If you are building a new website, we highly recommend picking one of the top mainstream platforms (WordPress, Shopify, Neto or Joomla) as not only are these platforms easy to use, they get the fundamentals right (or will after installing a free plugin or two) and have the potential to provide almost all of the features you could ever dream of.
However, if you require a custom CMS for your business or if you just want to try something more personalised, it’s important to understand what important features you might miss if you choose to build on a custom CMS. We hope to help outline these important, and often overlooked features to help you with your next website build.
Customisation of how you display your content and what your pages look like are obvious considerations when choosing a CMS. However if you are an avid SEO or plan to partner with an agency, it’s equally important to have key components and meta data easily editable for each page.
What you should be able to easily adjust & modify:
- Meta Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Canonical Tags
- Robots Tags
- Primary heading (h1 element)
- Page URL
Being able to easily modify these elements are the very basic foundations for setting up your website to flourish organically.
There are also many files which you may want to modify on your server. If this sounds intimidating or your provider does not allow you to modify server-side files, then you will need to make sure you can do the following actions within your CMS:
Redirects are a critical part of your website when changing the URL of a page or moving your content. Not only is this improve your user experience by navigating them to newer or more relevant content but it also plays an important part of a successful website migration if you are moving an existing website to a new CMS.
Maintain an accurate sitemap
Maintaining an accurate sitemap allows search engines to easily find and navigate through your sites content. Ensuring your sitemap is always up to date and accurate can involve a lot of manual work and maintenance, especially if you have a large website or are adding pages and products daily. Make sure your new CMS can do all of this work for you and is robust enough to not include pages which shouldn’t be publicly available.
Although you may not frequently modify your robots.txt file, it is still an important to have access to modify this file to set robots directives as needed.
Automatic shopping feed generation
If you are an ecommerce store then adding your products to platforms such as Google Shopping is likely important to you. Manually maintaining an accurate shopping feeds with all of your products, variations, pricing and attributes could be a nightmare however most CMS will automatically maintain this for you much like a sitemap.
Performance & security
It should go without saying, your website should be secured with an SSL certificate and have a redirect from HTTP to HTTPS in place (HSTS is preferable). Additionally, please ensure that your site is only available from one domain or sub-domain. This means you should not be able to access your website from an IP address or undesired sub-domain.
Caching and minification of CSS and scripts is also a big bonus if you care about the speed of your website. Ask questions about whether or not your site will support Lazy Loading and hosting assets via a CDN.
You will also want to make sure that you can insert code snippets into your websites header and footer so you can easily add some simple integrations. In addition to this, if a third-party integration is important for you then make sure your new CMS fully supports this before the build.
For example: If you are running an ecommerce store and Google Analytics data is important to you, then it is critical that the website has the functionality to to send advanced ecommerce tracking data back to Google Analytics.
There are definitely some benefits from having a custom CMS built for managing your website rather than using an existing platform. But, while a custom CMS may be more friendly to you or provide extra features, please be sure that your new CMS is still robust and meets all of the requirements set above.