Content management systems allow complete instant control over your online information, they work within your website giving access to all updateable areas.
Site features may be altered from within any Internet browser, meaning updates may be completed from any PC with an internet connection anywhere, with no extra costs for software.
The features and benefits of a content management system (CMS)
Content management is effectively complete control over text, images and graphics within your website, but there are many other features available such as the ability to implement flash animations and rich media content.
What is content?
In the context of Content management system (CMS), content is what you put into the system, this might include documents, images, audio / video, flash animation, graphs, spreadsheets and presentations.
What is a Content management solution?
Content management solutions are largely seen as being a web publishing tools or environments which enable a range of content to be easily published to the web, and for that content to be organized and managed in a coherent and effective way.
A content management solution will provide a user interface so that the content producer can concentrate on adding, updating and maintaining the content while the design layout can be controlled by the designers. And so the technical standards and requirements for the platform to appear and function properly are the responsibility of people with the relevant IT skills, whilst the content producer may have very limited IT skills.
The content management system should enable any specified user the ability to author specific daily content and media for their website without having to learn or consider the underlying technologies or programming languages. In practice, it should be as easy for an author to publish to the web as it is writing and saving an MS Word document. Another advantage is the ability to setup quality control and create workflows and assigning various different people with the responsibilities of authors, editors and publishers.
Advantages of a content management solution
A content management system will be driven by a database such as Microsoft SQL and it will produce the website in a dynamic, flexible way.
There are many advantages to this, such as elements of the site may be generated dynamically, where one content item such as an article about a product may be dependant on the product actually existing within the system and if the product is removed, so is the connected article. This effectively removes dead-ends within the system.
A quality content management solution can have other dynamic abilities such as allowing authors to generate dynamic polls and surveys and easily capture and publish the results.
Content management solutions can also be configured so that the user can personalize their experience of using your particular site, also you may want to have a website where the vast majority of the content is accessible to everyone, but you may want users to register to view other content or services. This may be access to discussion groups or forums, classified adverts or the ability to add information to the system as a registered user.
What content administration features should the CMS feature?
A content management solution can be administrated in several different formats, the most conventional is to use a 'template format', this allows users to modify each page within restricted areas, so if a page was made up of a paragraph on the left and a photograph on the right, within the administration they would have a text entry box in the area where the text was and a control for changing or adding the image to the right. This works well if the page design layout doesn't need to be changed but can be quite restrictive if the administrator requires more control such as the ability to add an addition image or object to the page.
A advanced content management solution will contain a 'rich text editor' format which was made possible by the advent of the Microsoft .NET programming language as it allowed many more features and controls which were much more difficult to develop using conventional technologies. The rich text editor gives the administrator complete control over page content and design, incorporating many controls found in packages such as MS Word along with the ability to use drag and drop absolute positioning to move text, images, objects and rich media content such as audio and video presentations to any location within a page.
Can other employees use the content management solution?
A content management solution may enable the administrator(s) of the system to create additional authors but only allow them access to edit certain areas, this can be highly effective as for example a company press officer can be given access to update the website news area, or the management team can be given access to update the company mission statement.
There should be no limit on the amount of users that can be created, allowing the administrator(s) to create the perfect work-flow and ensure that the website is being maintained by the correct members of staff within the organization.
Content management solutions and search engine promotion
Online website promotion can be a very time consuming exercise, a lot of work usually has to go into the Meta tag generation and site content to ensure that you will get listed. This has always traditionally been the job of the website development company or search engine specialist.
A quality content management solution should have built in functionality to cover all aspects of search engine promotion such as the ability to create and modify the title, description and keywords Meta tags for each page. There are also other areas to consider like the ability to create ALT tags for any images within the site, especially the homepage as certain engines such as Google.