At the start of 2020, it was reported that about 60% of all websites are being powered (at least to a certain extent) by a Content Management System (CMS).
With an increased demand for dynamic, content-driven websites, it is no surprise that organizations are looking for better ways to create, store, and publish their content without needing to know how to write a single line of code.
Learning the ins and outs of Content Management Systems is essential for anyone looking to work with content editing, publishing, and strategy. Those interested in advertising/public relations, writing, user-experience (UX), and/or other web based disciplines will most-likely encounter a CMS in some form or another during their career as well.
So, now that you understand the relevance of proper content management skills, we’re going to be taking a deeper look at how organizations use Content Management Systems in their daily operations. We’ll also be talking about a coffee shop for some reason.
As stated by Kristina Halvorson, a published content strategist:
Dealing with content is messy. It’s complicated, it’s painful, and it’s expensive. And yet, the web is content. Content is the web. It deserves our time and attention.The Discipline of Content Strategy
The term “content” refers mostly to the personalized, interactive elements on a website, ranging from paragraphs, images, and videos to blog posts, user data, and entire pages if needed.
For example, let’s imagine a local coffee shop that is building a new website. Perhaps the owner has some computer skills, but knows nothing about web development. The owner plans on using the website to write articles, post pictures, and maintain SEO-friendly content to help their rank in Google.
As stated, the owner doesn’t know the first thing about how websites are built. However, paying a developer every time they need to add content/edit existing content would be far too costly for their small business budget. This is where Content Management Systems come into play.
The owner decides to pay a WordPress developer to help setup the structure of the site. The structure includes things like page design, layout, themes, and mobile/tablet responsiveness. In most cases, the owner would provide the developer with some basic information, as well as some starter content to help get an idea of how to structure the layout.
Now that the website has been built, the developer hands the site over via a front-end admin portal. This allows the owner to make changes to the site’s content without worrying about affecting the site’s code/functionality. The owner begins writing coffee-themed blog posts, uploading photos of their newest craft drinks, and adding keywords to the site’s text to help them get found by more people.
All of this without knowing what HTML even stands for!
The Foundations of Content Strategy
Once a website has a good deal of content, there are a number of principles that organizations can use to ensure that they are producing content that is effective, meaningful, and (most importantly) usable.
In an article on Content Strategy and UX, it is stated that “it’s inherently impossible to design a great user experience for bad content.” Without user-friendly content, your website loses its appeal. And rightfully so – why spend time on a website that isn’t providing the valuable content you came for in the first place?
To help visualize the relationship between good content and adequate user experience, consider the “User Experience Honeycomb”, first envisioned by Peter Morville way back in 2004:
At the center of the honeycomb is the value of your content. That is to say, why should we, the users, visit your site over another? With millions of websites currently on the internet, one should consider the inherent value their content brings to the table while mapping out their content strategy.
Once you’ve created some original, valuable content, you are then encouraged to consider the surrounding factors. One could argue that any given factor takes precedent over another, but it is generally accepted that your content should try to check off as many boxes as possible.
During the curation of an organization’s content strategy, there are 5 main components to consider. Remember the coffee shop?
This includes how well your content helps achieve your organization’s primary objectives.
Example: The coffee shop’s primary objective is to convert users into potential customers by highlighting their popular drinks and writing about the latest coffee trends.
Every organization’s website has some type of primary objective. Schools aim to convert users into prospective students. Charities aim to spread awareness and/or accept donations.
Facebook aims to steal your data and/or rig elections.
Sure, your website is full of content. But are you providing content that meets the needs of your target audience? Substance can include everything from the type(s) of content you are producing (i.e. video, images, blogs) to the voice/tone you take on in your writing.
Example: The owner of the coffee shop writes about local musicians/artists/poets that will be visiting the shop, targeting their city’s largest demographic in the process.
The way your content is structured plays a large role in the usability of your website. Information Architecture (IA) refers to the methods by which you expose users to your content. Proper Information Architecture usually comes in the form of websites that are easy to navigate, often exemplified by clear and obvious page titles, circular site-maps, and/or a search bar.
Workflow relates to the schedules, tasks, and life-cycles associated with your content. Organizations will employ copywriters, content editors/creators, and content strategists to make sure they are producing valuable content on a regular basis. Similarly, they will also be tasked with keeping their content up-to-date, archiving older content when it is deemed necessary.
Example: The owner of the coffee shop aims to write one blog post per week & also highlight the “Drink of the Week” on the homepage. This workflow would consist of weekly updates, removing old content and replacing it with fresh, original content.
This relates to an organization’s policies, standards, and guidelines for its content strategy, including the methods by which it updates and improves upon its current strategy.
Example: The owner of the coffee shop gets too busy with day-to-day operations, so they hire an intern from the local university to help put out new content. The owner makes it clear that they should have one new post per week, and any post older than a month should be archived. If the intern is able to automate this process in any way, it is considered a win-win for the business.
So, Which CMS is Best?
The first rule of content management systems is that you’re using the wrong one. Using WordPress? You’re a fifth-grader running a coloring-contest blog. Drupal? You should be using WordPress. An enterprise solution? You’re an open-source Judas.Rory Douglas – Managing Your Content Management System
Whether its WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Squarespace… Wix… Magento…..Weebly…….. DreamWeaver……..
You get the point. With all of these options, who’s to say there is a “right” or “wrong” answer?
Well, in all honesty, every one of these Content Management Systems can get the job done. As with most systems in tech, the most important thing is that you find a solution that fits the needs of your organization.
If your organization has the money to spend on a developer, you are better equipped to receive a more personalized solution than with a “cookie-cutter” CMS (Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc.)
Which isn’t to say that those systems are inherently less effective than custom solutions.
The case for most small businesses, though, is that paying $30/month is a smarter decision than spending thousands on a developer. The most important takeaway is that, if you have a general understanding of proper content management skills, all that’s left is finding a tool that makes your job easier and stays within budget.
Always remember: the internet is an unfathomably large network of information, most of it being free. If you are interested in learning more about Content Management Systems, or even learning how to setup your own, check out some of the links below.
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
The Comprehensive Guide to Content Management Systems
How to Choose the Right Content Management System (CMS)
How to Make a WordPress Website in 2020 – The Ultimate DIY Guide