How much of your website can you really manage?

For anyone who has used a content management system to maintain a website, there are some familiar and recurring challenges to contend with that can turn what should be a quick, straight forward task into a slow and difficult process. These include working with pictures, pasting content from other sources into the page, changing those other parts of the page that you can't get to through the main content editor, and a host of others.

Usually the remedy to any of them is one or more of these:

  • Good implementation - the way your site was built when it was originally set up
  • CMS capabilities - time saving features that your website platform offers to make your job easier
  • Power user training - learning how to use some of the more advanced features of your website platform

Let's take a look at some of the more common - and avoidable - problems:

"I just want to change that picture there but when I do, it looks all wrong"

This can happen with slideshows, banners, products in your shopping cart system or any other image in your site. It's an area where there can be significant differences between content management systems, and the best of them can make new images either the bane of your existence or a great way to keep your site looking fresh. If the system you're using doesn't provide features such as drag and drop, resizing and trimming without the need to open up Gimp or Photoshop - and learning how to use them - you'll want to find one that does. The way your site is implemented can also have a big influence on this: your templates, system settings and site structure can all make it harder than it needs to be if they're not set up correctly.

"I need to change our contact phone number in the footer, and I can't get to it to change it"

There are often parts of the page that you don't want to edit every day, but from time to time you'll want to get to them to make a change. How easy this is depends on how and where these parts of the site are stored: if they're locked up in page templates that you can't access, you'll be making a call to your web developer to change that phone number, and possibly paying for the change. You're in a better position if you can access all of these site elements and edit them yourself, like any other piece of content. Ideally, your website platform also allows you to secure them so that they can only be changed by staff with the right level of access and then routed through a workflow for approval, so you can make sure a small mistake there isn't replicated across every page in the site.

"When I paste a page in from Word, it always looks wrong"

This should be a simple process: copy the text from Word, the table from Excel or something from another webpage and paste it into your page, but how often does it end up as a tricky and frustrating exercise? Usually the unhappy results are caused by what is essentially an argument between the styles you're importing from Word or Excel and the styles defined for website headings, text and layout. The best website platforms will make this a little easier, but there are still some simple practices and preparations that you can take on to make this as fast and pain free as possible. One strategy to help with this is the idea of developing a power user to help with the everyday issues: someone who can take on some extra training to help others, troubleshoot and avoid having to call for support.

"I want to change this colour/ that layout / those heading styles / [insert your issue here]"

The idea of changing colours and page layouts seems like a logical next step once you've mastered everyday updates, though there is something to be said for leaving this to the experts. After all, your designer has incorporated font sizes, colours, backgrounds and images into the page so they all work together to create a professional presentation, right? In fact, the most flexible platforms can let you tweak some of these settings yourself, though caution is definitely recommended - all of your body text in big red capitals is a bad idea. It's also possible to create microsites and other portals with entirely different designs if you're happy to use out of the box templates and you're prepared to tweak your pages to suit, and a well implemented site on a flexible website platform can make this possible.

If any of these sound familiar, you're in good company

Choosing the right website platform is important, so if you're encountering frustration you'll want to make sure that your site has been implemented correctly by an experienced developer. If you're hearing 'that can't be done' too often, you might want to think about upgrading your website content management system to one that gives you more flexibility and faster and easier ways of working. It's also important to make sure that staff working on your site are trained to a level that suits their role, to make sure they're following best practices and keeping your site up to date and well maintained. To quote an old IT truism: garbage in, garbage out.