Content management systems: what to consider when choosing one

Content management systems: what to consider when choosing one
Time to read: 8 minutes
Your content management system (CMS) is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your business’ website. We know the world of the CMSes and the different capabilities they come with can be kiiind of confusing, though. We work with websites and businesses of all shapes and sizes. So we know what to look for when it comes to finding the right CMS for your business, budget, and long-term goals. Let’s get into it ๐Ÿค“

What on earth is a content management system (CMS)? ๐ŸŒ

The obvious place to start is withย what a content management system (CMS) is. Your CMS is what your website is built on, where it lives, and the tool you use to edit your website or upload new content to it.

WordPress is the most popular CMS across the world, and that is for a good reason. Well, kind of. As a tool, WordPress has long been the CMS that offers the best customisation for people who don’t know how to hard-code a website (so, most of us). And over the years, the level of customisation through plugins has grown and grown.

Sidebar: if you don’t know what plugins are or what they do, this one is for you.

Times are a-changing, though, and WordPress might not be your best option.

There are loads and loads of content management systems. Magento, Drupal, Joomla, Magnolia, to name a few.

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus of WordPress, Webflow, and Shopify in this article โ€” because they’re the CMSes we would generally recommend to our clients.

Why do you need a CMS? ๐Ÿค”

Technically, you don’t. You can have a website that doesn’t live on a content management system. But, unless you know how to code (and we mean more than bolding with <b> in HTML), you need one if you want to upload content, edit existing content, upload new images, or get any data out of it.

Here’s the point of the CMS ๐Ÿ‘‡

It makes publishing content easy ๐Ÿ˜ฎโ€๐Ÿ’จ

Whether you upload blogs, photos, podcasts, or even videos to your website, a CMS is what you need to do it with ease.

With a CMS, you don’t need a web designer or developer to help you upload a blog that displays looking good and styled. It’s almost the same as writing and formatting a Word document or a Google Doc.

It saves you time when you update your website โŒš๏ธ

A new team member, a dated photo, or an update to opening hours.

It’s important for you to be able to update your own website.

A CMS makes making small changes to your website a breeze and means you can save money in the long run by not engaging a web designer or developer every time you need a change.

You can monitor how itโ€™s performing ๐Ÿ“ˆ

A good content management system makes it easy to install tracking on your website. With CMSes like WordPress, Webflow, and Shopify, you can jump into the backend, look at your dashboard, and access quick analytics.

You’ll have to set these up, but you can look at traffic, content performance, and sales all from your CMS’ dashboard.

On-page optimisation for SEO ๐Ÿ”Ž

A CMS will allow you to make all of your on-page search optimisations. From keyword tweaks and adding in internal links to setting your meta title and description โ€” using a CMS will make all of this simple.

It’s good news if you’re taking a DIY approach to your SEO. But it’s good if you’re using an agency, too. This way, you won’t lose budget in your retainer to navigating a difficult-to-edit website.

The right CMS for you will depend on what matters to your business ๐Ÿซ€

We’d love to give you a blanket answer of the key to choosing the right CMS for your business. But, like most answers in the world of business, it depends.

You’re always welcome to book a free website strategy session with our team and chat it through with a team of professionals.

Otherwise, these are the main considerations when it comes to choosing the right CMS for your business ๐Ÿ‘‡

Security ๐Ÿ”

Here, you might think, “Well, duh, of course security is important to me.”

But it can kind of be a sliding scale. Is your website’s security important because a website hack would be an inconvenience? Or does your website hold a lot of private data about your clients that would become a massively expensive legal issue if you had a security breach?

Okay, this is a kind of tricky explanation, but when it comes to WordPress, one of the best things about it is the plugins it offers. They offer almost endless options when it comes to customisation.

Plugins are generally open source โ€” meaning anyone can create, use, and edit them. This means that plugins have the capability to present vulnerabilities to your website if you’re not on top of your website updates and protection.ย 

So, the thing that makes WordPress amazing is also its biggest flaw.

Webflow, on the other hand, doesn’t use plugins, and while this can mean slightly lessย customisation, it does mean a whole lot more security. It doesn’t call for manual updates, either.

Shopify offers automatic updates, 24/7 monitoring, and fraud protection โ€” ideal for eCommerce setups.

Functionality ๐Ÿ’

What functionality do you need on your website? Online store capabilities? SEO optimisation? And how much customisation do you need? Really?

When it comes to functionality, the suite of things you can do, and the customisation available to you, WordPress is unbeatable.

The library of plugins available and WordPress’ customisation allow you to do just about anything.

Shopify’s eCommerce-specific functionality and app store make it really ideal for eCommerce businesses. Especially if you have a large amount of products. The rest of the functionality outside of eCommerce is kind of lacklustre and restricted, though.

Webflow has less customisation in its functionality, but the built-in design, SEO, and hosting functions are quite competitive.

Pricing ๐Ÿค‘

How much are you willing to spend on your website each month? Keep in mind that the cost isn’t as simple as the pricing table on the platform’s website.

