One of the biggest problems the CMS industry has today is a lack of transparency.
Having specialized in custom content management systems for the past 12+ years, we’ve heard a lot of pontificating on the subject, but one thing that’s missing is an effort to help prospective clients (like you!) actually, truly understand what they need from their CMS.
Our goal is to change that. After all, it doesn’t help us if you don’t come to the table knowing exactly what you need for your organization to be successful.
We’ve published a lot of blog posts about CMS development. And I mean A LOT. If you dive into our archives, you may find yourself lost down the rabbit hole of in-depth information.
So to make your life easier (since that’s kinda how we roll here at NPG), we’ve rounded up 10 of the most essential posts we’ve published about developing a custom CMS.
With these posts, you’ll gain a better understanding of the small but vital details that must be considered when you start your CMS development project, plus helpful tips that will help you get the most out of your budget and your relationship with your developer.
So take a deep breath. Pour yourself a hot cup of coffee. Let’s dive in!
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The worst way to start your endeavor is to approach a developer with a 10-word description of your project and expect them to shoot back with a quote.
If they do this without blinking, run far, far away.
There’s no way of knowing the actual scope of your project without talking it out first. You need to flesh out not only the technical elements of your CMS, but the ways in which you’re going to use it. By doing this, you can get a better understanding of what tools you’re going to need built and how they will serve your team’s day-to-day workflows.
That’s why project discovery is so important. Don’t start until you’ve read this post.
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Now that you understand the concept of project discovery, what goes into the actual process?
It’s easy to get hyped about your ideas and only think of them from the 100,000-foot view. If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, you might not always think about the logic behind all the cool features you’ve seen on other websites or apps.
Zoom in a little during the discovery process and think about the individual pieces that will eventually make up the whole. It also doesn’t hurt to start with a clear sense of what you’d like to have and, more importantly, what you absolutely must have to make your project successful.
This post is by no means comprehensive, since every project and every client is unique, but it’s a good place to start when you want to come to the table with questions at the ready.
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Digital agencies like NPG aren’t the only option out there—and far be it from us to claim we’re the right choice for everyone 100% of the time.
As I said before, every project and every client is different. Not everyone can take the “I’ll just hire an off-shore developer in India” approach and come out unscathed. By that same token, throwing money at the problem by going with a high-cost ECM might work either.
The key is not just knowing your options, but understanding the risks that come with each one. You know your budget and the internal expectations for your CMS better than anyone, so only you can determine how much risk you’re willing to take on.
If you don’t know where to start, we highly recommend reading this post.
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The process of procuring CMS development services ain’t easy. You simply cannot commoditize the tool that’s supposed to power the entire digital ecosystem of your company and potentially affect every single person on your team.
Unfortunately, where a lot of people tend to screw up is during the sales phase. By shopping solely based on price and expecting to get away with not having a solid plan, they doom their CMS development project from the start.
Don’t want to be that guy/gal? Don’t do any of the things in this post.
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The other place where people tend to screw the pooch with their CMS projects is during the actual development phase. It’s basically like buying a car, taking it on its first ride, and then throwing the steering wheel out the window.
There’s a lot that can go wrong during a CMS development project, and it’s not always the fault of the developers. Indecision and internal politics on the client side can put a lot of strain on the process, as can being unwilling to listen to your developer when they’re trying to point you in the right direction based on their experience and expertise.
Right now, you’re just at the start of your journey. Consider this post a cautionary tale to help you avoid a crappy outcome.
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Speaking of the development phase of a CMS project…
This post is an interesting one, as a lot of people tend to get squirmy when it comes to talking about money and who’s going to pay what and when. Clients don’t want to feel like they’re constantly being squeezed for every penny, and developers don’t want to give the house away.
Here at NPG, we have a few different ways to handle milestones and payments within any type of project. Before you start your CMS development project, consider these options and try to determine which one is going to help make sure your project doesn’t get delayed or soured by mounting invoices and budget bickering.
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We’ve been talking about custom CMS development, but is that what you really need? The start of your project is the best time to determine whether custom is the way to go, or if an off-the-shelf solution is enough.
The latter is always more tempting to people at this stage because most of the work is already done for you—allegedly. In reality, there needs to be more thought given to functionality versus convenience. A CMS that seems perfect out of the box might have both more than you need and not enough, and you may end up having to bend over backwards in order to cater your workflows to your platform instead of the other way around.
This post explores all questions you need to ask yourself to determine if off-the-shelf is really the answer, or if you need something specifically catered to your needs.
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If you’re doing your due diligence before starting your CMS project (which you must be if you’re reading this), you’ve likely encountered a whole lot of technical jargon and industry buzzwords in your quest to understand just how the hell to pull this thing off.
Look, we understand that not everyone is tech savvy. Most folks heading up a development initiative like this are focused on the outcome, not the nuts and bolts.
That’s why we put this post together to explain the difference between content management systems and structural development frameworks. Depending on the nature of your project—like if you’re developing, say, an app or a SaaS platform—knowing the difference may change the entire conversation you need to be having with your developer from the start.
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In a perfect world, the different departments of a company could operate in their own little bubbles without bothering each other and somehow everything would just work out.
That’s not always the case when it comes to developing a CMS.
The truth is, a great CMS should be able to be used by various departments as a centralized hub for the whole business. As such, everyone will need to have a say in its features and workflows—and that ain’t always pretty. Unfortunately, disparate teams such as marketing and IT aren’t always aligned when it comes to what is or isn’t important.
In order to bridge that gap, you need to understand both sides’ pain points and find ways that your CMS can solve for both. Hopefully, this post can get you started on that path.
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You’ve only just begun to plan your CMS development project, but it’s already time to start thinking about the future.
It’s easy to think of your CMS as a one-time thing—built, launched, done. But like any other digital property, it needs to scale as your business grows and evolves. It needs to be maintained. And most importantly, it needs to be monitored in case something goes wrong.
This is something you need to keep in mind as you’re planning your budget and seeking a development partner. How much will it cost to keep your CMS afloat for years to come? Some agencies don’t even do maintenance—how will you deal with that down the line?
Before committing to anything, read this post so you know what the future holds.
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That’s it—you made to the end of the list!
Obviously, there is a lot to be learned and even more to consider when you’re starting your CMS development project. This was a hefty roundup, but we hope it gives you a clearer sense of the path that lies ahead.
Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to make a more informed decision that will help save a lot of time, money, and headaches along the way.