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Is your Web CMS future fit for purpose?

NEWS | June 1st 2021

With the dramatic shift to online in the last year, it's more important than ever to ensure your website is front and centre for your brand, including your Content Management System.

Article by Nathan Baranowski

A website’s importance can never be overstated: serving as your ‘digital shop window’, in many cases it’s the crucial - and most important - first impression that your organisation makes on its audience. Your website should proudly, confidently and clearly explain your offering, demonstrate your expertise and communicate your purpose.

Yet the outward appearance of your website only tells half the story; what lies behind is every bit as essential to your success, if not more so. Your ability to grow, evolve and diversify your digital presence to meet the needs of your audiences - both now and in the future - is vital.

An integral part of this is the content management system (CMS) that your website relies upon, day-in and day-out. Varying widely from ‘DIY’ click-and-create website building tools to much more tailored, integrated and complex solutions, there is a huge amount of choice out there to consider. It can feel a bit overwhelming.

You may feel satisfied with what you have in place right now - if it’s not broke, why fix it, right? Yet it’s always worth looking towards the future and questioning if you have the best foundations in place for long-term digital success. Now may be exactly the right time to make a change and see exciting new digital possibilities – especially given the big shifts online in this past year. What might have been fit for purpose at the start of 2020 may now benefit from a forward thinking review to ensure it is future proof.


Why choose a new CMS system?


A great CMS can drive your business forward; an outdated CMS can not only slow down progress but can actually send your organisation in a backward direction. Far too many commercial businesses and charities have struggled for far too long with having the wrong CMS in place for them: lacking in rich functionality and tricky to use, more often than not these simply aren’t designed for everyday users to easily wrap their heads around. This was by design.

Historically, web content management systems were ‘locked down’ to a large degree by developers. The control that a website user would have over the site’s content tended to be pretty limited and making changes to templates or the overall look and feel of a site could often end up being both a costly and time-consuming process.
It was far from ideal, on pretty much every level.

Yet that’s not the world that we are living in anymore; far from it. WordPress made, and continues to make, a big impact as the market-leading CMS of choice for many, while ‘out of the box’ DIY creative solutions such as Wix and Squarespace have swiftly gained market share, in large part due to the speed and simplicity that they offer to users that need a good-looking site, quickly.

All of these have their limits, however: with WordPress, especially, users are very reliant on both plug-ins and developer updates, meaning that a site can end up becoming out of date quickly.
That’s why, for any organisation that is truly looking for a long-term digital solution with the potential to keep evolving, platforms that offer more versatility and flexibility (such as the leading Open Source ASP.NET CMS Umbraco) tend to be favoured.


What should I look for in a new CMS?


Far too many organisations are willing to ‘make do’ digitally, settling for an imperfect option that never quite fulfils their needs or allows their true potential to be reached.

Yet time and again, we have conversations with organisations who are frustrated by their CMS: by its interface, its lack of functionality and its inability to be truly flexible.

Understanding your digital ambitions is the first step to take in order to understand where you wish to go - and the tools needed to take you there. If your business offering is simple and your audiences aren’t heavily reliant on you digitally, then the likes of WordPress, Wix et al may well be fit for purpose - they offer plenty of creative and accessible themes, have large support communities behind them, and boast a host of invaluable plug-ins via vast marketplaces.

Yet if you have bigger ambitions for the future and see digital playing a pivotal role in your growth plans, then a creative ‘blank canvas’ such as that provided by Umbraco can allow you to go much further.

Growing in popularity with more than 500,000 active members in its community, the Umbraco platform is now being used effectively by organisations both big and small.

Westminster Abbey witnessed huge increases in engagement levels with online ticket sales increasing by 60% after making the move, while mental health charity YoungMinds’ total page visits jumped by 20% and administration time was halved after making the decision to replace its old proprietary system with a new CMS.

Much closer to home, Cerebral Palsy Cymru saw an overall 120% increase in online donations and a 25% uplift in new regular donors after embracing a new Umbraco website that placed the focus on effective fundraising and client referral journeys.

And Wiltshire Air Ambulance focus on finding new ways to connect and collaborate with donors and through understanding their digital journey led them to an improved Umbraco 8 website with UX navigation and accessibility improvements giving a consistent brand experience across multiple devices.

“The primary objective was to create a more interactive platform that made it easy for people to donate,” Director of Income Generation and Communication Barbara Grey explained.

