The 7 Habits Of A Highly Effective CMS

Posted 25 July 2016 in Silverstripe, CMS BY Adrian Stein

You may have the best looking website in the world, but if your Content Management System is not working for you, then you won't touch it and the whole website is a failure. We've put together a list of seven features that your CMS should have to ensure it is working effectively for your website.

User-Friendly Interface

It's one thing to have a great website designed and built for you. It's another thing entirely to ensure that its content is kept relevant and fresh. Whether it be through adding new articles, blog posts, downloadable resources, or even just interacting with your users through the use of comments, fresh content should be the number one priority of almost any website.

And therein lies the problem.

Every CMS, by definition, provides functionality for managing your content. However, different systems have varying levels of user-friendliness, and there is a vast gulf in ease-of-use between them.

Your website may already have a CMS, but if it's not easy to use, it'll dampen your enthusiasm to actually manage your content, and you'll be much less likely to use it. Conversely, if your CMS is a breeze to use and you can access it all in an intuitive way, you are much more likely to keep your content fresh.

Revision History

Even if your CMS is bulletproof and easy to use, people still make mistakes. One of the worst feelings in the world is that drop of your stomach when you realise you've accidentally hit the wrong button and deleted something you spent hours working on.

Thankfully, your website doesn't need to pay the price for an overzealous content manager inadvertently wiping all of the content from your page. If your CMS maintains a history of all edits to your pages, you can easily revert to a previous revision of the page, and effectively rollback any recent changes, thus setting your mind at ease, and probably saving a few hairs from being pulled out.

Roles and Permissions

As your site grows, so to does the amount of content that needs managing. When this occurs it can be of benefit to segregate the duties of each content manager, both to reduce their area of responsibility within the site, and to make the content easier to manage.

As an example, one content manager may be responsible for managing the company blog, while another maintains control of the online shop. User roles (or user groups) coupled with permissions make this possible. A site administrator has access to modify the user accounts of other content managers, and manage control over specific sections of the site for each type of user.

Also, when coupled with revision history, having individual user accounts allows responsibility and accountability over the content that is posted to your site. Every content change can be tracked to a specific user account, and a full history of modifications can be viewed.

Page Preview / Save Draft

Another way of dealing with the uncertainty associated with publishing content on your site is through the use of page preview. Many systems offer the ability to get a visual overview of what your content will look like when it is published, usually through the use of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, where each change you make in the CMS is styled to look like it will on the actual website.

Taking this one step further, a great CMS will provide a Save Draft option, coupled with a draft view of the website for content managers. This functionality allows you to make changes to your site's content, save the content as a draft, and then view this draft version of the content when browsing the website. This is the best way to catch those pesky formatting errors.

CMS-Based Image Editing

First, let me clarify. No, I'm not talking about your CMS granting you the ability to Photoshop out a stray hair, or erase any unwanted photobombers.

What I'm talking about is the ability to manage the images you are placing on your site, to ensure they best suit the content. For example, you may need to crop an image to make it better fit a content area, or resize an already uploaded image to place inside a blog post. CMS based image editing makes your life infinitely easier, as it helps remove any requirement for desktop graphic editing programs in everyday content management.

Another useful feature of your CMS is automatic image resampling. In less technical terms, the ability to upload an image once, and have the CMS automatically resize it and scale it down to the optimal size(s) wherever this image appears on the website. This not only reduces the amount of work for content managers, but also optimises image file size which reduces the time it takes for users to load the page.

For example, an image for a blog post may appear as a small thumbnail on your main blog page, and appear as a full width image on the blog post page. Your CMS should allow you to upload this image once at the biggest sive you have available (say, directly from a digital camera), and then automatically create a thumbnail sized image that is used on the main blog page and a full width image that is used on the blog post page.

Search Engine Optimisation

While it's not an exact science, there are some content management tips that can help you to improve your positioning within search engines. Web page meta tags have been abused in the past to artificially boost your page's rank, leading to search engines cracking down on such strategies. As a result, creating good meta tags is more important than ever for your site's ranking in search engines. In addition, other seemingly small factors, such as adding alt (alternative text) tags to images can make a big difference.

If your CMS doesn't facilitate easily updating each page's meta tags, adding alt tags to images, or providing clean code from the WYSIWYG fields, then you are missing the boat on an important aspect of your site's SEO strategy.

Training

Last but not least, there is training. While strictly speaking not a CMS feature, quality training can be the difference between a functional CMS, and one that sits there and gathers dust.

Even if your CMS is intuitive, user friendly and straight forward, you are still going to need some training to ensure you are accomplishing your tasks in the most efficient way. Effective training will help break down the barrier of complicated terminology, help you understand how the features of your CMS can work for you, and most importantly, make your feel comfortable with the new system.

Adrian Stein

Adrian Stein

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