What to Look for in a Content Management System (CMS)

By Judith Stolpner

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. Not only will they be less expensive in most cases…you should shop around…but many are supplied as “software-on-demand” and are priced per session. That means you only pay when you use it.

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.

Many of the better-designed CMS solutions 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.

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.

Pictures and images are extremely important for some companies 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. 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 website works for you, not against you.

About the author:

Judith Stolpner is the Director of Marketing at Blue Robin Inc.-Blue Robin is recognized as experts in building customized eBusiness Infrastructures. Blue Robin also designs web-based solutions for small to mid sized companies including cost effective Content Management Systems. Judith has been involved with web marketing since 1995.