“The solution created means WAA now have a system in place that is simple to maintain, flexible to our needs and is generating donations month on month. We are able to keep people informed of our upcoming events, share key messages about volunteering and fundraising, or simply offer opportunities to donate.”

The growing move towards more tailored CMS platforms indicates a desire from many organisations to have more digital freedom.

Umbraco offers the possibility of a future-fit web presence that is well-integrated into the Microsoft ecosystem, not bloated with unnecessary functionality, and with scope for your website to be fully integrated into the digital ecosystem. After all, no website should be an island.


Is it simple to migrate my CMS?


The complexity of migrating from one CMS to another depends on two factors: the CMS in question and the ways in which your existing website has been built. There are many types of migrations and no two cases are ever the same, but there are scripts and solutions readily available that make it easier for databases to be converted from an ‘off-the-shelf’ CMS solution to a more tailored alternative like Umbraco, while migrating an existing site to Umbraco Cloud is also a viable option.

A very frequent stumbling block in the migration process, particularly from WordPress, will be plug-ins: it’s common for WordPress-based websites to be ‘cobbled together’ by a myriad of dated plug-ins, which are typically easier to rebuild within a new system than to attempt to fluidly migrate over.

Yet CMS website migration should not ever be a daunting or overwhelming prospect; the decision to change CMS can actually be a very empowering one; at heart, it’s a decision to regain control and embrace future possibilities. Everything is achievable, even what can feel like a colossal task, such as moving a treasure-trove of content to a new platform; in fact, the migration process actually provides a valuable opportunity to re-discover your most valuable content and leave some legacy pieces behind as you move forward to a new website.

When we work with our clients, our approach to a new website management system is always part of a much bigger conversation: one that revolves around a clear digital strategy with a roadmap for success, grounded in the end user and their experience.


Is the timing right to make a change to a new site?


Knowing when to migrate to another CMS is often one of the hardest parts of a digital journey. It’s a decision that becomes clear as you consider where you want your organisation to be in 3-5 years' time: what do you want to do digitally, how do you want to reach and engage people, and how fast do you hope to grow?

Increasingly, both commercial businesses and charities alike are recognising that user requirements and expectations have shifted massively: what was acceptable just 12 months ago no longer is, as the events of 2020 increased society’s digital reliance ten-fold. As screen time surged massively for all, it became clear how powerful websites can be as genuine virtual mirrors of real-world offerings - and in many cases, going much, much further.

As audiences, we now expect, and deserve, much more. When we visit a website, we anticipate that we will be able to do everything that we desire within one secure, coherent user experience. We shouldn’t have to link off to a third-party app to make a payment or charitable donation, nor should we have to struggle to find what we’re looking for when scrolling on our mobile devices.

Yet many of the most popular CMS solutions will end up providing this disparate and disappointing experience to users. If you want to go further and truly bring your brand to life in a positive way digitally for your audience, it may be time to take the first step in a new direction.


What questions should I ask?


Choosing the Content Management System that’s right for your organisation’s future ambitions takes time and research; in our experience, it typically comes down to exploring these five key areas:

Functionality: Can it do everything you need ‘out of the box’ with built-in functionality?

Cost: What is the investment required, both upfront and ongoing, to get the site that you need?

Access: Will it give you the content control and level of access that you require, both now and in the future?

Support: Does it have a good support ecosystem surrounding it that is readily accessible?

Security and futureproofing: Does the CMS provide you with a roadmap for future development? How often is its security updated? Will it be easy for you to maintain and evolve?

Picking a CMS is a big decision, yet the benefits of making the right choice more than warrant the investment of time and resources in the long run.

The right digital tools can allow you to unlock the potential of both your business and your people, can enable you to engage directly with your audiences in memorable and valuable ways, and can truly help you to realise your purpose.

Are you ready to see new digital possibilities for your business, and bring them to life with beautifully crafted technology which delivers your vision? The time may be right for you to embark on a wonder lab journey to discovery. Get in touch today and let’s explore your future, together.




About the author

Nathan Baranowski

Digital Strategy & Solutions Architect

Chief Wondermaker and Head of Big Thinking, Tech Innovation & Solution Design at the wonderlab of all things digital, Nathan is the lead data scientist and "Super Thinker" in the team - and makes a great cup of coffee (or two).

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