14 CMS Features Your Website Needs in 2024

14 CMS Features Your Website Needs in 2024

When you have an excellent idea for an online business, you need a reliable website to support your goals. But there's one catch—you don't know how to code.

No problem. It's still possible to have a great website that you can confidently update yourself without knowing the first thing about HTML or computer programming. Content management systems (CMS) make it easy to add, edit, and remove pages from a website using interfaces that feel as familiar as writing a Word document.

The best CMS for your needs will vary depending on if you want to sell products online, offer services like coaching, or publish a blog. Regardless of the purpose, though, there are 14 important features that every content management system should have:

Whether you have a CMS in mind or are still shopping around, this list will help you find just the right platform for your business needs.

Mobile-friendly themes and templates

Google ranks websites using a process called mobile-first indexing. The search engine giant looks to the content of your mobile site, not the desktop version, when deciding how to rank your pages in search engine results. It's essential to have a mobile responsive theme that works just as well on phones and tablets as it does on computers.

If the entirety of your website is not easily accessible on mobile, you may lose your current rank and have trouble climbing the search engine results pages. Plus, a poor mobile user experience will drive the people who do wind up on your website away again. If they can't navigate your site well on their devices, they'll look elsewhere for information, services, and e-commerce purchases.

Progressive web applications (PWAs) take mobile usability one step further. Websites structured as PWAs use specific frameworks and APIs to deliver a user-friendly, app-like experience through the browser.

Easy-to-navigate dashboards

Your CMS of choice should have an easy-to-use backend dashboard to make site management simple. Many open source and paid content management systems integrate with plugins. These add-ons pull multiple real-time data streams into one place, including e-commerce transactions, user comments and more.

Without a dashboard, you may need to move between multiple SEO tools and accounts to get a comprehensive picture of site performance.

Publishing tools and scheduling systems

A good content management system will make it easy to update your website without knowing any code. "What you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) editors allow you to type and format content in a way that's similar to using a program like Microsoft Word. Without a WYSIWYG content editor, you need to use HTML to format headers, bullet points, lists, and bolded or italicized text.

Another benefit of using a WYSIWYG content editor is that you can opt to type your website copy in Word or Google Docs and then paste it into the CMS. Copying a document into an HTML editor would strip away all formatting and leave you with plain text.

Your CMS should also offer the ability to schedule content to post at a future date and time. This way, you or the professional writer you are working with can load batches of content into the CMS ahead of schedule. You can have an article post while you're sleeping if you want—the CMS will take care of it all.

Integration capabilities

It's easy to expand many CMS website features through the use of integrations, often called plugins.

Plugins allow you to connect business software, offer additional payment options, streamline shipping processes, display information from other sites, and more. Open-source content management systems typically have a vast library of plugins—there are 59,000 available for WordPress alone. Plugins may integrate with your main CMS dashboard or display data in their own window. Either way, you get increased functionality and easy access to all details directly through your CMS.

Plugins work through application programming interfaces (APIs) that relay data between your CMS and another service. While you can still use various business tools without a plugin, you'll have to relay data between the two manually. For example, if you use your website to generate business leads but it doesn't connect to your customer relationship manager (CRM) software, you'll have to continually check and update the CMS and CRM to keep them in sync. If you choose a CMS and CRM that work together, like WordPress and Salesforce or Hubspot, this process becomes automatic and saves you valuable time.

Social media integration tools

Your content management system can improve your social media following with every post. Some platforms, like Squarespace, include built-in integrations to display social media photos and posts alongside your website content. Other content management systems require the use of additional plugins that can:

  • Encourage one-click sharing of new content with Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter buttons
  • Show how many likes and shares a post has on social media
  • Display an Instagram feed along the side or bottom of your website
  • Showcase stylized, eye-catching buttons that link to various social media platforms
  • Embed YouTube videos directly into blog posts

Connecting your social media accounts to your CMS directly or via plugins offers the benefit of continually updated content. When you share a new post to your Instagram account, for example, it will appear on your website without any additional action on your part.

If your CMS does not support social media integration, you'll need to manually cross-post content between your social accounts and your website. You'll also need to add buttons or links to your social media pages in your website menu or at the bottom of every post.

