This has been a recent musing of mine, why do people dislike their CMS. Be it small open source or proprietary enterprise systems the grass is always greener. The problem lies with the very idea / term of a “CMS” from the very beginning. Traditionally, they have focused very little on the content.

Think about it, when you think about CMS selection where do most people go? Features, bells and whistles and how it manages users. I would add that even the CMS companies and their sales people are to blame here. I would propose that CMS selection should start at content models and user workflows and go from there.

This also gets to part of the issue which is how internal teams are formed to select them. Usually one of two options both of which have their issues:

  • IT driven selection – focuses on a technology solution that can scale, has web services, is secure, works with their internal systems, databases, etc
  • Marketing driven selection – focuses on a system that is visually stunning and creative and can pull in bells and whistles

CMS Selection done wrong

There are reasons why both approaches are wrong. Both are needed pieces to create a sustainable and functional solution. However, a big outstanding issue is that the people who are going to use it and their content are not front and center. You have to get with “users” all types and see their daily workflows. See how you can create the interfaces and content types to meet their needs. What are their pain points, look for top tasks that they need, what is extraneous. Tailor your software to those needs. And by that I don’t mean get the CMS that has those features. Get a CMS that has those features and then make an interface that works for your users. This is a key step that is often overlooked. If you are going to spend this much of your organizations money please do your due diligence match your system to YOUR organizations needs.

Most CMS system/ implementations/ vendors focus on treating the symptom not the underlying issues:

  • Average user skills and time spent in the tool vs to much complexity
    • Issue: Training and retraining and retraining for users that seldom interact with these complex systems
  • Enable lots of people edit content
    • Issue: Editorial standards, content relevancy and SEO is not kept intact

Purpose of a CMS

So you might ask, what is a CMS for then? In an ideal state a CMS should be used to help web and content professionals manage content. They should work with unit staff to develop relevant content that is effective for their sites and their users need. Let me repeat, a CMS would ideally enable content to be managed more centrally by digital professionals.

I will acknowledge that you cant simply pull back all content production to a central group at the flip of a switch. But you should take intentional steps to audit and prioritize the content that should have intervention from digital professionals. Hey, this is starting to sounds like content strategy… Ding, ding, ding it is.

There are places/ content types that don’t need the intervention of digital professionals IE basic content updates and ideally those will have custom content types for each of those to keep standard intact. Not simply a large wysiwig blob.

Ideally the right mix is:

  • Tool: CMS with flexible content types
  • Content care: Content strategist
  • Tech/ interface fix: UI/ CMS developer

These people can wrap CMS up in a nice bow to help actualize the myth that is “a CMS people love”  regardless of the actual CMS system that you use.


Listen to our podcast episode on the role of content governance in your digital strategy