Questions to ask before selecting a web content management system

This is a brain dump of open questions that I’ve asked previously when speaking to clients about their websites and their requirements for a content management system. This assumes that the technical prerequisites are being addressed elsewhere.

You can pix and mix these questions as you feel are appropriate to your context, but generally it takes about an hour to get through these with one or two people at a time. If you need to run larger workshops, I don’t think this approach would work.

Vision and Objectives

  • Is there a content strategy?
  • What goals are currently being met?
  • How do you want to interact with your customers?
  • How much integration is required with other systems?
  • Which services should be provided through the website?
  • What is “the Vision” from your team’s perspective?

Suppliers

  • Who is creating / editing content? With what frequency?
  • Who plans content?
  • Where / what is the content you are responsible for and how is it used?
  • Who do you work with during the content creation process? How effective are these relationships?
  • How do you collect information to write your content?
  • Do you usually know about other initiatives in the organisation and how they affect what you’re working on?
  • Do other departments see the documents you produce? Do you see theirs?
  • How do you handle authors working on content that may be published simultaneously to different parts of the site? (i.e. ensure content is the same when it needs to be and different when it needs to be).

Inputs

  • What are your current content creation processes? Which are effective / ineffective? Why?
  • What are the problems / frustrations you face in creating content?
  • What features would you like to see in an authoring, CMS or publishing tool?
  • How are documents created? Do you use or templates or style sheets?
  • What tools do you use in authoring? How effective are they?
  • What is the format of the content you create? What sources is it dependent on?
  • How do you add metadata?
  • Do you re-use content from elsewhere on the site?
  • How do you manage demand for content from customers?

Process

  • What do you do to control documents? Version / access controls?
  • How do you handle sign-off / review?
  • Who edits / transforms content?
  • How is it classified?
  • Who relates content across the site?
  • What workflow review is involved?
  • How will the content be reused / archived / reviewed?
  • What works well with the current process?
  • What are we trying to improve?
  • What sort of reporting is required?

Outputs

  • What format does the content need to be in? (Accessibility levels, email, print / DTP, mobile, .CSV)
  • Where is it stored / distributed / aggregated?
  • What templates are required?
  • How much content should be reusable?
  • What extra site functionality are you interested in seeing?
  • How much Interaction or interoperability is required with other sites (e.g. client extranets)?
  • What requirements do you have for searching?

Customers

  • Who do you consider your target audience?
  • How much interaction do you have with customers (feedback, surveys, consultations)?
  • Is there a need for personalised / targeted outputs?
  • What are your customers’ key areas of interest?
  • Do you have access to website statistics? How do you respond to these?
  • What attracts customers to the store?
  • What information on the site helps your customers get their job done?
  • What types of information do they look for in a document?
  • How much information do they find useful?
  • When do they use the content (on one-off projects or on a recurring basis?)
  • What do they like best about the content? What do you like least?
  • How do your customers prefer to receive information?