Last week we launched a new website and switched from Drupal to WordPress. But I need to warn you: Do not copy us.
Idealware is known for its research publications and training on how to choose technology solutions, so a lot of people ask us what we use in house. Surely the experts in software selection have all the answers, right?
I’ll let you in an a little “expert” secret: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all software solution out there. You have to figure it out for yourself.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from our experience—both the successes and mistakes along the way. Maybe you’ll find some tips that work for you, but don’t be afraid to discard anything that doesn’t fit your organization. It’s your website—get what you want out of it.
Here are some of our considerations for choosing a content management system.
Our design requirements were fairly simple. We have a lot of content (upwards of 2000 articles and posts), but only a handful of page layouts. We knew that we wanted a user-first, search-focused design. Most platforms can handle this, so it didn’t help us narrow the list, but it also didn’t rule out simpler and less expensive CMS tools. WordPress was attractive because it offered design templates that were built with a large content library in mind.
Admin Experience (AX)
A big priority was ease of use for content editors. We don’t have a dedicated website person on staff—heck we don’t have any dedicated communications or outreach staff at all. We needed a CMS that any member of our team could jump into with minimal training to produce an attractive, glitch-free post. We also don’t have a complex editorial process, so workflow and editorial control features weren’t important to us. This was perhaps the strongest argument for WordPress, which we all caught onto rapidly.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have an excellent AX in Drupal. See Johanna Bates’s great blog post on that topic. For us, one of the biggest downsides to Drupal was the amount of maintenance it requires. We were using an unsupported version of Drupal and to upgrade to a new version and address the visual and structural changes we needed to make would have been a big lift, even for a tech-savvy team like ours. In the end, continuing to try to make Drupal work didn’t seem like the smartest choice.
No Advanced Features Needed
We wanted some CRM integration, but weren’t seeking to let visitors and donors manage their profiles through the site, since Idealware isn’t a membership organization and we have few content items behind a login. We wanted to simplify the integration around email subscriptions, event signups, report downloads, and online donations and it helped that our CRM tools already have integration tools built with WordPress. For example, our Drupal site required us to retype or paste in event information that we had already entered in our Salsa registration page. Now Salsa automatically pushes event information into our site, eliminating that extra step.
Most of these simplified integrations are also possible with Drupal, but the tools were already there in WordPress so we didn’t have to worry about starting from scratch or getting bogged down in a development process.
A few other considerations that might be important to other organizations but weren’t top priorities for us include:
- Bandwidth—We don’t deliver a ton of video or other media through the site itself.
- Multiple sites—All our content will be unified under a single site.
All you Drupal fans (or Squarespace, Wix, or any other website building or management software fan) are probably wiggling in your seats and raising your hands and saying “But, but, but… my favorite CMS does all of those things too!” You’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean your preferred CMS is the best choice for everyone. The differences were often subtle. For us, when we looked at the overall package, including features, cost to implement, and ongoing cost of ownership, WordPress came out on top.
What CMS does your organization use and how did you choose it? I invite your comments—especially since Idealware is starting to work on the 2016 Consumers Guide to Content Management Systems for Nonprofits, which will help nonprofits understand the considerations for choosing a CMS and how some of the most popular tools compare.