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Top 5 qualities that every good CMS should have

23 Jul 2015

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The content population phase of a project can in many cases be the lengthiest phase. Having rolled-out a number of websites over the years and recently completed the launch of our new website, I thought it would be handy to share my top 5 content management system (CMS) qualities to help content publishers.

I’m talking about qualities not features. When we go through the CMS research process, we pore over feature lists and sit through countless demos, comparing one system from the next. For example “I want to publish events on my website and allow people to sign up for them.” evidently you will be looking for the Events Management feature within a CMS.

But what about the qualities of a CMS that don’t directly relate to a listed function or feature?

These are equally as important and while many quality CMSs will have these features; it doesn’t hurt to run through this quick checklist.

Here are my top 5 CMS qualities. 

1 - Can your day-to-day users use this system?

It is all well and good to choose the system based on the decision makers skillset but if the day-to-day users can’t use it, you’ve got a big problem. Some CMSs require a great deal of HTML, CSS and scripting expertise. Content publishers don’t really want to have to ask a developer for help every time they want to make changes such as: add padding to an image, add a new content area or new page - they don’t want to be restricted.

On the flip side of this argument, you may have a system that is too simple. Everything is locked down and content-publishers can get in and do their job, but the technical people who want to create unique features on the site are unable to – you need a system that intelligently balances this.

Tip: Look for a feature-rich WYSIWYG content editor.

2 - Drag and Drop Layout

Some may say that Drag and Drop is a trivial thing, a nice thing to have, but believe me when I say that it will save you a load of time and frustration in the long run. When you are creating content, it is inevitable that you will change your mind as to the position or order of a page, section or piece of content – particularly if you have multiple people working on one site. For example after you have finished publishing you may decide that the flow of the content reads better in a certain way, or the layout is more effective positioned differently, or the navigation is more user-friendly in a certain order.

Drag and drop makes it easy to move content around without the requiring a developer to get involved.

Tip: Look for drag and drop functionality, but make sure you can drag and drop folders and page content or assets.

3 – Reusable Content

The ability to reuse content within your CMS is a quality that will save you time creating and maintaining content, and reduce the risk of search engines penalizing you for having ‘duplicate content’.

Different CMSs allow you to reuse content in different ways. One of the more important ways is through the use of Design templates, also known as Master Pages and Nested Master Pages. You should be able to set any number of these templates up in the system and reuse them depending on the purpose of this page. Clever systems will allow attributes and elements to be inherited through to child pages. For example if you have a Products page and you want all the child pages to inherit the heading, a promo banner and an image, the template should allow you to do this.

Other ways that a CMS can allow you to reuse content may include:

  • Content Tags
    Here you simply drop in a tag (this is normally just special text), the system will recognize the content associated with it and pull that content in. This may be one line, such as a name or heading; or an asset such as a form or document list.

  • Embedded Articles
    If you want to insert page content into another page, this is a great way to reuse content across your site. For example if you have a promotional pod, or a call-to-action that you want to reuse across your site, you can use an Embedded Article.

The great thing about reusable content is that you just edit in one place and the rest of the site gets updated! No more poorly managed content.

Tip: Ask your CMS vendor about ways to reuse content with their system

4 – Version Control

Version control isn’t always about traceability and audit trails. It can save you, and be the CMS quality that stops you from dropping your computer off a small ledge.

Have you ever saved over work by mistake? Or deleted something and then saved over it? Instead of having that dreaded sinking feeling and flash-forwards of hours wasted rewriting content; through version control, you can simple roll-back to the previous version and restore it.

Tip: Ask your CMS vendor about version control. Make sure that it’s not just applying a version number and a time stamp to it but actually stores a copy of that content.

5 – Copy and Paste from Word

Many CMSs claim to have the ability to copy and paste from Word, but what they fail to tell you is the rubbish that comes with the copy and paste if it’s not done properly. While what you see looks exactly the same as what you had copied and pasted in, the HTML in the back may look horrible. This isn’t good if you’re looking to have a website that follows best-practice and is SEO friendly.

Good Copy and Paste:

<p>I want a CMS that allows me to copy and paste from word!</p>

Bad Copy and Paste:

<p><p><span lang="EN-US">I want a CMS that allows me to copy and paste from word!!<strong><o:p></o:p></strong></span></p></p>

More often than not we create our content in Word, this give us the head start during CMS/website is still in its build and implementation stages. It’s important to have a CMS that will allow us to just copy and paste straight from Word – this will save you a load of time!

Tip: Use the Microsoft Word styles for formatting. When you copy and paste the content over from Word, the content will inherit the styles from the CSS.  Click here for a useful article on Microsoft Word Styles

So there you have it my top 5 CMS qualities to consider. You can find more helpful tips in our free CMS buyers guide.

Buyers Guide to Portals, Websites and Intranets

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