Getting the most from your CMS: Embrace Your Content Editors

Embrace Your Content Editors

A content management system (CMS) can be a significant investment of time and dollars. The key benefits are that it puts content editing in the hands of the people who are experts in that content, and that developers can work more efficiently to create one set of functionality. Those benefits only materialize when the right resources are in place. In this CMS Foundations series, I’ll explain the most important elements and activities to help you get the most from your CMS.

Content editors are the driving force in a CMS-based system. Once a website, for example, is designed, built, and launched, someone needs to keep it up to date!

A drop-off in editor participation will lead to reduced website quality over time. That sounds like a pretty obvious statement, but keeping editors engaged is not always a priority for owners and stakeholder teams.

So how do you keep content editors engaged and, well, editing? Simple (though not always easy): cater to their needs.

Show content editors you love them

One of the best ways to get anyone engaged on a project or a team is to demonstrate how much you appreciate and need them. Content editors are no different. Show them you care:

  • Identify and involve them early in the process.
  • Keep them informed as development continues. Let them feel like part of the process – because they are!
  • Ask their opinion. Actually listen to their concerns and meet their needs as much as possible.

Make their job easier

Content editors do their work within the CMS interface itself. They arrange components (or widgets, or web parts) onto templated pages, populate components with content, then publish those pages to the actual site.

The back end is so easy to overlook. Customers will never see the business end of a component, so why should we spend time and money designing it to meet the demands of a few dozen employees?

Except those few dozen employees are the curators of your site. They’re the creators of the content that your customers will actually see. If you make it hard for them to do that, they won’t be able to do it as well. Or they may give up entirely.

The mindset of ignoring the actual building blocks of a site causes so much consternation for content editors and site owners.

Components wind up committing just an absolute heap of UX sins, making it nearly impossible for even skilled and committed content editors to do a great job.

I guarantee that investing the time up front, to get this part of it right, will pay off generously in terms of content quality and editor happiness.

Support your content editors

Creating templates and components that are intuitive and easy to use will avert many problems. But keep in mind that content editors are generally not technologists. They are HR reps, product managers, sales reps, writers, office managers. And while many professionals these days are comfortable with technology, many aren’t.

Help them help themselves

Take care to document the templates and components. Which ones to use for which purpose (this gets close to a pattern library or design system), and how to actually edit them. Most people are happy to look up how to do something and be self-sufficient, you just need to provide the tools.

A solid training curriculum is the final piece in supporting content editors. In-person training is the best, but is not always feasible. I have found that an initial training over the phone, with a screenshare, is pretty effective, especially if the interface is intuitive and documentation is in place.

For larger sites with robust editor communities, a train-the-trainer program can be the best route. That helps distribute the load of training individual editors, while establishing an “expert” for each section or type of content who can answer questions.

Embrace your content editors through early engagement, components that meet their needs, and ongoing support. You’ll field fewer editor complaints. You’ll encounter fewer headaches. More importantly, you’ll have higher quality content, updated more frequently, and arranged better on the page.

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