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Blog: article

Managing website content, website control and the role of a Content Management System (CMS)

Oct
31 2013
Managing website content, website control and the role of a Content Management System (CMS)

by Nigel Harding

Introduction

Do you need to change your website content?

Some clients do come tell us that they don’t see a need to change their website content. That’s fair enough although there are some reasons why it is good to change content:

  • Google likes changing website content
  • Your website is more likely to be visited (by human visitors) if you have fresh, relevant content
  • Your content can adapt to your immediate business objectives.

Setting expectations, to what extent can you change your website?

If you decide that you do want to change content, the next question is how far you can go in changing your site?

I think that the important point to make here is that a Content Management System (CMS) is not intended to be a design tool. It shouldn’t give you the ability to make design changes or dramatically alter the appearance of the site. If the website has been setup correctly then there will be a pre-defined set of headings that you can use, you should be able to edit text or add/remove images (if applicable). A CMS isn’t a WYSIWYG editor and creating or generating a web page isn’t as easy as typing into a Word Processor. I would argue that you shouldn’t have the ability to change font type and colour because adding more fonts in different colours would break the design, you shouldn’t need to worry about which font to use or where lines break or how text wraps, those decisions have already been made for you.

A CMS is intended to allow you to add or change content and it should take care of any formatting decisions for you

Free text editing versus structured content

The CMS that we use allows us to make decisions about the amount of structure that we build in to the website page. There are two extremes here.

1. We can enable free-form text editing. This gives the website owner complete freedom to add headings, images, text, files and embed links using an editor window. The only problem is, we also grant the ability to upload images that are too big or incorrectly sized and will break the design, the person editing might not get the heading sizes correct so that an inconsistent look is introduced. Therefore with this freedom comes the possibility that the website owner may mess up the look and feel of the website pages, perhaps inadvertently, by forgetting or not understanding the choices available.

Fig 1. Free-form text editor

free-form editing of cms

2. We can break website pages down into structured components. For example, if you have a News page on your website then it will usually have a heading, optional image, then some descriptive text. We can setup fields so that when you enter the content you enter a heading, browse for and upload an image then enter your description into a text editor box. Once that information is saved then it is guaranteed to use the correct heading size and we can put some constraints on picture size (useful where image thumbnails are needed). This is slightly less flexible for the website owner but it does ensure that the consistency of the website is preserved.

Fig 2. Structured editing of a News section

structured editing

Some parts of a website lend themselves quite naturally to this more structured approach. For example, if you have a slideshow then it would look awkward if you were to use different image sizes so we would normally use a structured approach and ensure that all images in the slideshow are sized/cropped to the appropriate (same) dimensions.

If you have any preferences about the level of editing available to you in the CMS then speak to us at the outset and we can discuss this with you and build the site in accordance with your preferences.