Your pricing will vary if you team up with a web designer, like Excite Media. After we design and build your website, you might sign on for our ExciteCare package (for WordPress) or our Webflow plan, for… well, Webflow.

WordPress will come with the typical plan fee, but then there are ongoing costs for things like plugins, hosting, security, and maintenance.

Webflow is a lot more of a hands-off solution. It doesn’t have plugins, so they don’t need to be updated. The hosting is built in, so you don’t have to pay for that. And a lot of the typical security check-ins are redundant.

Excite Media doesn’t offer a plan or maintenance solution for Shopify, but it is similar to Webflow in its structure with built-in hosting and automatic updates.

DIY easiness ๐Ÿ”จ

Are you DIYing your website? Or leaving it with a web design agency?

If you are leaving it with an agency, how often will you need to update or change it?

These are important considerations for selecting your CMS.

WordPress, when paired with Elementor (WordPress’ page builder) isย pretty similarย to Webflow and Shopify in terms of ease of use. But this is generally once the WordPress website has been set up. So, WordPress is a good solution if you’re leaving your website build with an agency but then want the ability to update it on your own.

We generally find our clients have a small learning curve with Webflow editing, but they pick it up pretty quickly.

WordPress isn’t so straightforward but with training, clients can often pick it up.

Shopify is designed to be easy and is really simple, as long as you’re not creating any functionality outside of the theme your website is using.

Design flexibility ๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™‚๏ธ

How out-of-this-world does your website design need to be?

We think the flexibility you have in how you lay out and customise your website is pretty good across the three platforms. But it really depends on what you’re going for.

WordPress, of course, has that crazy, endless amount of functionality. So it’s extremely flexible.

Webflow is slightly more limited as it has in-built templates โ€” but there are genuinely loads of templates to choose from for your design. 

Shopify is probably the least flexible, without coding at least. You are fairly confined by the theme you choose for your Shopify website, with some slightly more rigid layouts. 

Maintenance ๐Ÿ‘ท

How much time or budget do you have available for maintenance?ย 

Webflow and Shopify are kind of a dream for maintenance.

Hosting is built-in, so there are no worries there. Updates roll out across the CMSes automatically โ€” so no need for manual updates. Security is managed, so that’s hands-off for users, too. And backups are automatic on both platforms โ€” so if anything does happen, you can easily roll your website back to the latest update.

WordPress is a bit more hands-on across all aspects of maintenance. That’s why we offer ExciteCare. Because, with WordPress, hosting is your responsibility, and so are updates, security, and backups. It’s a lot for the typical small business owner.

Are you selling stuff online? ๐Ÿ›

This is the other key piece of the content management system puzzle. Are you selling products on your website?

For a full, robust, eCommerce solution, it’s hard to look past Shopify.ย 

However, if you only have a few products โ€” it might make sense for you to choose WordPress and pair it with WooCommerce. That is, if the rest of its features (like we’ve gone through above), suit you better.

Webflow is great for eCommerce, too, but it’s not purpose-built in the same way that Shopify is. Webflow will also max out at 3,000 products.

Let's do a side-by-side comparison of the three content management systems ๐Ÿ‘ฏโ€โ™€๏ธ

We’ve created this table so you can quickly see where the different content management systems outperform each other for each criteria.
Factor WordPress Webflow Shopify
Security Depends on plugins and user management; regular updates essential. Strong built-in security, automatic updates, SSL included. Excellent security, PCI compliance, SSL, 24/7 monitoring.
Functionality Highly flexible with thousands of plugins. Advanced design capabilities, integrated CMS. Tailored for eCommerce with robust built-in features.
Pricing Free (open-source); costs for themes, plugins, hosting. Plans start at $28/month Starts at $14/month for basic sites. Starts at $42/month, scales with features.
DIY Easiness User-friendly but may require some technical skills. Intuitive visual builder, easier to use. Extremely user-friendly, designed for non-technical users.
Design Flexibility Extensive themes and plugins; high customisation. High design freedom with visual editor. Limited by templates but customisable via code.
Maintenance Requires regular updates and monitoring. Minimal maintenance with automatic updates. Minimal maintenance, Shopify handles updates.
Selling Stuff Online Great for eCommerce websites with a small amount of products WooCommerce plugin. eCommerce capabilities with integrations. Built specifically for eCommerce, great choice for online stores.
Lily and Watty

What we recommend to our clients for their CMSes ๐Ÿ’ญ

When we take on a new client for a new website, we spend a lot of time getting to understand your needs. It’s not just all of the above that we’re thinking about. We want to know what your growth plans look like, what you want to do with your website, and where you’re planning to take your business. Unfortunately, there is no straight-up answer to which CMS you should choose. It’s individual to you and your goals. The good news is that you can book a free website strategy session with our team to work out which CMS is best for your business

Need a hand choosing your CMS? Talk with our team today ๐Ÿ‘‹

We’re specialists across WordPress and Webflow. Chat with the team to find the best CMS for your business.
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