The CMS Cycle

So, an organization spends tens of thousands of dollars to build a website upon a full-access Content Management System (CMS) platform. Over the coming months every department head is issued an administrative login, which is passed on down the line to other employees. Pretty soon, 50 people have updated the website adding page upon page with 50 different writing styles and 50 different online agendas. 12 months later, the organization is left with a mangled site map and is forced to hobble along for years until they can afford to begin the process again. What a sad, yet common, story.

CMS Cycle

Don’t Blame The CMS

This is an expensive problem that has less to do with breaking down a CMS from admin screen to home page, and more to do with what role an organization expects the CMS to play in managing content. A CMS is a tool for providing an efficient method for updating content without extensive HTML coding skills. A CMS will not consider your business plan, site map, or how new content will effect user experience. A CMS, no matter how powerful or user friendly, does not justify dropping the task of managing the website on the edge of an employee’s already full plate. Organizations must recognize that someone or some department must be put in place with the authority and time to make decisions about what does & doesn’t belong online. After all, it’s people that power websites.

A Tailored Approach

Many CMSs give admins the ability to create pages whenever and wherever they want via standard issue templates. It is an easy solution during buildout, but it leaves the site map completely vulnerable to rogue, unlinked pages. This disrupts the overarching navigation and user experience. It’s like adding a room to a floor plan without considering doorways, or how it flows with the rest of the house. Additionally, all the web pages start to look the same-- a bland array of words within a boxy page frame and site masthead. Instead of multipurpose page creation, why not provide tailored methods of updating specific content? Paying close attention to the way items like news posts, events or catalog items are updated and displayed creates a truly dynamic site in both form and function.

CMS folders

Content, Managed

Think of your website not as an online archive or a repository for all your data, but as an experience. It isn’t the amount of content that makes your site valuable, it’s how easily users are able to access the content they’re looking for. If organizations, web designers and developers work together to develop a CMS strategy that considers what happens before and after admins login to make updates, websites will continue to look great & function properly, organizations will save money, and users will be able to spend less time weeding out broken, unusable websites.

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15 Responses

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  • Zachattack

    mmm will there be a follow up that includes gladiator arena elimination? I want them to fight to the death for supremacy or perhaps a WWF summer slam event.

  • ben_

    Conway’s Law: “Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.”

  • Arron Davies

    My having some page flow problems with a project at the moment. I totally want a different approach to page navigation, but i cant help but think i can’t get to exotic because site viewers will not be familiar with the adjusted layout.


  • Danny Hotea

    Would you say that CMS Breakdown is more the result of people-issues like decisions, accountability, buy-in (pardon the corporate-shmorporate) and perceived vs. tangible returns than it is of software capabilities?

    • Trent

      Danny, I think so. There’s really no substitute for clearly defining the role & capabilities of any CMS from the start.

  • Daniel Genser

    Trent, another beautiful post. Honestly I still haven’t read your words - I’m still looking at your lead diagram. Muy bien!

  • Aaron

    Honestly I think that site management should be a department with in a company. Most of the time it is users that know the information but don’t now web that are updating and it should be people that know web and are given the content. This requires more employees but I think will definitely protect the structure of any company website.

    • Jonathan Bowden

      Wow, I couldn’t have said it any better Aaron. Having worked on a few large redesigns, I have also come to the conclusion of a company needing a team or at least a single specialist to handle the administration of the website!

  • Emily

    @ben_: Wow

  • jackson welding helmets

    The beauty of these blogging engines and CMS platforms is the lack of limitations and ease of manipulation that allows developers to implement rich content and ‘skin’ the site in such a way that with very little effort one would never notice what it is making the site tick all without limiting content and effectiveness.

  • Roland Rigo

    Great post and nice diagram. Your posts are very intresting and useful.

  • Aman Anderson

    Great post! It’s always interesting to see the Website CMS Breakdown, some sites do it in a complicated way, but this is very detailed and clear.

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