Playing Nice, Working well with Your CMS
Content management systems
(CMS), the platforms that are
in place to support a brand’s
Web objectives, are integral
pieces of the user experience,
the administrative experience and,
yes, even the experience in relation
to search engine accessibility.
For this reason, it is imperative
that organizations and
enterprises, both large and
small, take the content management
system review and
selection process as seriously
as they do the day-to-day
work fostered by these software
solutions. When you
work with a CMS day in and
day out, you need to feel
confident that it’s the right
choice for a particular project,
website and business.
Website Magazine conducted an informal poll of its readers
on Facebook and found that content management systems are
either loved, loathed or tolerated. Most respondents (74 percent)
love the CMS they work with and were not about to change,
while 22 percent tolerate it and just 4 percent hate their CMS
and are actively looking for alternatives.
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The actual purchase of a content management system for
the Web does not come around very often, but when it does, it
is an immensely important undertaking. When selecting a
CMS, there are two vital areas of interest that should be your
primary focus — management and collaboration. Content
management systems that strengthen, facilitate and streamline
the content production and distribution experience, and one
that you feel comfortable working with, are the solutions that
generate the most exposure on the Internet and use by the
broader Web community.
CMS Features to Audit
Whether you love, tolerate or loathe your CMS, it is necessary
to perform a periodic review of its capabilities. Most content
management systems work in highly similar ways, but important
differences can reveal themselves during a close inspection.
Companies generally seek a new CMS when the handling of
existing content becomes inefficient, fragmented or unmanageable.
This may be due to increases in volume, changes in
processes, transitions in operational structure or management,
shortcomings in technical infrastructure or the increased speed
of a competitive market. So, what are the questions you should
ask during an audit of your CMS?
For example, consider inquiring into the way in which the
CMS facilitates the content creation and publication processes.
Does it enable site administrators to delegate specific management
tasks? Are there content workflow, approval and security
capabilities, and are mechanisms provided to ensure the consistency
of branding? Ultimately, the aim is to gain value from the
software, so it must also reduce overall business cost through
improved efficiency. Does your content management system do
that? If you feel confident that it does possess the necessary features,
but your enterprise is falling short of maximizing its capabilities,
consider how the system is being used.
Working with Your CMS
Content management systems are fundamental to publishing on
the Web today — it’s difficult to imagine operating an information-
based site any other way.
An effective WCMS leverages content in a number of ways,
both in how it’s created and how it’s distributed. Content delivery
on the Web today is multi-faceted, including a wide variety
of sites and channels. A large organization may have a
sizeable public-facing website, multiple delivery platforms, a
suite of dedicated marketing sites, an intranet/extranet, syndicated
feeds, integrated SEO elements, legacy and third-party
applications, multiple databases and a host of other custom requirements.
A CMS for an organization of this nature becomes
extremely valuable, because it helps manage the entire Web
footprint and provides the ability to automate the content creation
and publishing processes.
Before content is created, the author should ask him/herself
who (or what) else might be able to take advantage of the content.
That type of foresight is often a tremendous time-saving
exercise. A CMS will often allow pages to be “shared” in a site, so other sections of the website can dynamically borrow the content
that was just created (as opposed to replicating it elsewhere).
Similarly, content that is generated in database-driven format, such
as news articles, then exists as a flexible asset within the system,
instead of as a flat section of HTML code.
Working with a CMS requires understanding all of the power
the software possesses and how that power can be used to develop
a more compelling and consistent product or line of products.
Here are a few best practices for working with your content
Let your CMS support your quest for high efficiency by using
features that can help reduce staff workload. For example, tools
within many CMS enable administrative staff to modify or format
existing assets, such as images, rather
than creating and uploading multiple versions
of the same base asset.
Different people within an organization
know their own specific subject matter
the best, right? Consider the use of a
CMS’s delegation features to assign content
creation tasks to those in the know
and improve efficiencies while simultaneously
Formalize Content Review
In the case of more sensitive or complex
content subject matter, those content
management systems that enable administrators
to develop a formal content review
process are often the most loved —
particularly among management at larger
companies. Having formal content review
procedures ensures consistency in pointof-
view and ensures that voice and terminologies
are accurate and appropriate.
Establish Production Timelines
Managing and overseeing the development
of content requires a regimented
production cycle. Establishing timelines
and utilizing any available scheduling
mechanisms will help move the process
along seamlessly and provide accountability,
which is useful when identifying
Create Sitewide Standards
Avoid system-generated page titles and use descriptive page
titles, which allows for more intuitive site structure and crossmarketing.
Internal and External Distribution
Think about how the content may be used or taken advantage of
by parties both within and outside of your organization. Take advantage
of “shared” features or database-driven content within a
WCMS whenever possible.