August 21, 2014

The Future of Content – A CMS Checklist for Developers

By TMCnet Special Guest
Christopher Justice, Chief Marketing Officer, Magnolia ,

When you buy a new car, you do a lot to make sure it's the one you want. You take it for a test drive. You contemplate two wheel drive versus four wheel. You mull over the various options, weighing cost against the essential ability to load the kids and a dog in the back, or a kayak on the roof. You carefully pick the vehicle that suits your needs – after all, it's a big purchase that you're going to stick with for some time – and hopefully leave without a hint of buyer's remorse, because you made a well-informed decision.

Choosing a new CMS should involve the same rigor.

You need to consider a variety of factors to make sure the CMS is the right fit. The last thing you want to do is purchase a new CMS, design your new site and load all your content to find that it can't handle your ever-changing needs. At Magnolia, we've spent years understanding what customers want from their CMS, and we've identified some key things any new CMS should do really well.

1. Ease digital content creation across devices

Remember who's going to use your CMS the most? It’s highly likely your authors and editors are its primary users, not your developers. That's why you need a CMS that lets authors create new pages, campaigns and microsites without needing to know HTML, CSS (NewsAlert) and JavaScript. Authors should be able to edit and update pages without needing a developer on standby, whether from a desktop PC or while mobile.

You also want your CMS to automate as much work as possible, so your staff can focus on maximizing their creativity instead of getting lost in administrative details. So, for example, your CMS should automatically (and intelligently) take care of generating SEO-friendly page URLs, relinking pages if they move, and indexing content for search. Drag-and-drop page editing, simple photo, video and media management, customizable shortcuts for common tasks and real-time notifications reduce the learning curve and help authors get productive with minimal training.

2. Quickly launch mobile sites

Mobile traffic now accounts for a third of all Internet traffic, and U.S. consumers are forecast to spend more time on mobile devices than PCs in 2014. Mobile is clearly the new king of the hill. Your CMS should let you take advantage by responsively adapting and optimizing your content for different screen resolutions and devices. For example, it should dynamically rescale images.

It's also important for your mobile website to reflect your brand well. A well-designed CMS knows this, so it lets you share and reuse content between your mobile and desktop websites and rapidly push content to multiple channels without duplicating effort. Mobile preview tools, which let your content authors preview pages on iPads and Androids before turning them live, are an added bonus.

3. Be secure and scalable

For any mission-critical website, security and scalability are important. Ideally, you want a CMS with separate staging and production environments, so that you can identify content problems in an "almost real" environment, before turning it live. Granular access control lets you lock down access to sensitive functions on a per-user basis.

If your CMS supports enterprise authentication systems like LDAP and JAAS, it becomes easier to get it up and running because the system can immediately enforce existing user credentials and privileges. And with multi-core cloud servers now readily available, it goes without saying that you want your CMS to be set up for clustering and load balancing, so that you can scale up without breaking the bank.

4. Handle content in more than one language

Localized content entry, native language user interfaces, and a system of storage for multiple translations are some of the basic things to look for here. Since translations are typically outsourced to specialist agencies, your CMS should allow you to export and import content in translation-friendly XLIFF and CSV formats, and create review and approval workflows for multi-lingual content. Once you've got those translations into the system, your CMS should take care of automatically detecting and presenting content in the user's native language (using IP address or locale detection) and providing local-language search.

5. Play well with analytics, CEM and social tools

With social media and always-on mobile devices, consumers have become more sophisticated, and your primary channel for engaging them – your website – needs to keep pace. But marketing technologies are constantly changing and obsolescence is a real danger. That's why your CMS should be agile enough to connect with both existing and future tools, without any restrictions or lock-in.

If your CMS uses open standards, integrating with best-of-breed analytics, ecommerce, social, marketing automation and personalization tools becomes a breeze…plus you can build out your digital marketing suite at your own speed and tailored to your exact needs.

6. Support distributed teams

Creating, reviewing, publishing and maintaining content isn't a one-person job. Your CMS should allow editorial teams to work together seamlessly from wherever they are. At the very least, it should include a browser-based editing interface and support for user roles and privileges. But typically, you'll also want versioning and undo features, so that it's easy to roll back to a previous version of a page; rich, customizable workflows for content review; and real-time, workflow-linked notifications of content changes, statistics and pending tasks.

Once you're sure your CMS has what it takes to live up to your expectations, sign the check, then pop the champagne…your website is ready for the future!

Christopher Justice is the Chief Marketing Officer at Magnolia. Magnolia is used in more than 100 countries across the world, by governments and leading enterprises. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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