Selecting the right CMS is in many ways a fascinating process, where you make decisions that will have tremendous impact on your digital presence and productivity over the coming years. I’ve previously covered 8 CMS features customers want but never use and received several insightful comments. Interestingly, there are almost just as many CMS features that every customer need, but tend to ignore during the tool selection.

With these key features staying below the radar, customers tend to realise the real weaknesses of the CMS they selected too late. Consequently, system integrators get involved to implement missing pieces and project costs go up.

The 7 CMS features you really need

  1. Security surprisingly rarely plays any real role in CMS selection. Simple and established IT practices, such as forcing a new password every 3 months, ensuring password length and changing key user names goes either undocumented or even worse unimplemented.
  2. Authorization, in particular handling user rights is not a sexy topic and not a topic that gets much attention. SharePoint might be the one exception that proves this, but authorization really is crucially important, in particular in large or complex organisations.
  3. Backend search can be hard to demonstrate on a sales laptop with limited content on a dull sample site. Still, poor search inside the CMS is a key source of frustration among CMS users
  4. Intuitive functionality which leads to confidence that the system really works. Many ask for an easy-to-use system, but what looks easy in a sales demo, is not always intuitive for a web editor. Some products has that emotional feeling that the system really works, e.g. several Apple products, while most content management systems has a user experience that instictively makes you feel that you better not touch it.
  5. Content archiving might be partially a governance question, but in terms of an actual system feature, archiving is rarely solved in today’s Web content management systems. Most of the time, archiving features need to be custom-built and customers are surprised by how little was actually in the box.
  6. Auto-save is something you might be used to from Microsoft Office or even Google Docs. Unfortunately everything you entered into your CMS will be gone, if you too quickly close the browser window without hitting save. Since this is not a part of most systems, customers live without it and editors pull their hair whenever their work is lost.
  7. Maintenance goes beyond a support contract that you sign and pay for. What you really need is a CMS that is easy to update, easy to install patches, easy to roll on service packs and straight-forward to keep up and running.

Avoid over-complicating the process

Looking at lists like these, you may be inclined to simply keep adding onto your requirements document and asking for more features. For your next CMS selection, a better approach in my view, is to keep the tender document short, while setting time aside for actually testing the product before making the final decision. A real live test, will provide you with key insights for your implementation and enable you to save time reading through very long proposals.


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