A lot goes into building a new website or redesigning an existing site. You need to decide what you need it to do, how visitors will use it, how staff will use and update it, and what it will look like. You’ll also need to find ways to make sure it can be found on the web by people searching for it.
Selecting the right Content Management System (CMS) for your needs is just one step in the process, but it’s a critical one. A CMS is an important tool that enables your staff to post useful content and provide important information to your constituents. If the CMS is hard to use or staff members don’t like it, your website is more likely to slip out of date or lack useful content.
- Rushing into a system. It’s common, especially for nonprofit managers, to hear an enthusiastic testimony from a friend and to think, “We need that!” But, do you? First, think about the problems you need to solve and do your research to find out whether this system best addresses those issues or whether other systems might do a better job of helping you solve your problem. A thorough evaluation up front might take a lot of time, but website projects can get messy and expensive if you don’t think through the details at the beginning.
- Not understanding the software landscape. For better or worse, your limited experience with one or two systems sets your expectations. If your old CMS made it easy to integrate with your constituent relationship management (CRM) or design eLearning content, you might assume those are common features. And if you really liked a CMS, you might think it’s the only one that offers your favorite features. Check your assumptions and make sure you’ve reviewed a diverse range of content management systems to be sure you understand what’s available within your budget.
- Thinking bigger is better. A CMS is supposed to make it easier for non-technical staff to update your website. A big, complex CMS might enable a lot of fancy features, but do you need all those features? If your CMS is too sophisticated, your staff probably won’t be able to take advantage of those features, and they might look for workarounds that compromise your site.
- Lacking focus. Website projects can be exciting and inspire a lot of ideas, but unless someone is able to sort through the ideas and decide what matches your organization’s goals, you risk creating a Frankenstein site that tries to do too much and accomplishes very little.
- Treating selection as a tech project. Your CMS is fundamentally a communications tool. If your IT staff takes the lead on the project and doesn’t fully partner with others at your organization — especially communications staff — it’s very likely that users will find the configuration frustrating and the features you need most will be underutilized. The end result will be a website that doesn’t accomplish your organization’s goals.