Digital teams rely on a good Content Management System (CMS) to deliver a strong and sustainable website and digital experience. A poor CMS can limit the potential of a team to deliver the high-quality customer experiences they want, causing great frustration when a CMS is not fit for purpose. Teams in this predicament can end up in the “doledrums” and effectively give up on their current sub-standard website, while the team wait for the budget for a new CMS, a change in digital agency, a CMS upgrade or other similar change that may (or may not) be on the horizon. The same situation can happen when a new CMS is mooted, and the team decide to wait to make any improvements until it arrives.
While this thinking is understandable, it can also be dangerous. When a team identifies improvement to the digital experience as being wholly dependent on a new CMS, websites can enter a state of paralysis. But what happens if the new CMS or the related budget doesn’t materialise? What happens if the change the team have been waiting for remains perpetually on the horizon? This can result in wasted time, with a poor digital experience that is sustained and starts to erode visitor confidence, as well as that of internal stakeholders.
There are almost always improvements you can make to your website and its content that are not wholly dependent on your CMS. By focusing on a programme of continuous improvement, you can:
Let’s look at the different ways that teams can move forwards with their website while they wait for that new CMS project.
Whatever your website or your CMS is like you should always work on the basics, because the basics are far more important than you think to customer experience. By the basics we mean things like spelling mistakes, broken links, reasonable SEO, not having erroneous code that is impacting performance and so on. It’s easy to focus too much on the big items – the new CMS for example – and forget those everyday issues that impact findability, make your company look unprofessional or stop a visitor’s progression down your sales funnel.
These small issues will occur regardless of your CMS – they are often to do with your content; we designed Sitemorse’s automated assessment capability to identify these issues and notify your digital team about priority fixes so that your basics are covered. If you are working on the basics, you are already contributing towards site improvement.
Being compliant with accessibility standards is the law but its often not fully understood by digital teams and content owners. Accessibility compliance is something you must do, but because it is not something that is immediately obvious to digital teams it doesn’t get done. Using automation from a product like Sitemorse to identify what you need to do is key. Regardless of your CMS you should work to deliver compliance, with improvements experienced by a sizeable proportion of your visitors who have accessibility-related issues, as well as the reduction of risk of legal action.
Content governance is very important when it comes to ensuring your website meets the standards you want it to, but also when you come to do some sort of upgrade or overhaul of your site. If you haven’t defined what those standards are, then its going to be hard to make those improvements! Similarly. if any of your pages don’t have named page owners, it will end up with the time-pressured central team doing all the work.
Many aspects of governance are not dependent on your CMS (although a good CMS can help you achieve governance through publishing templates and review / approval mechanisms), so getting your act together by advancing governance before a CMS upgrade project is a very good use of time, and will also improve content that is currently on your site.
When you eventually do upgrade your CMS or you get a new website, you want to be able to show the progress you’ve made from your current site. Prior to this you may also need to make a business case for investment. Measuring the quality of your site in its current state is therefore important to establish a baseline measure (the “before” in the “before and after”) to argue the case for a new CMS and later track progress further down the line.
There are numerous measures you can make, including basic visitor statistics. Many of our customers find Sitemorse’s site benchmarking through our INDEX service an easy and excellent way to show where their site is, repeating the exercise to mark progress after a new site has been delivered.
Digital assets, in particularly image libraries or file libraries, can end up getting very messy with multiple versions of images, old photographs that are no longer valid and so on. Because your users don’t see the unused images in your image library, they tend to be a low priority for action. If your digital assets have become swollen to the point where they start to get difficult to manage, it’s always worth spending some time cleaning up the collection. This will help reduce the risk of old images being used when they shouldn’t be, but also help prepare for the any content migration, CMS upgrade or new CMS project further down the line.
If you are eventually going to be embarking on a project that may result in many changes to your site, then make sure that you have an archive of your pages both for compliance and convenience. If you rely on your CMS for this and you may be changing your platform, a standalone site recording service like Sitemorse is an excellent option for having a fully indexed site archive to view pages, PDFs and more.
If you are eventually going to be embarking on a new site project, it’s a good time to start building up a rapport with your content community. When your publishers, authors and editors are engaged it is much easier to get their input, introduce content governance and undertake the processes you need for content migration and improvement.
One of the best ways to spend your time is to upskill your digital team and make them more knowledgeable. This is not only to improve your current content, but also to prepare for a future site that’s bigger and better. Although training can be expensive, Sitemorse’s on-the-job learning where content editors can access bite-sized videos and then put their learning into action – for example on fixing accessibility issues – is an excellent and cost-effective way to increase knowledge across those involved in maintaining website content.
If you do have a CMS that is in bad need of an upgrade, but you neither have the executive support or the budget to make it happen, there are ways to effectively invest in your CMS by using plug-ins or complimentary technologies that work alongside your CMS and add extra functionality and value. For example, Sitemorse’s powerful automation features can be experienced from within your CMS so the digital team only have one place to go to give them complete content control over their content.
This effectively upgrades your CMS into a far more powerful tool at the fraction of the cost of a new platform or even a major upgrade and can similarly be experienced if you replace your CMS further down the line.
We designed Sitemorse to support continuous improvement because that often gets the best results, and CMS upgrade projects may only come around every few years. If a new CMS or website is on the horizon, don’t assume that it will be happening. Priorities (and budgets) can change! Instead, keep on moving by working on the basics and implementing some of the ideas above. You’ll be ensuring your website is improving while also preparing for your new CMS or website project, when it eventually comes.