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 min read

Choosing the right CMS for your travel website

Choosing the right CMS for your travel agency, is one of the most important decisions you'll make.

Choosing the right CMS for your travel website

Choosing the right CMS for your travel website

Choosing the right CMS for your travel agency is one of the most important decisions you'll make. It will impact how well your website performs, and how easy it is for customers to use it.

So, let's begin with the basics: what is a CMS and why is it so important?

A CMS is a software program that manages all the content on your website and allows you to add new features or pages, change or delete existing ones, and generally update your site with ease. With a CMS, design and code are separated from content. You can work with the content on your website without worrying about how to write codes or what programs to use for designs.

There are many varieties of CMS, each of which is suited for different types of businesses. Some CMS are geared toward smaller organizations and websites, while others are more complex and better suited to larger ones. Regardless of which you choose, it will help you manage your site faster, better and easier than if you had no system at all!

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, so think closely and consider whatkind of website you want before choosing!

The first things to do is decide what kind of CMS you need

When choosing a content management system, you will have to weigh several important factors.

It is possible to receive three bids on a project and choose the lowest one, but this decision is often shortsighted. Cheap options can be good, but you need to consider a longer-term perspective with an investment like this.

Unfortunately, many travel agencies fail to consider the long-term implications of their website design. They focus too much on creating beautiful designs that can be delivered quickly, without considering whether they will be able to add new features or build on the site in the future. This is problematic because when they need to make updates, they are forced to pay for a completely new site. And this way, a cheaper website can turn out beeing more expensive in the longer run.

A great DMS system makes your website work for you. So instead of making a new website, you will be able to continuously optimize the existing one.

Make the right investment for the long term

When purchasing a new website, it is important to consider several topics that will help you keep expenses down for long term.

Here are the 3 most expensive mistakes to look out for when buying a website:

  • Incorrect CMS 
  • Wrong supplier
  • Incorrect web strategy

Types of CMS

The first thing to do is decide what kind of CMS you need. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Open source CMS   

(Jooomla, Umbraco, Tupo3, Wordpress, CMS Made Simple)

Open-source content management systems are available for free on the web and with a little knowledge of coding, they can be set up to manage websites. Many developers contributed to the development of these systems and modules.

Own developed CMS  

(VM-CMS)

Some companies develop their own content management systems to meet their specific needs. But as the open-source systems have become better and more user-friendly, many companies are choosing to use them instead. Own developed CMS has their special justification within smaller niches, where they can offer a unique advantage.

Commercial CMS  

(DynamicWeb, Sitecore) 

The system is developed by companies to be used for their businesses. So, the product is often developed with the buyer in mind. It must be easy to use, streamline workflow, scale up as needed, and be able to update the system.

Important factors to consider when choosing a CMS for your agency 

As a travel industry professional, I have seen many agencies waste time and money by choosing the wrong CMS. Agencies that don't choose their CMS with care can end up wasting big amounts of money. Here are the factors to look out for:

Acquistion cost

How much will it cost? You'll need to consider the price of software licenses, setup, configuration, implementation and all other services needed before you can use the product. The challenge here is that when you look at a CMS on paper, you might think it's free or cheaper than other systems. But there are hidden costs that we'll discuss in following sections of this guide.

Expandability 

What are the costs and opportunities associated with adding new features to the solution? The open-source systems' major advantage is the huge community of developers who create and share software modules. You can quickly get at great system for a modest investment, but there may be problems if the modules need to work together with other features on the solution. Commercial systems are built to make it all fit together.

Education and the learning curve 

How accessible and user-friendly is the system? Does it require special training or training for the individual employee? It is especially in this niche that open-source CMS have their power. They are often developed to cover a need in a specific niche and are optimized for these specific tasks. Commercial systems can be known for their flexibility and multiple applications. Often, a commercial CMS is developed on a technical background and therefore the system is difficult to access compared to open-source systems that focus on the learning curve, user-friendliness, and workflow.

Operation

What are the costs of maintaining a solution and keeping it up to date? All expenses for hosting, updates and other purchased services. Operation costs can sometimes contain updates and support – if they are not contained in the operation costs, then these costs are also important to evaluate on.

Resources used in the organization 

How fast can you complete specific tasks in different systems? For example, buying a cheaper content management system might save you money in the short run but cost you time and money later if the system is hard to work with. Commercial systems often have a better track record than open source ones.

Updates 

The web is constantly evolving, and new browsers, operating systems and new capabilities are made all the time. It is very important that the system is updated to work with these changes in order to keep your customers/users. Open-source solutions often have problems when updates are applied. If the solution is customized with specific customer features, you will experience complications when an update is applied. You should also be aware that the developers may not provide support on specific modules. Commercial solutions often offer an update agreement, so the solution is expanded and updated automatically without any problems.

Support 

After the solution has been delivered, it is often necessary to provide support. Typically this is the case with new employees, and when the solution is expanded with new areas and perhaps new features. As described under the learning curve, the complexity of the system has a major impact on the need for support.

