Content Management Systems are a great way to maintain the integrity of your web site by allowing you, not a web designer, to have control of your content.. When you look for a CMS, look for one that is designed to provide a user-friendly environment that can accommodate multiple users with varying skill levels. Some CMS systems are designed as software that installs on your servers or your PC, while other CMS’s are hosted by the system’s developers and accessed over the Internet via a browser. This type of CMS is generally less expensive than those installed on your server.

Key benefits of implementing a CMS

Two core benefits of any well-implemented Web content management system for both marketing/sales and IS departments are broadly accepted and most often discussed:

  • Lower maintenance costs through leaner content update processes because content owners can publish directly without costly help from Web designers.
  • More current and correct Web content because the delays associated with marketing to IS to marketing handoffs during the content development process are eliminated, which translates to a better site and more traffic.

But just because these are two key benefits that you should get from any CMS implementation does not mean that all CMS systems on the market will deliver them in your environment — or even that they are the most important benefits that you could achieve. Below we will outline some of the key kinds of functionality you may want to look for in a CMS package, and we will give two examples of sample CMS implementations (each drawn from the experiences of multiple companies) in order to relate these functions to actual business benefits.

EASY TO USE

Another thing you should look for is the features of the CMS. It should have all the features of MS Word and be so simple to use that your content developers will be able to begin creating and editing content with ease. CMS systems come in multiple flavors and can be deployed for both small and large companies.

VARIOUS LEVELS OF ACCESS

Many of the better-designed CMS’s are based on authentication level, which means that content developers are granted permission to access the authorized areas within the system. This permission-based content access management utility is very popular and is designed and developed for creating, accessing, and managing menus, submenus, hyperlinks, new page creations, etc. It should offer authorized content developers the ability to navigate quickly and intuitively, using pull-down and drill-down menus to get to specific areas of your web site. Most CMS’s have an auto-log-out procedure that can be implemented if a content editor leaves an active session open without making any changes for a certain predetermined length of time. In such cases all unsaved work should be queued for immediate review once the content developer logs back in.

CLEAN URL DESIGN

One of the key features to look for when evaluating a CMS is its ability to publish content with clean URLs. Not only because you want to be publishing content with nice clean URLs, but because this tends to betray the manufacturer’s underlying understanding of how the web works

URLs should be readable – a visitor should be able to get a good idea of what the page is about simply through the component parts of a well structured URL. This can be hard to achieve if your content management system constructs its URLs using obscure article or category IDs – the visitor can’t get a sense of the page’s content from numerical IDs. What’s more, descriptive, readable URLs index better for search engines and therefore make your content more findable.

Recent and Emerging Technologies

With Web 2.0 taking firm hold, site visitors increasingly expect to see a range of more interactive features. Technologies like Ajax are easy to implement on the front-end, but can your content management system service the requests for data that are needed? Make sure that RSS feeds are also available.

Multi-site Support

If you run, or plan to run, multiple content managed sites it can be really useful to have a single CMS that can handle multiple sites rather than multiple instances of a single-site system. Not only can it save on cost, but also in the administrative overhead of needing to manage, upgrade and maintain multiple systems.

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TIME

Find a CMS that is designed with no restrictions on page lengths and quantity of content, and allows your content developers to preview new or changed content easily. Users should be able to make multiple content changes that will be made immediately without extensive wait or reload time.

PHOTO OPTIONS

Pictures and images are extremely important for some company’s web sites. They may need to upload new photos often, or remove them when they are obsolete. Therefore you need to find out if that option for your photos is available in the system you choose. An important question to ask is, how much control will you have of where and how your pictures appear within the layout of your web pages? This may seem like a very simple question, but you would be surprised how many people do not ask it.

TRAINING/SUPPORT

Another question is, how easy are the tools within the CMS to use and how much training, if any, and support you will get from the CMS’s developer?

Your web site is a critical connection between your company and your customers/visitors. Keeping your content up-to-date can be the most effective way to sell your products and services and ensure that your web site works for you, not against you. There are many features to look for when choosing a content management system, and many of them depend on the particular needs of your project. However, by spending time in evaluation and paying notice to some of the more core issues you can help to ensure that your relationship with your next content management system is not an unhappy one.