Disappointed with your Content Management System?

You anticipated that the system would be more complex than a classic, straight-HTML Website. After all, the integration of a Website with a database is complex by definition. Still, some things about your Website trouble you.

Managing Content

The Promise

Let’s say that:

  • Yours is a small or medium-sized business or a non-profit organization
  • You and your organization or business decided to either jump into the World-Wide Web or improve your “Web face”
  • You decided to use a content management system, or CMS

The Premises

  1. The first—and most important—reason organizations decide to “go CMS” is to allow themselves the ability to modify their own content when they need to do so.
  2. You save money—theoretically, at least—because you do not need—theoretically—a Web designer to maintain the content on your Website. Yes, you know that a content management system site is complex, but maintaining the actual content is much simpler. Or, it should be.
  3. Those who maintain the content on the Website do not need—theoretically— to know what the abbreviations HTML, XHTML, or CSS mean. This is because the content editor tool will automatically apply the proper tags to the text they enter, as they designate it.
  4. You can further reduce your company’s costs by outsourcing the routine system administration tasks to a qualified professional. Most of these involve installing software updates of the CMS and the software extensions installed on your Website.
  5. The content management system allows you to easily archive content for subsequent re-use. (Remember the buzz a few years ago about “single-sourcing?” That concept really boils down to reusable content or, in current management-speak, “content re-use.”)

The Reality

So, does the promise of a CMS diverge from what it actually delivers? Oh, yes, it does. Let’s look at some of the issues that affect many users of content management systems.

The Fallacies

You Do Not Need to Know HTML and CSS

  • The Internet and its cousin, the World-Wide Web, are electronic libraries. No one can find anything in a library if it isn't indexed and cataloged by topic, author, publication date, publisher, and location.
  • Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, “drives” the Web by tagging content to allow rapid and accurate indexing. Nothing is published on the Web if it is not tagged. Improperly tagged content will not be indexed properly, making any search of your content a waste of time.
  • Content tags are one thing; how text actually looks on a monitor screen is another. The styling used to present text, images, and media is set in a cascading style sheet, or CSS.

Resolution

Learn the CMS content editor—and use it.

You Will Not Need a Web Professional

  • Your Web designer takes an out-of-the-electronic-box template and adapts it to your organization and its business purposes. If your Website is an online store, your staff will routinely add, modify, or retire inventory items and prices.
  • The e-commerce component was developed to for a variety of products. It may be complex and confuse your users. The designer should modify the user interface so that your people can do their jobs best.
  • Many different, but related, cascading style sheets were developed for the template you chose. Template developers depend on users to go into the content source code and manually assign the many style elements offered.
  • Even if your staff is trained to use the content editor, they probably are not proficient with manual tagging source code.
  • The designer should import style elements into the primary style sheet (usually the template.css file) so that a writer assigns style elements from a drop-down list.

Lesson

Include these tasks in the contract you execute with the Web designer.

You or Your Staff Will Not Need Training

  • Did your parents simply give you the key to their car so that you could learn to drive on your own? Did the state allow you to drive without testing your ability to operate a vehicle? Of course not.
  • Many people do not use word processing software properly—a “style sheet” is foreign to them.
  • You and your staff or associates will need training to use the content editor to tag and assign styling to your content that permits efficient indexing and presents the image to the public you want and need.

Resolution

Require the Web designer to train you and your staff and provide instructional documentation for subsequent in-house training and reference.

Following SEO “Best Practices” Guarantees Success

  • There are “best practices” and there are best practices to search engine optimization, or SEO.
  • The mantra many preach emphasizes the consistent and consistent over-use of keywords. It would seem that all that needs to be done is to give an article a title and flood the content body with the same keywords or keyword strings.
  • Google, Yahoo, and all legitimate search engines penalize Websites for this “best practice.”
  • Your content needs research and thought; this is your opportunity to present your company or organization and its products and services to the public, whether people know of your enterprise or not.

Lesson

Write the content first. Assign keywords from your content.

Summary

I intend to write more about these, and related, issues in subsequent blog articles. For now, though, I must emphasize that your use of a content management system generally delivers on the objective promise it offers, discounting the hype some attach to it in their zeal to sell such a system.