Content management systems (CMS) were developed to run large portal websites with complex information and workflow requirements. The systems were designed so non-technical staff could update website content, and technical staff could get on with doing lots of technical stuff.
In the late 1990’s most web development companies realised there was a large untapped market in providing content management to small and medium companies (SME’s). Developers created scaled down CMS products and marketed them to their website clients. Today there are thousands of options to choose from, with most CMS products having very similar interfaces, features and functions. One of the major differences in content management systems is whether they are a proprietary system (you need to pay for the software) or an open source system (free to download and use).
A CMS lets you take control of your website
The beauty of a CMS website is that you can take control of your website. You can update the site wherever and whenever you like. You do not need to have a computer science degree just to change your website. In fact with most systems you don’t even need to know how to write HTML code. If you can use a word processing package (like MS Word) then you will be able to use a content management system.
Why Choose Content Management?
Content is king, especially online. I can’t stress enough the importance of having fresh content on your website ‘fresh is definitely best!’
By updating your website on a regular basis your visitors will come back more often, and they will appreciate the new information you put onto the site. Search engines also take notice of how often a site is updated, coming back more often to re-index the site in their database. The more topical and informative content you write the more relevance it will have to the online audience you are wanting to reach.
Content Management Features
Content management systems will also provide you with a number of modules that you can easily control to increase the functionality of your website. Some of the features that might come with you a CMS product include:
- Content Editor
- Tree menu system
- Password Protection of Pages
- Membership Areas
- Scheduling of Content
- Work flow Management
- Electronic Newsletters
- Statistics & Reporting
- Enquiry Manager
- Security – Group & User settings
Practically all CMS websites have an online editor that will allow you to update your pages as you please. The editor will be WYSIWYG, and you will be able to insert images, create tables, paste in text, and add in links to other pages and external websites. Check to see if your content editor also comes with a spell check (a very useful tool for on the fly edits).
Tree Menu System
Many systems are developed with a ‘site tree’ so that your pages are branches or sub-branches of the tree. This makes it very intuitive to add pages to your site as most computer users are very familiar with tree based folder structures (like Windows Explorer).
Password Protection of Pages
A good CMS product will let you set up permissions for different sections of your website so you can restrict access to the pages to only certain users or groups. As an example, if you were a tourism operator, you could password protect information that is just for the travel agents.
Some systems may provide a more detailed password protection system where levels of membership can be set up. Members will be able to login to member only areas, update information about their membership or perform other member only functions. You would need a membership area if you wanted to charge for access to some parts of your website.
Scheduling is the ability to set an on and off date for pages, or content. This is a great feature to have if you run specials on your website.
Having workflow management means that content created by editors needs to be approved before it can go live.
Your CMS product may have an e-commerce module installed where you can set up products for sale and receive orders through a shop.
Electronic Newsletters (e-newsletters)
Your website visitors should be able to subscribe to your email newsletter through your website. Many CMS products will have a newsletter function installed which will allow you to add subscribers, create multiple mailing lists, and prepare and publish your newsletters. The best systems will also track the number of times your newsletter has been opened.
Some CMS systems may offer a survey function where you can set up an online survey and have the results stored in a database for exporting as an excel spreadsheet. This is a useful feature to have if you want to do some qualitative research (such as customer satisfaction levels).
Statistics & Reporting
Most CMS products will have a reporting section where information from other functions is collected and presented. This might include the number of enquiries your site has received, the number of newsletters that have been read, and should certainly include the number of visitors the site receives.
Some systems will store the enquiries you receive through your website into a database for future use. Enquiries should also be sent to the main recipient by email.
Security – Groups & Users
A good system will let you create different groups and users that belong to the group. For example if you had a travel site and you wanted to publish information for ‘trade only’ you could create a group called trade only, add the appropriate users to it, and then restrict a section on your website to ‘trade only’.