User permissions and role settings

The ability to set different user roles makes granting access to your CMS easy. Typically, one or two select people have admin privileges that give them full access to every part of the CMS. Other team members with more specialized roles may only access certain system areas necessary for their jobs. These limits can reduce the likelihood of mistakes or data leaks and make it easier to track down the source when something does go wrong.

Even if you're the primary user and editor of your website content, there may come a time when you need to bring in the help of an independent content writer or web designer. Role settings make it easy to grant access to new users during the course of a project and revoke it afterward if needed.

Analytics and reporting

Website analytics are a valuable resource for understanding the impact of your content—and planning future posts.

Google Analytics is a free service that integrates with any website. Many content management systems have features to help you connect your site to an Analytics account. (If not, you might need to hire a developer to add some code to your website.) Google Analytics isn't the only option, though. Some CMS platforms have built-in analytics dashboards that collect and display content marketing metrics like:

  • Daily, weekly, and monthly website visits
  • Where your visitors live
  • The devices that visitors use to access your website
  • What pages they enter and exit your site on
  • How long visitors browse your site

If you see visitors responding positively to particular types of content or being more active on certain days and times, you can use this data to influence content strategy development.

WordPress and other CMS platforms also feature the ability to see which users posted content or logged into the system. These internal metrics help mitigate some of the challenges of a distributed workforce. Even if you're working with a team that spans multiple time zones, you can use these reports to see when changes happened and identify any actions taken.

Staging site

Sometimes, you'll begin making changes to your website only to realize they don't quite look or work the way you intended. A staging site allows you to preview your work as you go without impacting the version of your website that visitors see.

Without a staging site, you run a risk every time you add a new plugin or element to a webpage. If your change breaks the site's functionality, visitors may be unable to access or navigate the site. This can lead to lost business and revenue as you try to fix the problem.

Your content management system may call this the staging site or a "preview site." The result is the same—all changes first appear on a private test URL, then get pushed to the main website.

Advanced security

Choosing a CMS that provides security features to protect your content, customers, and business is vital. Your website should always have a secure socket layer (SSL) certificate—you can check for this by seeing if your URL begins with HTTPS or HTTP. A URL starting with HTTPS has SSL security in place. Also referred to as transport layer security (TLS), this feature creates an encrypted connection between your website and its users. While every website should have an SSL certificate, it's doubly important in use cases where information is exchanged, like an e-commerce transaction or account login. Without SSL, your users' data may be exposed.

A content delivery network (CDN) can provide added security for your site. CDNs do not replace your web hosting but enhance it through a network of cloud-based servers in different locations. Sometimes, bad actors conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, where malicious bots send high traffic volumes to a server. This traffic can clog up the server bandwidth and force sites offline. When your content is accessible from various points thanks to a CDN, legitimate traffic gets rerouted away from the attack, keeping your site online.

Robust community

Having access to an online community of CMS users is useful when you have questions or want to learn more about using the platform. Many content management systems host a community forum. There are also CMS-specific user groups on social media sites like Reddit.

Live 24-hour support team

While a robust community is great, other forum members can't access your CMS account and help troubleshoot issues in real-time. This need is where access to a live, around-the-clock support team is essential.

Unresolved problems with your CMS can result in website downtime, traffic loss, and reduced revenue. If your CMS goes down at 11 pm Pacific time, but the platform's customer service line doesn't open until 8 am Eastern, you're out of luck. On-call, 24/7 access to support via email, chat, phone means you can remain online and in business at all hours of the day and night.

Multilingual content

When a CMS supports multilingual content, it opens your site up to more users around the world. It can improve your global search engine optimization (SEO), increase the likelihood of conversions, and indicate a global reach. Multilingual content will also increase accessibility for other people in your local area whose preferred language is different from your own.

Open-source content management systems often support a variety of multilingual plugins. These services will either automatically translate your site using artificial intelligence or allow you to upload digital content in multiple languages with the help of a professional translator.

Basic SEO extensions and tools

If you'd like to use your website as an organic marketing or lead generation tool, you must focus on search engine optimization. It isn't enough to have content online—you need to optimize it in a way that encourages search engines like Google to rank your site highly. As your rank in the search engine results pages grows, your site can become a valuable source of new business.

At a minimum, your CMS should allow you to:

  • Customize the URL of each page rather than default to the title
  • Enter a custom meta title and description—this is what appears in search results
  • "Lazy load" large or less important images and graphics, which can boost site speed

On many open-source systems like WordPress, you can optimize further with SEO plugins that check your content for keywords, compress images, and more.

