that moving forward someone from within the organization can add information instead of always having to turn to the developer)? Comparison of different options.

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