Building a content management solution goes beyond just picking a Content Management System (CMS). It starts with asking the right questions during discovery, selecting the right tool for the job, creating architecture, and setting the stage for development.
- Discovery: Determine Wants & Needs Discovery is the first step for building a successful content management solution. It’s the time to determine both technical and non-technical requirements. And above all, it’s the time to ask stakeholders, editors, developers and system administrators what they need – and what they want.
- + Stakeholders will drive what content is on the site. It may range from a few simple pages about the company to a complete product catalog, separated into categories.
- + Editors will tell you what they need to get content published on the site. That often means rich-text editors for formatting content, spellcheck and rich-media capabilities like photos, galleries, videos and audio.
- + Developers will tell you what they need to develop the design as well as advanced functionality, such as supported programming language to develop contact forms, polls, and integrations with third-party systems, as well as templating requirements to reduce the amount of code needed and minimize code duplication.
- + System Administrators will tell you what they need to run and support the CMS, like server hosting requirements, an on-premise solution or a cloud-based one, access control, just a username and password to author content or more limited author permissions.
- CMS: Choose the Right Tool
Picking the right tool is the next step. Evaluate the requirements from your stakeholders, editors, developers, and system administrators, and compare them against the features of CMS options in the market.Keep these elements in mind:
- + Customizable and flexible content model – Some come with a single page for content, others come with the ability to define custom content with its own set of properties. The more custom and flexible the content model, the more dynamic the site can be.
- + Flexible templating system – Some are drag-and-drop component based, and others embed templates within each other. The more flexible the system, the more you can reuse templates and reduce code duplication.
- + User management – Some are very simple, define a username and password and give it a role that can perform actions; others are more complex, defining what content a user can author.
- + Budget – Some CMSes are free and others cost a licensing fee per user. Smaller ones might require a single server, larger ones multiple servers. Be aware of your budget, since the costs will add up.
- Architecture: Define Your Plan
Once you’ve determined your requirements and tool, you can create architecture to help guide development. Your architecture will define:
- + How the content model is built with the chosen CMS. The necessary pieces of information and grouped entities and fields are defined, as well as relationships between entities so content can be displayed correctly.
- + How templates should be structured with the chosen CMS. This defines how many different templates the developer will need to create.
- + Integrations with third-party systems. Is there a separate system for contact inquiries or is the product information stored in another system that needs to be queried directly or imported into the chosen CMS?
- + A test plan to validate development. Include what browsers and devices – and what versions – the site is being developed for. And include other criteria from the requirements that came out of discovery.
- Development: Build, Test & Talk
Development is the final step. Build the content model, create the templates, and develop any integrations with third-party systems. What will make development most successful?
- + Be flexible when it comes to changes. As development digs in, new discoveries will be made that will increase the effort needed to complete requirements.
- + Test as you go. As different pages and sections are completed, test them right away instead of waiting until the end of development. Fix challenges before they cascade into larger problems.
- + Review with stakeholders and authors early and often. As with testing, review pages and sections together once they are completed – and solve issues as you go.
Keep these secrets in mind, and you’ll set your content management solution up for success.