Scalability

Above all else, the best CMS is one that will evolve along with your business. If your content management system is restrictive in its features, addressing future challenges and expansions may become difficult. Marketing integrations, workflow automation, security, and reliable web hosting are vital to support long-term scalability.

Examples of CMS software with these features and functions

There are many content management systems and website builders to choose from, each with different feature sets that best support small through enterprise business needs. CMS pricing typically varies based on the number of features you need. Some plugins may come with an additional cost.

The following six platforms are well-regarded for their flexibility, security, stability, and integrations:

WordPress

Over 40% of the world's websites use WordPress as a CMS. The free platform is open-source and highly customizable, making it suitable for everything from personal blogs to online stores and corporate websites. WordPress does not include web hosting, and it works as both an all-in-one solution or a headless CMS. When using WordPress as a headless CMS, you won't use one of the many available WordPress themes to design your site. Instead, you'll use the WordPress CMS as your website back end and connect it to a different front-end that visitors see.

WordPress features include:

  • Image compression
  • e-commerce support with the free WooCommerce plugin
  • Responsive mobile functionality
  • Fast installation on the web host of your choice
  • WYSIWYG content editor

Shopify

More than one million e-commerce websites use Shopify as their CMS of choice. The service can integrate retail point-of-sale transactions with online commerce, and it supports scaling to global enterprise levels with Shopify Plus. Shopify becomes a headless commerce CMS at the enterprise level—retailers can use it to power sales on their existing website front-end. The Shopify app store includes plugins for sourcing products, marketing, shipping, and more.

While Shopify does offer support for blog content, it's an e-commerce-first platform. Its features include:

  • Dropshipping integrations
  • WYSIWYG content editor
  • 24-hour support
  • Theme library
  • Built-in email marketing

Joomla

Joomla is another open-source solution like WordPress, but with the added option to host your blog or business site on a Joomla subdomain. Additional third-party plugins are required to turn a Joomla site into an e-commerce shop. Over 9% of all websites use the Joomla CMS.

Its features include:

  • Multilingual web content management supporting over 70 languages
  • Cache management to speed website load times
  • Over 8,000 plugins
  • Customizable templates
  • Front-end and back end content editing tools

Drupal

Thanks to its dedicated security team, Drupal is popular with large institutions—including more than 150 governments. Yet another open-source option, it uses modules to flexibly integrate with other services via API. Like WordPress, Drupal works as a headless CMS for blogging, business, and e-commerce websites.

Drupal's features include:

  • Support for omnichannel e-commerce and retail
  • Digital asset management
  • Content monetization
  • Drupal Steward security firewall
  • Multilingual content

Squarespace

More than just a CMS, Squarespace is a comprehensive digital marketing platform for online businesses, blogs, and e-commerce shops. It includes a user-friendly back end, email marketing workflows, and multimedia modules (called "blocks") to display photos and videos. While many of Squarespace's core features are well-suited to small and medium-sized businesses, the company does have an enterprise platform for larger companies. As of 2021, there are 3.79 million Squarespace subscribers.

Its features include:

  • Drag-and-drop template library
  • Built-in social media integrations
  • Password-protected membership areas
  • Appointment scheduling software
  • Restaurant reservation capabilities

Adobe Experience Manager

A nice counterpart to Adobe’s Commerce platform, Adobe Experience Manager, is a two-in-one CMS and digital asset manager. It includes an intuitive drag-and-drop website builder but is also a headless CMS. The platform is geared toward larger business websites, with pricing available upon request.

Adobe Experience Manager features include:

  • AI-powered responsive text
  • WYSIWYG content editor
  • Saveable, reusable styles and modules
  • Email marketing templates
  • Site search

Implementing a new content management system

While some people do opt to set up the content management systems on this list themselves, there's a steep learning curve to using any new software. Getting the help of a professional can make launching or transitioning to a new CMS much faster and more efficient. Whether you need help setting up WordPress hosting or want someone to build a Squarespace site, Upwork's work marketplace is the place to go. Get started by posting a job on Upwork today.


Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Author Spotlight

14 CMS Features Your Website Needs in 2024
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

14 CMS Features Your Website Needs in 2024
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

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