08NTC: Day 3, The Joy of CMS

Implementing Sustainable Content Management Systems
Norman Reiss: nreiss [at]nonprofitbridge.com, Jeff Herron (Beaconfire), Andrew Cohen (Forum One Communications), Nathan Gasser (Rock River Star)

The success of content management isn’t based on what product you use, but how you implement it.

What is CMS?
Something you use to update a website. Useful because it aloows you to give non technical people the ability to more easily update content. It should be decentralized.

Does my organization need a CMS?
Not always, but when you have a lot of content and have a desire to spread responsibility, it makes sense.

What product features does a CMS provide? What features does it not include?
Good to know beforehand what you plan to do with it beforehand.

Implementation options

  • Hosted, ASP model, lease
  • Installed, commercial product (buy)
  • Installed, open source (buy) - open source are particularly strong in CMS. This does not mean free. You’ll have to pay for customization and support. Implementation partners are just as important as software choice.

How much should I budget?
All over the map. Many people use a blog as a CMS. If you go with the major open source softwares, you won’t have a problem finding support.

Vendor quality is important regardless - on a short-term and long-term basis.

Who will install?

  • in-house team
  • existing vendor you trust
  • new vendor (who specializes in CMS?)

How will I migrate existing content?
If anyone tells you it’s going to be easy, they are probably lying. Everyone has to do it. Recommendation if you are doing a complete redesign and changing the structure of your content (going to a more customer centric), automating that switch is hard to do because the nature of the changes you’re making are so dramatic, automation is not effective. If you make a huge change, you’ll likely have to re-write most of your content. Migrate some old and over time, remove what doesn’t make sense.

Use it as a training exercise. Get trained, lock a team into a conference room and use the content as training practice. Then people will be able to go off on their own.

Some times you need brute force - employ temps and interns.

For most of the content, you want the content owners to help with the migration so they can identify things that are out of date. Editing content as you go, lengthens the process.

Planning can be a huge job in itself. Use a tool like delicious to tag areas of content and archive them that way. Then you have them in a format where you can analyze all of it in one place and move forward.

*Turn off workflow during content migration!!

*Goal to get the IT person out of the workflow.

Who will update web content?

  • creative/design team
  • marketing/communications
  • IT/Technical
  • subject matter experts
  • volunteers

Always keep in mind the folks who will be updating it. It should be more than just the technical folks. The culture in the organization might need to change, and you have to be open to that.

CMS can be used to re-use content too.

Training and Support

Who should manage the CMS?
Usually lives in the marketing/communications department. Collaboration for the content to be managed by the comm people and IT to back up the infrastructure. Often pre-requisites. Distributed authoring takes some time to get to. Create an internet department and folks can be peers within their own groups - becomes much more critical when you roll-out a CMS. Encourage people to look at creation dates of content in order to know when new content needs to be developed.

Need to consider how much training will be needed for our staff to use CMS?
Develop a quickstart guide, one page long. Monthly webinar training sessions.

Managing web content

If you are updating content frequently, make sure content is not embedded in Flash, images, etc.

Preparing and Editing Content

*Whatever CMS you pick, you need to figure out its “quirks” and drink the Kool-aid the faster you’ll be able to refine your process.

  • Can I rely on WYSIWYG or will I need programming help?
  • How does writing for the web differ from writing for other communications media? You need to educate your staff on how people should be writing for the web and what the differences are. Sub-heads, bullets, smaller snippets. Make sure pick a good title for SEO!! For RSS, pipe the entire article. Don’t grab the first 40 words and make it your title and the way that content is indexed. Think about short attention spans. If people can’t find your content, you may need to redesign. Good book: Web style guide.com, Jakob Nielson (useit.com).
  • What sort of skills are needed to be a content contributor? For workflow, look at structures already in the organization (like enewsletter). Develop policies and procedures for educating people about what is good, implement review process too.
  • When preparing content to load to a new CMS, how should we organize it?
  • What sort of content is often overlooked when preparing for a new CMS?


  • How often should web content be reviewed/updated?
  • Who will need to approve it before it goes live?
  • How should I setup rights to use our CMS?

Types of content that are often overlooked

  • Flash, image files, etc - can your CMS handle these?
  • Transitional, instructional information explaining how to get to content. Especially when making copy decks you can’t see the way that content physically lives and if it makes sense.
  • Copy that goes into emails
  • Lots of data in tables and charts

*Strategic advantage to keep web 2.0 off your website

  • Slideshare.net
  • graphwise
  • dabbledb
  • gliffy - google docs for Visio

Web 2.0 conundrum

  • When does it make sense to put content in CMS and to use third party? Days of control are long over. Encourage users to develop their own content in 3rd party apps and they can further your mission. Don’t get in the way of this potential, the way of the new world.
  • Open source does better at incorporating web 2.0


  • Make sure correct people have rights to right pages, especially in the case of turnover.
  • Benefit of attaching page rights to groups instead of individual users
  • Make sure workflow owner has time and interest in approving pages so they push things through efficiently but there is a review process in place
  • Name each user individually
  • Don’t overthink your workflow - 1-2 people process

System should have updates once or twice a year.

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