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Content Management Systems

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Perhaps the first consideration when choosing a content management solution (CMS) is to determine exactly what it is. Well, imagine your website is like the house you live in. A web design agency has built this house for you, a web host has fitted the gas and electricity and ensured that the house is large enough for your needs, and graphic designers and copywriters have made the place look good. But what if you want to chuck out some of your old furniture, move things around or update your ageing entertainment system? Doing this on a website is not as easy as it is in reality, which is why you need a CMS to
enable you to do a little spring cleaning and ensure everything is up-to-date and working to the required standard.

In other words, a bespoke CMS can facilitate your control of nearly every aspect of your website so that simple changes can be undertaken quickly and cost effectively. It should also enable you to make the following modifications without bringing in a consultant or specialist:

· Add unlimited new pages and images from your desktop, change font styles, sizes and decorations and upload audio and video clips, PDFs and Word documents for your users to download.

· Edit existing pages using an HTML or Microsoft Word type editor and manage the formats and dates of all new articles.

· Send e-newsletters to your client data-base and tailor them to send information according to consumer preference.

A good CMS should also mean that you can receive enquiries through an online feedback form, manage your product database, view an online sales chart, download customer details into Microsoft Excel, maintain a secure area for payment details and create administrator accounts with different levels of security access. In addition to this, an advanced CMS gives you detailed user statistics allowing you to see how many people have viewed your website, when they viewed it, what pages they looked at, which search engine they came from and what they typed into the search engine to get to you. Such data can be shown in both graphical and tabular formats that can be used in company presentations and reports to identify areas of strength on the site and areas where there’s room for improvement.

As should be clear by now, the great benefit of employing the right CMS is that it enables the manager of your webpage to conduct routine content updates, which keeps the site dynamic and attractive to new and existing users and allows content authors to publish material without having to learn new skills. This removes the need for having to hire an expensive contractor, so you can implement changes when they are required without having to think about the expense. Effectively, a good, integrated CMS allows you to take control of your site. Integrated CMS systems can be expensive, but the overall cost of ownership of the site will be dramatically reduced over time.

Here are a couple of things to look out for in reviewing any prospective CMS package:

· Assess what kind of system the CMS runs on and look at the advantages and disadvantages of this
system. A WYSIWYG system, for example, allows the web site owner to use a graphical web development tool, such as FrontPage or Net Objects Fusion, to make changes to the way the web site looks. The problem with this system, however, is that it uses quite rigid and convoluted code and can produce generic results so that your site doesnt stand out from the crowd. Look out for systems that are more adaptable and ask competitors and the managers of web sites you like what CMS they use and whether it truly makes their site more efficient and easier to use. Another place to look might be The Approved Index the UKs leading business to business referral service, which lists up to eight CMS providers in your area.

· Seek assurances from your CMS provider that you wont need to call them every time you get stuck for advice and assistance as to how to use the programme. They should provide all the necessary training as part of the cost of the programme and include user manuals and faqs in case you get stuck. And if you get into real trouble there should be a 24 hour service desk to call.

The level of support available to you from your provider and range of services they are able to offer should be a deciding factor in your choice of where to take your business. On a similar note, check that they are solvent. Its no good buying an CMS from a company, only for the company to go bust a year later.

· Establish how readily and easily your CMS can be upgraded to accommodate new technology, and how much any upgrade will cost. Can it be done by you or will an expert be required to come in to implement the upgrade? On a similar note, are there any assurances and guarantees with regard to CMS performance and reliability? Just as you want a CMS that can address all your IT needs, you also want one that is reliable.

Decide whether you want a partial or a total CMS programme. It may be that it is only the news area of your site that you want to manage. Naturally you want a CMS that approximates as closely as possible your needs in terms of what you want to control and what you are happy leaving to others.

This article provides a comprehensive outline of the benefits of employing a CMS for your web site and the particular areas you should look at to ensure that you have the right CMS working for you.

The best of luck in hiring a provider who can build a CMS that fits your company.