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How to Not Screw Things Up With Your Content Management System

So you've got a shiny new CMS (Content Management System)? Great. Here are a few tips on how you can avoid botching up your website.


1. Learn how it works.

In a modern CMS, many things will be obvious thanks to a well-designed UI (User Interface). But don't take that for granted. Some advanced or custom content management systems may still have nuances you should be aware of. Take advantage of training offered by your web design agency, or online documentation. When in doubt, get the Google out.

2. Learn some basic HTML and CSS

Just because you have a CMS doesn't mean you aren't still working in HTML. Trust me, there will be a day that you are editing content and you can't figure out what is messing up the layout in the WYSIWYG editor. Guess what? You will have to go into the 'Source' view to troubleshoot the problem (especially if you want to avoid paying your web designer to clean it up). HTML isn't that difficult. You can learn the basics on sites like codecademy for free in just a few hours.

2.5 Don't expect the CMS to make you a web designer/programmer.

CMS stands for "Content Management System". It does not bestow upon you years of design or programming experience. If you can't make it do something you have in your head, don't get upset and think that you just bought a lousy system. That's like getting upset because your new cordless drill doesn't make a very good hammer. If you want to do something the CMS doesn't seem capable of, call your web company, I am sure they can help you.

3. Check the "live" page after you hit save or publish

I know this sounds like a "NO-DUH" tip, but you will be tempted to just say "Eh, I'm sure it's fine." on days that you are in a hurry. And that will be the time that it is not fine. So do yourself a favor and go look at the actual page the users sees after you hit save. Every. Time.

4. Set a strong password.

Again. NO-DUH. If you are in charge of updating your company's website and a hacker gains access because of your lazy password, you could lose your job, be sued, or both. It's not worth the risk.

5. Train and grant access to more than one person in your organization.

If there is only one person in your entire organization who knows how and/or has access to the CMS, you are creating an unnecessary bottleneck. And if that one person isn't you and they leave or go on a long vacation, you are setting yourself up for bad times. Murphy's law says they will be unavailable when you need an emergency update to go live. Plus, it's nice to be able to delegate and share responsibility for different aspects of the site. Having multiple users increases the likelihood the site will stay updated if each person only has to worry about their section. Which brings us to the next tip...

6. Take advantage of the Users/Roles feature of your CMS

Most content management systems have a feature to create multiple users and assign them to roles. This allows you to grant access to other folks and control what they can and cannot edit. So for instance, you can give a junior employee the ability to only make minor content updates to a particular section of the website. Some CMSs even allow changes to be approved by a higher role before they can be published. Using roles minimizes risk and allows you to share the effort involved in maintaining all the content of your website.

7. Have a content strategy to follow

Nothing dooms a CMS to whither away into irrelevance like not having a content strategy plan. Know what you're going to post, who is going to write it, and when you're going to post it. Take the time to create a plan, even if you only look a few months (say 6ish) out. If you aren't sure how to create a content strategy, you can alway hire a content strategist (we might know a few).

Well, what are you waiting for? Log in to that CMS confidently and manage some content!

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