Relaunch of the website

Websites tend to last about three to six years. So, it's best to plan ahead for a makeover and sometimes that means switching up the CMS as well. Especially if the system hasn't been updated with extensions and bug fixes down the line. In commercial systems you will often not experience any difficulties here, as it is one of the most important competitive parameters for commercial systems. Thus, the relaunch will only focus on the structure and expression of the website. If the website is launched with a new CMS, then all the conditions described above must again be taken into considerations  

Switching costs 

If you have a disagreement with your supplier, it may be worthwhile to look for another one. There are two things to consider before doing so: Is the CMS you're currently using supported by many developers? If there aren't any agreements that would make such a change difficult, then switching CMS suppliers should be easy. If a website is built on a pre-developed platform then it can be difficult and expensive to switch to another supplier. The best option in this case would be to start from scratch with a new website.

Openness 

Integration between systems can be done either through access to the code or APIs that are made available by the system. Today, systems must be able to talk to each other in order to automate business processes. An example could be the integration between the website and your CRM, so you can create a newsletter from the data in your database.

Scalability 

Most online solutions evolve over time. When more visitors/costumers use the solution, it is often a great idea to plan phases for the website's development and decide at milestones how they should be implemented. Thus, the investment and dividends are followed by the CMS.

Recommended CMS for travel agencies 

Wordpress 

WordPress is often used for smaller websites where a great design is needed with cheap development. This is the budget solution that many travel agencies start with. https://wordpress.com/  

Umbraco 

This is the solution that many travel agencies switch to, when they have a digital maturity, work with more complex products and gather data from different sources. You will also have the ability to focus on business development and building competitive advantages with the website. All corrections typically must be made by a web developer in this solution – and therefore it becomes correspondingly more expensive. https://umbraco.com/

Custom-CMS 

This solution is best when you don’t have a digital maturity and need close cooperation from a web provider. It provides you with great freedom to update content yourself – but less design freedom. Corrections must be made at the bureau, but the solutions are based on many years of experience with the travel industry and offer free courses and videos to use CMS. (Note that this is a CMS developed at an agency, with great experience in the travel industry, therefore this CMS is not open source.) https://www.vestjyskmarketing.dk/produkter/hjemmeside/special

Choosing your Website Supplier / partner 

It may be tempting to choose a supplier that has a sharp price, but the reality is, you often get what you pay for.

You may be tempted to save money by creating a cheap website, but if you want your site to help transform and push your company's marketing, communication and sales efforts, you should probably invest in something more professional.

Before choosing a supplier, you need to ask yourself three questions. Do you want a website that is strategic, tactical or operational? What kind of partner do you want? And what do you expect from the process?

The process of making a new travel website 

A typical strategic process starts with a meeting, where the company's challenges, marketing task and expectations for the website are discussed. The web agency will offer an assessment considering the online potential, benchmark on best-practice and suggestions for solution strategies which the company can choose between. The focus meeting builds the base for the whole website, so it is important that all decision-makers are present at this meeting.

It is often a good idea to bring in a third party to challenge your existing digital strategy and how your digital channels can create value for customers, both before and after the purchase.

The supplier should contribute to the user experience on the site, helping with both layout and prioritization. The supplier should be challenged on the website's interior design based on a proven design and communication principles. This is often presented in wireframes, which are line drawings that describe the website's decorations, elements and priorities.

Often the supplier will offer user tests on the old website and presentations for wireframes on the new. This ensures that the right focus areas are identified and optimized in the development.

At the operational level, the website's layout and prioritization of elements must be in place. It's all about design, look, feel and implementation of new design templates on the website. The website must meet the company guidelines for visual communication, but still recognize that the web is a special medium.

Our recommendations for a new website and CMS vendor

The best process and the most value creating websites start at a strategic level and move down through the levels, to eventually be implemented. This is done in close interaction between the web agency, management, and marketing team in the company  

A new website is a project that takes time and resources among the employees involved. You will need to prioritize time for meetings, user testing and development of content for the website.  

Lots of people are surprised by how time consuming the implementation phase is.

Now you should have a basic knowledge surrounding the process leading up to the creation of a professional website. Our hope is that this guide, helped you to choose a website that creates value, and the process is completed in a successful and satisfying way.  

You should also be able to choose the right supplier, a supplier who can and will use their knowledge to strengthen an innovate your CMS system! This is also why it is very important that you clearly formulate expectations, goals and processes in the contract with the agency!

In other words, you must clearly formulate expectations, goals, processes and services in the contract with the web agency.  

Only a few marketers (marketing departments) have real experience in "sourcing" a website and subsequently coordinating the project. Therefore, it is important to read about these experiences for the project to be as successful as possible. You won't find the right supplier if you don't articulate your requirements and expectations.  

Start by writing your needs and thoughts on a piece of paper, after that you can try to contact potential suppliers and by using the tools and knowledge from this guide. You should be able to screen and decide if they fit your needs.

Conclusion

The key, again, is to do your research before you make a choice. Think carefully about what your needs are, and don't be afraid to ask all the questions you need to get the answers you want. Spend your time wisely and find a satisfying solution that will help your business grow and stay successful.

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Want to learn how to improve operational efficiency and increase revenue? Grap our free Ultimate Guide on how to grow your travel business.

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