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What defines an effective CMS

Get to know the factors that make a content management system efficient for web editors.

Whether you’re an editor for a digital community system, an online store, a multimedia platform, an app, or just a traditional website, you work through a content management system—or CMS for short.

Although this system may be called something else—like digital experience platform—every stakeholder involved is interested in the same thing: That it is an effective tool to work with. But what factors define an effective CMS? Here are the essentials.

Future-proof your digital experiences:

Guide: How to Future Proof Your Digital Experiences

Great UX

Any web editor wants fundamentally one thing: to deliver their content digitally through an easy-to-use tool. User experience (UX) is an umbrella term designating whether a given service or tool provides meaningful and relevant experiences to users. Web editors thus crave for great UX in their tools—their CMS.

Great UX in the world of CMS means that its operations should be fast and responsive, with no excessive loading times. Further, the CMS should have no steep learning curve and consequently be easy to understand. If you have to google every single action or consult an operations manual, the CMS is too difficult.

So, if the CMS is sluggish, untrustworthy (say, it doesn’t save your work before crashing), and overly complex, something is terribly wrong and your web editors will eventually hate it—no matter how expensive or fancy it is. Make sure to choose a CMS where these concerns are explicitly addressed.

Read more: 5 ways a CMS can improve the efficiency of your daily tasks »

It just works

Closely related to UX is that the CMS just works. One thing is being fast and accessible, but “just works” also relates to a lack of bugs and downtime.

Web editors can be forgiving with a slightly sluggish CMS, like a driver can tolerate some quirks of his truck. But just like no driver would stand up for faulty brakes or a plain engine breakdown, no web editor will accept daily technical errors that interfere with their business mojo.

Similarly, just like the truck driver isn’t necessarily a car mechanic, the web editor isn’t necessarily a developer. Consequently, no technical mastery should be required—the CMS should just be working on the editors’ level. And if not, a support and notification system should quickly alert developers about any technical issue.

Logical structure

A great user experience and a machinery that “just works” is fully dependent on a logical structure. Logic—the art of non-contradictory identification—is in fact a primary component of any programming language. But even though an underlying language may be as logical as a robot, the overlaying and resulting service, like a CMS, may be complex and confusing.

An effective CMS allows the web editors to easily see the relation between content and presentation. How is the content e.g. presented in the CMS? Is it through a neat tree structure, or through endless lists and menus? And where do you see dependencies and what templates dictate the presentation?

A CMS with a logical structure makes it easy to both preview and organise the content—either within the existing front-end framework or through a quick collaboration with your developers.

See also: Translating technology into business value »

Easy to collaborate

Doing what you want and doing it both fast and seamlessly solves a lot of your web editor woes. But a brilliant solo tool is no longer enough—you have to be able to just as quickly and smoothly collaborate with your team.

What features should you look for when it comes to effective collaboration? Firstly, sharing previews and URLs in a secure way with your co-workers should be a breeze. Secondly, issues management should be incorporated as naturally in the CMS as options for “edit” and “publish.” Thirdly, a tidy overview of content, edit history, and responsibilities makes it easy for you and your co-workers to review and document what has actually been going on.

Easy to find stuff

Over time it’s inevitable that the amount of content grows, either if you’re part of a large multinational corporation or a local business. There’s several ways to solve this problem, for instance on a strategic level involving a systematic inventory.

But in a day-to-day manner, you still have to find old blog posts, documents, or images you uploaded months or years ago. And your best mate in this regard is what your CMS hopefully provides natively: search and logical navigation.

A search function that shows instant results and that gives you the opportunity to sort by content types and date ranges will most likely speed up your daily operations. Just make sure to name your documents with good descriptions, or else the search will be less efficient.

Don’t miss: 4 reasons why your digital experiences platform must be agile and flexible »

Easy media management

Most content management consists of producing, publishing, moving, and depublishing articles and images on the web. You therefore have no need for specialised tools for absolutely everything. Why shouldn’t you be able to handle basic operations for images and videos in your CMS? Cropping, resizing, and rotating images should be possible in the CMS itself, and will save you a lot of time.

For the more advanced operations, of course, you should use more specialised services. But in a daily manner, a simple but strong tool can make your CMS operations much more efficient.

Third-party integrations

Even though the CMS should be able to handle some daily tasks, it cannot be everything for everyone. This is where third-party integrations with your favourite marketing tools come into place.

An effective CMS is a flexible CMS, allowing for third-party apps or plugins to enrich your professional life. Whether it’s an analytics tool, a SEO tool, a creative tool, or something else entirely, your CMS should be open and flexible enough to install such tools or at least let your developers build an integration.

Handling legacy systems

An effective CMS will most likely not be the first CMS of your organisation, and neither will it be the sole digital platform inhouse. Integrations with legacy systems of the CRM and ERP mantle will happen, and again your effective CMS should be flexible enough to handle these kinds of bilateral connections with APIs or similar tools.

The handling of legacy systems lets your CMS become a member of the family, so to speak, and allows it to function perfectly on top of complex systems. Make sure your CMS is up for the task.

Guide: How to Future Proof Your Digital Experiences

effective cms
user experience
responsive cms
search function
image handling
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