The 7 Most Common Pitfalls When Deploying a CMS

Have you ever experienced one of these symptoms of failed CMS projects?
  • The project is never really launched.
  • The project is late or over budget.
  • The new website doesn’t meet expectations of stakeholders.
  • Nobody updates the website.
  • The website is slow and visitors leave it after seeing the first page.
  • The website is hacked.
These symptoms are often the result of poor project management and planning. Avoid the following common pitfalls if you want your website project to succeed:

Pitfall #1: Not Having Clearly Defined Goals and Scope of the Project

Starting a project without clearly defined business goals sets the project up for failure from the very beginning. Before you start any work on the project, make sure that you can answer these questions:
  • Why do we need the website?
  • Who is the target audience and what should the result of their interaction with our site be?
  • How do we measure the website's success and what Return on Investment (ROI) do we look for?
  • What is the scope, resources (money, people) and time available for the project?
Make sure all stakeholders are involved in answering the questions above to ensure you understand their expectations and get their buy-in.

Pitfall #2: Trying to Implement Everything at Once

More often than not, initial expectations suggest you will need several years to finish the project. It’s important to understand the way ahead of you so that you can make the right decisions at the beginning. Then you can take it one step at a time, assured you’re heading in the right direction.
So the first step is to prioritize and identify the absolute minimum requirements needed to launch the website, leaving all bells and whistles for later iterations.
Once you define your smallest possible project, split it into several milestones with clearly defined deliverables. Each time you reach a milestone, verify with your stakeholders that you’re on the right track.
The iterative approach will help you reach smaller wins sooner and more frequently and get more buy-in for your project. It will also help you deliver on budget, achieve planned ROI sooner and stay agile.

Pitfall #3: Omitting Developer and End-User Training

You’re not going to hear any CMS vendor saying their product is difficult to deploy and use. The truth is, unless you work on a very simple website, deploying a CMS is not a simple task the first time you use the product. It’s important that your developers and end users understand how to use the product and follow best practices. If you leave it up to them, guessing how to do things, you will most likely end up with broken implementation.

Pitfall #4: Not Following Best Practices

A good CMS system should provide a flexible platform for developers. High flexibility, however, often means there are multiple ways of doing the same thing. But not all of those ways are correct. If you do not know the recommended way to achieve what you need, you could waste a lot of time. Ask your CMS vendor for best practices, methodology documentation or see if you can get someone who knows the product inside-out to review your planned architecture and advise you during implementation.

Pitfall #5: Deployment to the Live Environment at the Last Minute

One of the most stressful moments for developers is when they are expected to launch the website on day D and they find out that they’re not able to install the CMS or deploy the custom code on the live server. Everybody is awaiting the new site, but instead they get the message “sorry, it doesn’t work on our server, we need more time”. It’s highly recommended that you have your live environment ready for testing during the development phase so that you can verify your new website works outside your development environment.

Pitfall #6: Leaving Performance and Security Testing after the site Launch

Many web developers play roulette and put their website on the live server without conducting thorough functional, performance and security tests. When the rubber meets the road, they’re surprised that their website doesn’t work as expected with real users or under heavy load. When this happens during a successful marketing campaign, the losses can be huge.
Make functional, performance and security testing an integral part of your project plan, budget and development process from the very beginning, not an afterthought. Again, an incremental approach to implementing a CMS will help you identify things like performance issues early while your project is still relatively small, which makes them much easier to fix.

Pitfall #7: Missing Website Governance

Website governance covers the whole process from analysis, through implementation to ongoing management of your website. Some companies deploy their new website and think they’re done because development is complete. In fact, they’re just at the start of a long-term on-going process of updating the website, adding new functionality, upgrading to new CMS versions, etc. It’s important that you define the owners and processes for areas such as:

  • Evaluating website results against business goals and KPIs
  • Publishing workflow and best practices for creating content
  • Consistency of branding across the whole website
  • Content translation
  • Monitoring user experience (website speed, availability, conversion rates)
  • Adherence to accessibility, privacy, SEO and compliance requirements
  • Testing the site in new versions of browsers and on new mobile devices
  • Defining, prioritizing and implementing incremental website enhancements
  • Management of CMS security settings (defining a security policy, adding new users, setting permissions, etc.)
  • Training new employees to use the CMS
  • Maintenance of the CMS platform (upgrades, hotfixes, etc.)
  • Monitoring of website performance and system logs
  • … and many others depending on the complexity and nature of your website

Websites are like houses: if you build a wonderful new house but you do not take care of all the maintenance, it will eventually become a ruin. And that’s not what you want to happen to your site!

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