A guide to choosing the right Content Management System for small businesses and NGOs

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Well Good Digital
A guide to choosing the right Content Management System for small businesses and NGOs
How to choose the right CMS for your small business or NGO? We talk through some key factors to consider and a range of great options to choose from

A CMS, short for content management system, is a software application that allows users to build and manage a website without having to code it. It enables small businesses, charities and NGOs to easily create, edit and publish their own website content without being reliant on a website developer or technical team members. You can edit existing website pages, or create new ones, such as news items or service listings.

With the vast variety of CMS options available, choosing the right one for your small business or charity requires some upfront thinking and careful consideration. Here are some factors to keep in mind, each of these will have varying levels of importance to your organisation, that you may need to weigh up.

  1. Ease of Use: One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a CMS is ease of use. Look for a platform that offers a user-friendly interface and intuitive tools for creating and editing content. This is especially crucial for organisations with limited technical expertise or resources, such as small businesses or charitable organisations.
  2. Customisation Options: Every small business or charity has unique needs and requirements when it comes to their website. You may want something super easy to use, but the trade off, may be less customisation or advanced features, which can add some complexity and greater costs to set up. Consider if the CMS you choose offers enough customisation options to tailor the website to your specific needs. This may include the ability to choose from a variety of web page templates as well as the flexibility to add custom features and functionality. Do you want to do just simple updates to text and images in most pages or the ability to select from different design templates?

    For example, the developer may build the web page so that only page text and images are editable in the CMS, but if you also wanted to say edit the footer, it may take extra time to set that up and it will add extra complexity to the CMS and more risk that someone may not edit/update it correctly to show across mobile and desktop well. If you only edit the footer one every year, it may not be worth it, keep it simple.
  3. Scalability: While your organisation may be small now, if you are planning to scale up your business or website, it's important to choose a CMS that can grow with you. Look for a platform that offers scalability, allowing you to easily add new features, pages, and functionality as your organisation expands.  If you are only ever going to have a small website with a few pages, a simpler CMS may fit the bill.
  4. Cost: Cost is always a consideration for small businesses and charities. While there are many free and open-source CMS options available, keep in mind that there may be additional costs associated with hosting, domain registration, and premium plugins or themes. Consider your budget carefully and choose a CMS that offers the best value for your money. Costs for a CMS can vary from say $50 per month right up to thousands of dollars for 'enterprise' solutions, so make sure you know what you need, and weigh up options against your budget.
  5. Support and Community: Having access to support and a vibrant community of users can be invaluable for some when using a CMS. Look for a platform that offers comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and forums where you can get help and advice from other users. If you use a common CMS or website platform, user forums and tutorials are gold for helping you and your team solve issues.
  6. Security: Security should be a top priority when choosing a CMS, especially if you'll be collecting sensitive information from users or processing online payments. Make sure the platform adheres to industry best practices for security and offers regular updates and patches to protect against vulnerabilities. If you are a small business or charity with limited budget and technical expertise, we strongly suggest using a SaaS CMS on cloud web platform where security and software updates are all done for you. These types of platforms often utilise payment gateways that are already integrated, tested and supported.

Some of the best CMS options

Based on these factors, here are a few popular CMS options that are well-suited for small businesses and charities:

  1. WordPress: WordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms in the world, known for its ease of use, flexibility, and large ecosystem of plugins and themes. It's a great choice for small businesses, charities and non profits, with options for both self-hosted and hosted solutions.
  2. Webflow: Webflow is used to create rich, interactive websites. It includes user-friendly CMS, making it easy to create and edit all web content, plus easily add new pages to a blog, news , services in a consistent format automatically. It's a good option for small businesses and charities that want a beautiful and SEO-friendly website that you can add new pages to with minimum fuss.
  3. Drupal and Silverstripe: Drupal and Silverstripe are powerful and flexible CMS that offers advanced customisation options and scalability. They are more complex to use compared to WordPress, and more costly and complex to set up, but they a good choice for organisations with more complex website requirements and some technical expertise, i.e. larger SME's and non profits.
  4. Headless CMS: Headless CMS separates the front end from the back end and stores your content separately. This is different to the more traditional CMSs outlined above. Traditional CMS platforms hold content in predefined web templates that blend content presentation with back-end structure. The advantage is a headless CMS enables you to deliver content on different channels, such as website, mobile app, ecommerce and AI. This structure makes a headless CMS flexible and approachable for businesses with heavy and variable content needs. There's many different types of headless CMS, including quite light and open source ones suitable for small business and charities. At Well Good, we often use a Headless CMS, such as Strapi, as part of a Jamstack build.
  5. Other CMS: Other CMS/web platforms that may be suitable for small businesses and charities include Squarespace and Wix that offer great templates and range of customisation options. Our thoughts are that for the cost, these are not as a great a CMS or web platform as Webflow for website design and development, unless you are building quite a simple and small website.

What if I don't use a CMS?

You don't have to use a CMS. If you don't use one, you may need to create and edit content code in a development environment or with a website code editor. Some of these offer a codeless editor but you'll find that creating content is more manual process than using a CMS, which may impact the quality of your website and require a team member with technical skills to maintain it.

Selecting a CMS for your business or NGO

In conclusion, choosing the right CMS is an important decision that can have a significant impact on the success of your small business or charity. By considering factors such as ease of use, customisation options, scalability, cost, support, and security, you can find a platform that meets your organisation's needs and helps you achieve your online goals.

There's a lot of things to weigh up and our team has helped NGOs, businesses and government agencies to affirm their digital strategy, map their requirements select the right CMS and platform for their needs. Get in touch, we're happy to provide advice as your web design and development team in Wellington.