(Editor’s note: Adam Toren is co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He contributed this story to VentureBeat.)

With margins so thin these days, the design of your website – your shop window to the world – can have a notable impact on your company’s success. Web audiences are notoriously fickle – and you only have seconds to convince a potential customer to click beyond the front page. Once they do, it’s critical that they’re able to navigate and interact as you intended.keyboard

The right web-based content management system (CMS) can be a critical in retaining customers. Finding it isn’t easy, though. There are literally hundreds of different options available – and the right one will vary depending on your needs and budget.

There are a few common denominators, though. Flexibility, for example, is critical – and your CMS should allow you to rapidly respond to market conditions. It should also be flexible in terms of the platforms it supports – both among browsers and Internet devices. (Any user who can’t access an optimized site on their iPhone is lost potential revenue.)

It should also come with the right tools to make search engine optimization a snap.

And while it might sound nice to have a CMS with lots of bells and whistles, most start-ups don’t need them. You’re better off simplifying and not leaving yourself at the mercy of technical paralysis. Keep templates separate from your content, allowing you to maintain a consistent experience for the user. (Also, it will be much easier to redesign the site when that time comes.)

Most importantly, the CMS should be easy to use and enable you to specify your branding with little or no technical restriction.

There are many highly specialized providers in the field of enterprise-specific content management – and the offerings vary too much to make specific recommendations. You can, though, further narrow your choices when you decide if you want to focus on Java or the Microsoft.NET technology.

For many webmasters, the choice between opting for a commercial solution or an open source one hinges largely on cost. It’s worth noting that ‘free’ open-source systems often aren’t as free as they first appear. Top quality support is not always available right when you need it when you inevitably have problems.

That said, there are some good ones out there. My picks for the top four are below:

Joomla is a highly flexible CMS that allows you to create numerous modules and components within a fresh and progressive framework. The latest version, 1.5, marks a considerable improvement. Note, though, that while you may be able to install this CMS in less than 30 minutes, it takes a while to get the hang of.

Mambo, much like Joomla, is quite powerful and is simple to use. Its control panel is more user-friendly, though, and the system is backed up by a growing community of forum support.guest-post-box-adam-toren

Drupal is considered one of the top open-source CMS systems available, especially as far as its architecture is concerned. This system is best suited for developers though, so non-techies should tread carefully. Some users find Drupal more functional than Joomla or even WordPress, but if you’re inexperienced, you may be better off sticking to the others.

WordPress has long been known as the blogger’s platform and it’s at the top of its game. It is very simple to use, but and may not be the best platform if you require considerable e-commerce functionality.

Image by deeleea via Flickr.


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