Content Management Systems?

Content management systems logos

In the organisation I work for, we are currently undertaking a major project that involves the procurement of a new CMS for our public facing website, along with the implementation of a new authoring model.

Currently the situation is:

  • CMS: the system is at least 5 years old; very limited and unreliable.
  • Authoring model: this defines the process by which content is put up online. Currently we’ve got 200+ people with no copywriting or special web skills, publishing content.

The driver for this project was how poorly our website performs (in terms of usability). Week after week we get the same complaints and, even though these are reported to the appropriate services’ authors to be dealt with, the complaints keep coming.

How do you justify a website that has hundreds of edits done per month, not to effectively meet your customer’s expectations?

This poor performance along with the end of the licence of the current CMS, triggered the need to start this project.

However, how will a CMS solve the usability problems the website faces at the moment? It won’t!

A CMS, as any other IT asset, is an enabler. It can’t do miracles. The only way to ensure the website performs well is by tailoring the CMS to a robust and well-defined authoring and content management process. And this is not done with technology alone. As a matter of fact, technology plays a very small part in it. As I said, technology is just the enabler.

‘My’ organisation has got full score in this years Socitm Better Connected report. As a result, we earned the ‘respect of other local authorities that didn’t perform so well.

Recently I’ve been contacted by a peer from another local authority. He asked what CMS we’re using and said he was surveying all councils that scored highest in the Socitm Better Connected survey. His aim was to improve his council’s web presence.

I responded back, explained our current situation regarding our CMS, but stressed that, if he wanted my advice on improving their web performance, he should be focusing on the processes behind content publication, not the technology. I added that regardless of what solution they go for, they can do very well or very badly, and that’s going to be up to how they use it.

In sum, it is people that ‘manage content’, not IT systems. Technology provides tools for managing and publishing content, but does not manage it.

No CMS alone can ensure your content is:

  • up to date
  • not duplicated elsewhere
  • respecting SEO guidelines
  • accessible
  • meeting your customer’s top tasks

If you want to improve your website performance, review your web strategy first. Then, procure a CMS that:

  • is flexible enough to accommodate all your requirements
  • is robust. Have a good SLA to cover eventual ‘let-down’ situations
  • doesn’t pose constraints on your digital vision for the next 3-5 years (consider mobile devices, information security, synchronisation with 3rd party systems, cloud solutions, etc)

Some modern CMS solutions provide tools to check for accessibility, duplication of content, etc. But none is as reliable has having a cohesive small group of people with the right skills (Information Architecture, User Experience/Usability, SEO, copywriting, etc) looking after your website.

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