Tech Choices

How to Avoid Costly CMS Decisions

Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS) might be the most important technology decision your business makes in 2022.

You probably already know that your CMS will form the backbone of your business’ digital presence. A CMS will let you create, manage, modify, and publish content in a user-friendly interface without needing to change code every time you do.

The right CMS could open up a world of opportunities for your business in 2022 - empowered teams, seamless workflows, personalised experiences, high-quality security, a world of integrations and analytics…nirvana! But there are a lot (and we really do mean A LOT) of options out there, and choosing the wrong CMS is a daunting prospect.

We've seen plenty of organisations struggling with a legacy of CMS missteps, leading their digital evolution down the wrong path. They've found themselves saddled with complexity, convoluted workflows, exorbitant licence fees, and generally irritated and disengaged teams who have to deal with it all.

So how do you avoid a CMS mess of your own?

First, it’s important to recognise that the correct choice depends on your business aspirations, strategy, and not least your team. There isn’t a one size fits all solution and anyone who tells you otherwise is likely to be putting their own agenda ahead of yours. Asking for advice from people who live and breathe the CMS marketplace and deeply understand how each option will suit you is a good first step.

"There isn’t a one size fits all solution and anyone who tells you otherwise is likely to be putting their own agenda ahead of yours."

Here at Inlight, we dive deep on five key decision points when running a CMS marketplace consultations. Our CMS experts tailor the investigation and technology recommendations specific to your organisation and your needs.

Below we touch on three of these five crucial considerations:

Headless vs Traditional

If this is your first time encountering these terms don’t fret, it’s not as mediaeval as it sounds!

Headless CMSs have been gaining popularity and market share across all organisations that need more than a brochure website. But what are they?...

A headless CMS is a content management system that allows you to author content without having it coupled to a predetermined output (like web page rendering). Instead, your content is provided as data over an API.

This means the "head" relates to where your content ends up, and the "body" is where your content is stored and authored. As a result, you get to pick and choose which heads (outputs) you send your content to. It’s easy to see why that makes headless so popular in a world where a single piece of content might need to appear on websites, phones, smartwatches and even AR/VR.

But if you leave this article remembering just one highlight of what makes a headless approach so attractive it is this: the benefit of detaching your content authoring from the front-end interface, is the ability to modify or rebuild one without being forced to update the other. This can create significant time and cost savings should you choose to update your CMS in the future.

At Inlight we’ve also found that a headless approach is more compatible with modern development languages and technologies, and therefore more likely to give your business an edge in future growth and productivity.

"It’s easy to see why that makes headless so popular in a world where a single piece of content might need to appear on websites, phones, smart watches and even AR/V."

On the other hand, traditional CMSs couple the frontend (the website interface or mobile app your customers actually see and interact with) and backend together. In our experience, this can lead to slightly simpler workflows and maintenance for your team, and make authoring ‘previews’ a little easier.

Because they’ve been around longer than headless systems, they also tend to have larger communities for support.

However, the list of limitations for the traditional approach is starting to feel very long. It includes their limited flexibility and scalability, costliness to maintain as well as being generally less compatible with the ideal implementation of modern technologies like JSX/React templating.

Self Hosted vs Fully Managed

Here you’re deciding whether to manage the infrastructure and upkeep of the CMS platform yourself (self hosted), or whether you should outsource the responsibility of maintaining the overall infrastructure, performance, health and security of the platform to a third party - typically your CMS provider (fully managed).

Managed solutions are becoming increasingly popular and avoiding the ongoing maintenance and cost of hosting your own servers with the reduced IT and digital process burdens are an attractive benefit. With a managed solution you can also be confident your CMS is always up to date. Security, backups and redundancies are all taken care of so your team can focus on delivering for your customers.

If you opt for a self-hosted solution, your in-house team will be responsible for every aspect of the cloud hosting environment including security, disaster recovery, incident response and data backup measures.

Importantly though, there are circumstances where self-hosted solutions might still prove to be the right option. You’re likely to have more freedom to customise the solution and on balance, you’ll probably have a larger number of CMS options available to you if you’re happy to bear the additional costs.

Content Modelling

A content model documents the various types of content you will have for a given project and creates clarity for the teams who will need to collaborate at the different stages of the content creation process.

Even within a single CMS, you will often find yourself with a multitude of options for how to approach content modelling.

Our CMS experts at Inlight agree that an important starting point is to ensure that the CMS you are considering will allow your content authors to easily create, update and delete new pages without developer involvement. We’ve helped organisations who've been stuck with a CMS model that required developer intervention at nearly every stage of the content creation process - that’s a recipe for slow growth, constrained innovation, and will create unnecessary headaches when it comes to training and retaining content authors.

"We’ve helped organisations who’ve been stuck with a CMS model that required developer intervention at nearly every stage of the content creation process."

We also believe that you are probably best served by modelling your content using a ‘page builder’ approach where a range of content modules can be arranged flexibly over a fixed page structure by the content author.

Where to from here?

Of course, the most important element of any organisational change isn’t the technology - it’s your people. It’s about how that technology empowers and enables them. Be sure to involve your teams in the journey of deciding on a new CMS, especially those who's workflows and roles will rely on it every day.

That means making the right decision with your teams instead of for them. Do that and you’ll be halfway to succeeding already. To get you the rest of the way, Inlight’s team of experts can run a tailored CMS marketplace review just for you that won’t break the bank.

Choosing a new CMS should be an exciting time for a business to reimagine what might be possible and create positive new experiences for both your customers, and your people who serve them. So whether you’re the CEO or a technologist working hard to get buy-in from your Leadership Team, drop our friendly bunch of good humans a line below to find out how we can help.

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About the author
Patrick Carne
Co-Founder and CEO
Patrick Carne | Co-Founder and CEO

Patrick is one of the founders and CEO of Inlight. With nearly 20 years experience in the digital industry, Patrick has played various roles across technology, design, product and strategy. After growing the business for 7 years, Patrick stepped away to build a software company focussed on workforce management. Following a stint in the US, and the growth and sale of this business, Patrick returned to Inlight in 2021 to focus on digital strategy and transitioning back into the role of CEO.

Connect with Patrick on LinkedIn