Yes, I said it. And more importantly, I believe it. People are coming to your Website for content. Not for an experience, not to see some mind blowing visuals, not to shed a tear at the sheer beauty - they are coming to hear what you have to say. How you say...

Yes, I said it. And more importantly, I believe it. People are coming to your Website for content. Not for an experience, not to see some mind blowing visuals, not to shed a tear at the sheer beauty - they are coming to hear what you have to say. How you say something is very important, and design has a ton to do with that. But if your content is stale, uninspired or lack luster, no amount of award winning web design will provide the remedy. A good content management system (CMS) is the difference between life and death for your Website. Even if you have great words of wisdom, poetic lines of insight, paragraphs of genius to share with your readers - if you don't have a good CMS, your words may never see the backlit displays they are crying out for.

In many ways, a Website is simply a tool for delivering information, like a book or a television commercial. Of course, the packaging is important, but more and more, with online content, users simply want to get to the content. Great design goes hand in hand with great usability, great navigation, great search engine optimization, great simplicity. And if the CMS is a clunky mess that is a pain to use, chances are you will avoid those updates, feel stressed at the thought of adding content, and even feel bad assigning those tasks to someone else on your team. Content, once conceived, should be easy to add to a Website. The content creator's biggest challenge should be in coming up with the messages, not inputting them into the system.

I have seen many clients skimp on content creation and spend their budget on enterprises level content management systems that can literally communicate with satellites. I have also seen clients work tirelessly on crafting compelling and important content, only to have it sit in draft form while some developer in a far off location is tracked down to fix a bug in some clunky free solution implemented by the local webpage shop. Neither of these situations are recommended, nor will they bear any fruit. In fact, what you need before you need anything else, is the CMS.

Content will change, evolve, get better, become more fine tuned. As it does, you need a system for getting this new content onto your site. You need a CMS that will make you feel empowered to grow your content, confident that your team can keep fresh and relevant content on your site, relaxed knowing the CMS is doing all it can to ensure your content is found by search engines. Additionally, your CMS should allow your content to do more than simply be seen and read. It should optimize it for you, training you to create SEO friendly headlines and titles, checking for broken links, ensuring outside sites open in new windows, assisting with image size requirements. The CMS should take all the headaches of updating a Website away, so you can focus on what you have to say.

If your CMS is causing headaches, preventing your team from making updates, requiring you to spend more time thinking about how to work the CMS than what your new Website content is going to be, I dare say you've chosen badly, or gotten stuck with a poor solution.

Here are things to look for and think about when deciding what CMS is best for your business.

  • Do you have a full time person or team who will be assigned to maintaining and operating the CMS? If yes - then you want to ensure the technology employed by the CMS matches the skill sets of the team you have in place. If no, make sure you don't purchase a CMS that requires IT professionals to use it.
  • What other business are using the CMS? Talk to them, find out how happy they are.
  • How SEO friendly is the CMS? Does it use semantic markup and things like <H1> tags to help Google index the content? You can usually tell by "viewing source" on any page that is generated by the CMS. (If you see <table> or <tr> tags instead of <H1> or <H2> tags, the CMS is outdated and generating problematic code.)
  • Can someone use the CMS without taking a training course? If not, how much training do they need and how often will they need refreshers?
  • How big is the user manual? If the manual is over 100 pages, perhaps there is more going on than you need?
  • Does the company that created the CMS still own it? My point is, are you buying a system from a company that isn't really able to support it? Do your research, your most powerful tool is Google.

Once you decide upon a CMS, make sure your team stays involved. Empower them to take control of their content, the more they care the more the content will connect to your prospective audiences.

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published March 17th 2010