|What’s a good Content Management System?
By Natanel Yakir, Webmaster
Many sites are being built these days with a Content Management System (CMS). Are you sure you’re getting all the features you need? Here's some valuable advice from a webmaster who knows.
Once webmasters like me used to input all the text into HTML pages on a site. Now the work is being done by clients themselves using a Content Management System. Yet I’m still very involved with content by advising them on which CMS to use and what problems to be aware of.
For the sake of convenience I’ll divide this subject up into five areas:
- Proper set-up
- Seeing what you get
- Managing photos
- Search engine friendly
- Updating and security
In Content Management you break a web page down into its main elements. These are the Header (where your logo and navigation will appear), the Content (main area for text and images) and the Footer (where your contact and copyright information typically appear)
Within the Content section you may also have various areas that need to be managed independently – so that you have control over all the areas on the page.
In this example you have four content areas: 1) Top quote; 2) Main heading; 3) Intro paragraph; and 4) Main body text. There is also 5) Photos which will be discussed later. If your CMS is not set up to manage all these areas you may often find yourself frustrated where you can change some of the content on the page but not other content.
Part of the professional set-up is to ensure that every section has its own ‘control space’, so that you can see exactly what page is involved and can update it with ease. The opening CMS page should give you a comfortable ‘contents page’ of choices, as shown below.
Seeing what you get
The whole idea of CMS is to design the content and layout of an HTML page without the need to use HTML programming code. This means using WYSIWYG ‘what you see is what you get’ software tools. Your CMS will contain all the tools familiar to you in a program like Word, so that you can change the font, color, size and effect as you wish. At any time, your system should tell you the specifics of the text appearing on your web site. To see the changes on your site, you first click Save/Update and then ‘Refresh’ on the web site page.
The web site is a dynamic tool that should reflect the changes taking place in your business. You will want to update the photos in your web pages as well as the texts. You CMS should give you full support for this. Here is how a ‘photo update’ page can look (in this case for a Photo Galleries page).
Everything should follow a very easy and intuitive process for updating or removing images. Your webmaster needs to give you specifications about the size and weight of the photos that are acceptable for Internet use. In my experience, I usually build a checklist of CMS requirements for my clients rather than wait for them to supply one to me: I find that this is a more efficient way of ‘closing all the gaps’.
Search engine friendly
With the large range of CMS packages available, some will be flexible enough to allow the web pages to be optimized for search engines, while others won’t. This includes describing content with Meta tags for titles, descriptions and keywords per page and even being able to specify the name of the web page to include keywords. A good SEO-oriented CMS will also allow internal and external hyperlinking. Do the people who install your CMS bring up these points? They should.
Updating and security
Arranging all information within a Database-Driven CMS will allow you to make changes to many web site files from one central source on your computer. This will be very useful of you are changing a product name or specifications: the system will search out every relevant place and make the amendments.
Discuss with your webmaster what ‘Plugins’ and add-ons you might need, based on the functionality you seek. For example, if you want to send your information to online portals and affiliate programs that assist with the promotion and sale of your type of products, you’ll to ensure that your system has a ‘XML feed’ function.
In terms of security, you’ll need to find the right balance between allowing multiple specified people to create and edit content collaboratively and marking which areas of the site can be updated by which authorized people. That’s another area of focus.
One final recommendation I can give is to ask yourself whether you really need a CMS or not. Web sites with CMS are more costly to set up than those with simple HTML pages. If yours is a small site with information that doesn’t change very often, it may be a waste to invest in a CMS. However if you have a large site with many pages and especially can rely on somebody to do the website updating all the time, then a good CMS will definitely bring you great savings over the long run.
About the author
Natanel Yakir is a skilled webmaster and programmer with many years of experience in building web sites of every kind, for large and small businesses, and for corporate image as well as online selling purposes. His website is www.revision.co.il