How to Save Money in Your CMS Implementation: 5 Easy Steps

By Greg McAvoy-Jensen09/15/2011 10:46 am

Greg McAvoy-Jensen with Mt. Reba in the background

 #1. Do it once.

Take steps to ensure this big project does not blow up, but serves you well for years to come. Get it right the first time by choosing an existing, highly-reputable, well-supported content management system. (“Building your own” always adds substantial additional risk and is rarely the best answer.)

Implementing a seemingly less-expensive content management system (CMS) only to find that it won't really do what you need creates all kinds of new expenses: buying the right one, migrating data (again), and wasting enormous amounts of staff time.

# 2. Don't do it again next year. (See #1.)

There is no reason to settle for a CMS that you aren't positive is capable of taking your organization where it needs to grow five or even ten years out. Most CMS's will tout that they are extensible, scalable, etc. For future-proofing, though, choose one that is a content management framework as well as an actual CMS. The framework will provide the flexibility you need to add extensions or customizations as the years go by. And it will be the worthy hub of all your content delivery channels.

(A quick hint: if the CMS has “blocks” within which you must build your HTML - or if your designer has to learn the constraints of the CMS before they can design – your site isn't about to be powered by a content management framework.)

# 3. Use people who know what they are doing.

Heavy-duty CMS frameworks take months or more to master. While someone could start working in the CMS in a shorter period of time, they may need more time to become efficient, and to learn “best practices.” Using “best practices” is especially important in the initial setup of a CMS, as the software and data architecture developed then become the foundation for the system for years to come.

Be sure you have at least some high-level expertise in your selected CMS on your development team. You'll find lower overall expenses and the higher effectiveness and stability of the end product.

Don't be afraid to lean on outside expertise to back up your own team, or outsource development entirely if that fits your organization best. Watch out, though: using a team or consultant who doesn't know how to finish the complex parts of your job is a way to get over budget fast. Bring these external folks in early in the process, and be sure they are well steeped in your business goals, so they can provide advice along the the to increase return on investment (ROI).

# 4. Test early.

If you are rolling out a new design, it's easy to start usability testing sooner than you might imagine. Your designer should be able to provide you with a set of wireframes available over the Web with live links.

Select several random users uninvolved with the project. See if they can accomplish the tasks you give to them within your target time and number of clicks. Get their feedback, revise the wireframes and test again. Try two or three rounds of testing, with a different set of five or ten subjects each time. Testing can make a big difference is your site's final usability. Starting it early – at the wireframe stage – will help focus your later usability testing (with the completed designs implemented). Fewer surprises means fewer expensive changes just prior to launch.

# 5. Standardize.

It's often the case that multiple CMS's are used across an organization's web properties. Yet most organizations who employ use a strong CMS framework for one property do find efficiency over time by migrating data from the other CMS's to their new, core solution. This means their developers can be more focused on being expert in one system (versus many), and their editors likewise have transferable skills as they work on the various sites.

Start saving!

Implementing a new CMS is always a lot of work. With some good decisions early in the process you can keep your costs under control.


Helping web content managers extend their reach and be ready for tomorrow. The Granite Horizon blog by executive director Greg McAvoy-Jensen and guests.

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