Seven Features of the Best CMS Platforms

Your content management system (CMS) can make or break your website. Whether you manage the site yourself or work with a contractor or an internal team, you’ve probably experienced hours-long battles trying to make updates or fit content into the existing mold of the CMS.

But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. When the opportunity presents itself—whether you’re building a new website from scratch or ready to give your existing site a makeover—choosing the best CMS makes everything down the road run more smoothly.

At SCG, we’ve worked on many web development and CMS platforms (including WordPress, Craft and Drupal) over the years, and we’ve come to appreciate the qualities of a truly good CMS. Save yourself the headache of figuring it out on your own and dig into what SCG believes are seven key features to look for when choosing the best CMS for your website:

1. Easy, intuitive content editing

If you’ve got a website, you’ve got content—with everything from blogs, landing pages, and product descriptions to anything in between. Ideally, you want your time and effort to go into crafting flawlessly tailored copy to win over the perfect customer—not wasted fussing around in your website’s complicated back end.

Choose a CMS that allows you to drop in copy, images, video, calls to action (CTAs), and forms with ease. For an added bonus, consider going for a platform that gives you a preview feature so you can make live edits before hitting the publish button. This will save you loads of time.

2. Speedy front and back end

There’s nothing more frustrating than a slow website. For the person managing the content in the background, it’s irritating at best. But for a potential customer, it can mean a lost sale. Choose a fast CMS. Period.

3. Custom design

Depending on your technical know-how, you may prefer a CMS with tons of beautiful layout options to choose from. But at SCG, we prefer a fully custom design, every time. Why? Because it means we can make our client’s website look exactly the way they want it to look without the constraint of a theme or template.

Pre-built themes and website builders are great, and in fact they can be enormously helpful when you’re first starting out. But don’t underestimate the punch you can pack with a fully custom site. It might just knock the socks off your potential customers.

4. Seamless plugin support

If you find a CMS that’s so jam-packed with features you don’t need many plugins, great! But you’ll likely need to add a few to make your website function the way you want. Pick a CMS platform that supports plenty of high-quality, affordable plugins to help make your website shine.

5. First-class tech support

Regardless of how impressive your web design skills are, easy-to-access technical support is crucial—especially in the early stages of your site. Be sure your CMS platform comes with the guarantee of friendly, helpful technical support. Bonus points if it’s first-party support. You won’t regret it!

6. Customizable page layouts

Don’t underestimate the glorious convenience of being able to make on-the-spot webpage layout edits without so much as having to send your web development team a Slack message. Choose a CMS that allows your content manager to create new pages on the fly, while still utilizing brand elements and the site’s design features. It will save everyone time.

7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media friendly

If you’re optimizing for search, and we’re guessing you are, be sure your CMS has SEO tools baked right in. And if not, make sure there’s a plugin that can do it for you. And if possible, try choosing a CMS with features like social media and email marketing integrations, which will make it easier for you to share published content.

Which CMS is best?

We’ve tried our fair share of CMS platforms and have narrowed down our top three choices. Check out this side-by-side comparison of CMS platforms and see if one of these stand out for you:

Craft WordPress Drupal
Ease of content editing Extremely customizable and flexible out of the box Very customizable but requires a handful of paid plugins and many changes to out-of-box functionality Extremely customizable
Speed Back end — fast
Front end — fast (caching support, out of box)
Back end — slow
Front end — fast (with proper configuration, plugins, and/or hosting)
Backend — fast
Frontend — fast (caching support, out of box)
Custom design Full-custom design only Best pre-built designs, themes, and website builders Great selection of quality themes and builders
Plugin support 500+ (free and paid) 50,000+ (free and paid) 14,000+ (version 7), 6,800 (version 8), free and paid
Technical support First-party — Stellar first-party support included with paid versions Third-party — Can be difficult to find First-party — very expensive (built for enterprise)
Third-party — very easy to find
First-party — very expensive (built for enterprise)
Third-party — easy to find
Customizable page layouts Excellent Pretty good Can take some time to learn
SEO Great support with paid or free plugins Great support with paid or free plugins Great support with paid or free plugins/modules

At SCG, we favor Craft. It’s a user-friendly, open-source CMS, and it has stellar security and first-party support. The features and flexibility you get right out of the box, along with its content-first approach, make it our go-to for nearly every custom web project, and a vital part of our web design and development capabilities.

Intrigued? Get in touch. We’d be thrilled to talk to you about your website.

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Last edited: 3/12/2021