Content Management Systems, (CMS) a Reality Check

Content Management Systems, (CMS) a Reality Check

Pittsburgh, PA - Like a lot of the technology we use in our lives and in business, Content Management Systems live in 2 worlds; the theory behind it (easy -to-use, update your site with no problem) and the reality.

We have over 10 years experience with Content Management Systems and its usage by clients. Here’s the good and the bad:

The Good: First, a successful implementation of a Content Management System starts before you even choose one for and with your client. Discuss in depth with your client their wants and needs; such as  how much and what kind of updating will they be doing, for example images, pages, text, linking, how often will the updating take place, will someone need to be trained in image cropping, SEO considerations, future site considerations, etc. Inform the client the benefits and limitations of the Content Management Systems that are being considered, (this is very important).

Second, you’ll need to know if the client is willing to commit. What I mean by this, is the client willing to dedicate someone, (sometimes it’s them) who will be responsible for the administration and management of the Content Management System. This person will be the one doing the updating, etc. So, find your degree of client commitment, it’s important. It will save you and your client a lot of headaches.

If you have a high degree of client commitment including a dedicated site administrator/manager the next step is training on the chosen Content Management System. I cannot over-estimate the value of this training. Depending on the technical “savvy” of the person to be trained, (they are usually regular end-users, non-technical professionals) expect the training to be between 8-20 hours. I don’t mean doing this helter-skelter. This should work like attending a class and incorporated into costs as a line-item. If the client is serious, this will not be a problem. Also, discuss fees to cover post-training phone and on-site support.

Believe me; even with the best of training and a tech-savvy trainee, you’ll still be getting support calls. Help guides and manuals will offer some support. An informed client is generally a happy client.

Note: A Blog is always a consideration as an alternative to a Website. They are by nature a Content Management System in and of themselves.

The Bad: This is simple really, and it comes down to a half-measure approach by both the technology company and the client. For example; the technology company says “I can show you real quick how to put up an image, add files, make type changes, etc.”  And the client says “yeah, that sounds real good, etc., etc.” (Myself, I blame this type of execution on the technology company offering the Content Management solution). Add to this that if no proper roles are defined on the client end, then the problems begin.

I like putting it like this; “a client not properly trained is a client in constant pain.”

Here’s a laundry list sampling of our client experience with the above mentioned approach:

-          Improper file naming, errors thrown

-          Client can upload one or so images but has problems with multiples

-          How to navigate to images for uploading

-          Problems with multiple image placements on a page

-          Image sizing problems, why did this image come in so big or so small?

-          No knowledge of the need for image cropping

-          Changes not appearing - not knowing to hit submit or update after edits

-          Why doesn’t it do this, why can’t I do that – limitations of the CMS product

-          Text formatting problems, e.g. copy and pasting directly from a Word document

-          How to add textual links, both internal and external

-          How to make an image a link - image mapping

-          Accidental page deletions, the “what did I do?” scenario – backups and restore capabilities

-          Non clarification on pages the client can and cannot modify, (ex. the Home page) and why - Administrative Rights and permissions

-          Ability to troubleshoot on a very minimal level is non-existent

-          Menu item addition problems and linking to the correct page

-          Adding Web pages

This is just a sampling, but I believe you get the picture. Disregarding comprehensive training will lead to a very frustrated and disillusioned client. They will blame you, and rightfully so. You’ll be hit with enough support questions even with proper Content Management System training, but they’ll be coming from an informed client.

The Scorecard: The major misnomer of these CMS tools available in today’s’ market is that they are the be all and end all of technical support. I hear them advertised as “no technical experience necessary”. OK try it. Then call us. We have found the opposite is true. Our experience in this area is extensive. Without knowledge of html, css, and some basic file management, file naming convention and linking skills, the final product does not live up to a professional design. Nor does it navigate or optimize well at this point. Even with proper training, the client must be prepared for some hurdles and frustration. Like a lot of things, CMS tools are very much a give-and-take proposition.

I blame this on the product not the customer. The advertising of CMS has painted the customer a rosy picture. Never are the technical and SEO limitations mentioned. We have encountered this numerous times. Not all CMS tools are created equal. It all boils down to the business need, the expectation level, and the willingness to commit time and effort to this undertaking. Ask yourself these questions:

(1)How much is my time worth? Do I, or a member of my staff, have the time to invest?

(2)Does my business possess the technical resources to see this project through?

(3)Would it be more cost effective in the long run to hire a professional design team?

(4)What is the image and perception I want this Website/Blog to portray to my customer?

(5)What are my current Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requirements and the scalability for future needs?

As the business owner, these decisions are up to you. Due diligence in this area is a must. A little research may save you hours of frustration and a pile of money. If you decide to explore this route, please at least consult with a professional beforehand.

Contact Blackball Online for a free evaluation of your online business needs and we will help you with this very important decision. Our business is to help you do business.

Tags: CMS, Pittsburgh, SEM, SEO, Small Business

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.