5 things you're doing wrong with your content management system

By Michael Argentini
Managing Partner, Technology and Design

Using a content management system for your website, intranet, learning management system (LMS) or association management system (AMS) front-end is not, by itself, a panacea. If not used correctly, they can make little difference, and sometimes even make managing your content worse.

It's very easy to find yourself falling into bad habits when you have the power to completely control your content. Here are 5 ways many people are misusing their CMS.

The file upload black hole

In the excitement and mad rush to populate the content on your website, all thought to organization can get thrown out the window, making it difficult to find and use the files you've uploaded, like photos, PDF documents, and more.

Solution:

  • Make sure your files are named in a descriptive, search-friendly manner.
  • Create a folder structure to organize your files. For example, separate photos from PDFs, and create folders within each to organize the files by type, like "Feature photos" and "Biography headshots". You'll thank me later.

Minimal templates

Much of the time CMS developers focus on using rich text editors to give content authors the freedom and flexibility to create whatever content they like. The problem is that content authors aren't designers. So the end result often looks unprofessional, and in the worst cases, like a ransom note.

Solution:

  • Have your CMS developer create purpose-built templates that ask for simple, explicit content units like blocks of text, image pickers, etc. so that the template itself can perform layout duties.
  • Simplify the rich text editors to restrict functionality to text and text styles. Remove features like image inserts, tables, alignment, etc.

Lack of platform updates

When a CMS platform is finally deployed to production, a phase of maintenance and enhancement should begin. But that's not always the case. So when exploits are found and not patched in your platform, you're putting corporate messaging at risk, potentially endangering users, and quite possible creating a vector for Internet malware distribution.

Solution:

  • Work with your CMS developer to set up a maintenance schedule and budget so security patches can be applied as needed. This also includes monitoring things like backups.
  • Allocate time to get feedback from users on your platform and use that feedback to inform improvements over time. You'll increase engagement and satisfaction and the users will tell you how.

Giant photos

The photos you purchase or take yourself to use on your website are generally much larger than they need to be. If you serve them to site visitors as-is, you'll use up a large amount of their bandwidth, providing them with a slow experience as giant images are rendered like a slow curtain closing before their eyes.

Solution:

  • CMS solutions like Umbraco, which we deploy most frequently, have features that dynamically resize and optimize images. This makes it foolproof to keep things running fast for everyone.
  • If your CMS doesn't have automatic image optimization, resize the dimensions of images to be a maximum of 1920 pixels wide using tools like Photoshop, macOS Preview, Windows photo editor, etc., and then use tools like JPEG mini or ImageOptim to shrink their file sizes down as much as possible, before adding them to website content.

Dirty paste

Remember that naughty rich text editor I mentioned earlier? It also makes it too easy to paste in horribly formatted content from Microsoft Word and other apps. When you paste from third party apps, the result is a nightmare of hidden styles that wreak havoc on the rendered content or even the web page as a whole.

Solution:

  • Many rich text editors have a feature to "Paste without formatting" or "Paste from Word". Use that. It should clean up the weirdness. Some also have a toolbar button to "Remove formatting". Select all the pasted content and click that button to get rid of problematic styling. Then format it using the editor's tools.
  • Paste into a text editor like Notepad, then copy/paste out of that program into your CMS editor. That will also clean up the excess styling.

If you need help with some of the more technical recommendations, like better templates, let us know. We take pride in making the editor experience as enjoyable as possible, while keeping the final output looking sharp. Just visit our contact page and let us know how we can help.

Article last updated on 4/28/2018