The two most important considerations when selecting a content management system (“CMS”) for a museum website

April 24, 2012, 11:30 AM eastern by Rob Landry

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One of the most important questions facing museums on the Web is the selection of a content management system ("CMS") for their websites.  A CMS that non-technical staff can use to quickly update content like events, exhibitions and other happenings is essential to the success of your museum's online communication strategy. 

Content management systems are as numerous as the stars; there are lengthy lists of them here and here.  So how do you go about choosing the system that's right for your museum?

If you're in the market for a new CMS to manage content on your museum website, these are the two most important things to keep in mind.

User-friendly and stable

There are two key questions to keep in mind when selecting a CMS: Will my users use it? and Will it protect my data?

Will they use it?: It doesn't matter how many fantastic features a CMS has to offer; a CMS won't do you any good if your staff can't - or won't - use it to keep website content up to date. 

If people who aren't tech savvy will be using the CMS, then user-friendliness is essential.  Find out what kind of training you can get as part of the implementation package.  Definitely try to demo the system in advance, and do user testing of key features during development.

Will it protect my data?: Make sure you understand how your data will be maintained and protected in the CMS.  Determine how - and how often - data will be backed up and how you can restore it if necessary.  If your CMS must integrate another application, like a collection management system, make sure it's up to the task or can be customized to do so.  Examine whether a particular CMS is especially susceptible to hacking.  Of course, a CMS should play nice within your existing technology infrastructure.

There are other important considerations, to be sure, like how easily the CMS will help you communicate your museum's overall strategic vision.   But these two criteria should be first and foremost in your thinking.

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