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Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Wednesday, 28th July, 2004

Managing site content

The majority of our clients now run content management systems on their sites but is a CMS really the answer to all our site management woes?

Content Strategy:
The estimated time to read this article is 4 minutes


What makes content management systems attractive

It is easy to see why organisations find content management system attractive. So many web sites are full of out of date content, as well as being difficult to edit. A content management system appears to be the ideal solution because it allows anybody within the organisation to update web pages without the need for technical skills. Marketing departments can control the message being projected through their site while overworked IT departments don’t have to deal with a constant stream of changes. In larger organisations it is even possible to decentralise the running of the web site so that responsibility for sections within the site are deligated to individual departments.

The reality

Why is it then that only 27% of organisations using content management systems are not intending to make changes to the way it is used. Using a content management system to run your web site is good in theory but in reality it is not always that straightforward.

Content management is about more than technology

The problem lies in the fact that organisations perceive the implementation of a content management system as an answer in its own right. However a CMS is simply a tool that still requires people to use it correctly in order to maximise its potential. It is how a CMS is used within an organisation that determines it success, not the technology itself. There are three classic mistakes made when it comes to the use of content management systems:

Responsibilities

One of the most common problems is that responsibility for the web site is not clearly defined. It is rarely made clear to those expected to update the web site that this is a key part of their job. It is considered an additional chore that gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list. In many cases the web site is updated no more frequently than before a CMS was implemented simply because people dont have the time and motivation to do it. In my experience the time when CMS works best is when the individuals responsible for the web site have their role as web editor clearly defined in their job decsription and time is cleared in their schedules to allow them to undertake this role.

A single focus

Another common mistake is the lack of any single evangelist. There needs to be a single web master that not only ensures that other individuals contribute to the site when they are meant to, but also ensures that the contributions are consistant in language, style and message. Without this person there is no sense of "whole" in the message being communicated through the site. It will contain different writing styles and in some cases even contridictory content. You need one person that can set a style for the site as well as establish a vision for its future direction and development.

Training

Obviously there is a need to ensure that people know how to use the content management system, but that cannot be the end of the story. Its important to remember that many of those editing the web site might not be doing so on a regular basis. It is therefore important that they receive refresher training periodically to make sure they feel confident using the system. If they lack confidence they will avoid using it and once again content will become out of date.

Also training on the use of the content management system is only the tip of the iceberg. Web site editors need to have an understanding of how to write effective copy for the web. They need to know the basics of good layout and design as well as an understanding of how to structure the web site to ensure it is easy to find information.

Conclusions

So what is the lesson here? I guess it would be to invest as much time and money into the people who will run your web site as into the technology that will drive it. Make sure that there is somebody within your organisation who is a real evanglist for your web site. Somebody with a clear vision of where your site is going and the resources to make it happen.

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