One of the best parts about implementing a Content Management System (CMS) is putting the power of content creation and editing in the hands of the content owner. Historically, websites or intranets are updated by the content owner sending content changes via email to a developer, designer or web content manager. Followed by edits after they see it in place. And likely additional “tweaks” after that. With a CMS in place, the content owner can edit to their heart’s content.
That certainly sounds easy… and it can be in many situations. Let’s go over some considerations to have in mind when implementing a CMS, migrating existing content and putting in place a workflow for new content.

Choose Your CMS

I could spend a great deal of time on this (and may in a future blog post). Choosing the right CMS to meet your needs can be daunting, even if you have a considerable CMS background. Rather than rehashing a list of CMSs that other sites have pulled off much better than I likely could, here is a comprehensive list of CMSs.
At Isos Technology, we practice using the right tool for the job. We are currently invested in Liferay, Magnolia CMS and WordPress to build sites, including sites that require portal application support. We’ve lived on many platforms and have extensive experience in others that have met our clients’ needs. It is our experience that no CMS can truly do everything, despite their claim. Unless you choose to use WordPress for your entire site, for example, you can, with considerable ease, implement WordPress to be integrated into the user experience to provide a rock solid blog alongside your site’s main content no matter what the rest of the site is built on. Do not use Liferay for your blog! The customizations required will send you or your organization into a tailspin of no return.
Keep your technology stack in mind. If you are a Java shop, then choosing a .NET CMS would not be playing to your strengths. Just because that little guy in the corner of your office plays with .NET on the weekends and says he can “do it easily” should not a course of action make. Test drive whenever possible or build out a proof of concept to have your content owners see what would work best for them. You will have your CMS for years to come and with a proper foundation, frequent version updates and some good ‘ol fashion TLC you’ll have a happy home for as long as you need it.
Document everything. People leave, get hit by buses or take on new responsibilities within the organization. Documentation not only helps out the next guy to sit in the seat, but also provides a point of reference for anyone to view at any time. At Isos Technology, we use Atlassian’s Confluence for documentation and Atlassian Jira for Sprint planning and task management.

Build Out Your Governance Plan First

Governance around your website should already be in place, but this might be a great opportunity to start fresh and break away from your dated environment and protocols that made great sense a decade ago. If site governance is a new term or concept for you, worry not – it does not have to be complicated or difficult. You can run as many rules around your site as you or your organization desires in order to meet your needs.

Some absolute must haves for your site governance:

  • Have a site owner. a.k.a. A Champion or Executive Sponsor. This individual is the business owner of the site and provides direction that is inline with your organization’s key values and current interests.
  • Have a project manager. Someone that actually knows everything that is going on with your site and which appendage is doing what.
  • Clearly define content owners. Your site will have multiple sections and the content in those sections will likely belong to different people, depending on your organization’s size.
  • Define a gatekeeper or workflow depending on the content so that it is reviewed prior to going live. Many CMSs have workflow built in or available via a scripting engine.

Build A Team

Some must haves and nice to haves on the team that is building and maintaining the CMS should include:

  • Project Manager – could be one of the members on the team (most people wear multiple hats in any organization)
  • Developer(s)
  • Designer(s)
  • Content Strategist. At Isos Technology we are very fortunate to have a Content Strategist who also doubles as our SEO go to guy.
  • SEO Professional
  • QA Professional – a dedicated individual is ideal of course, but there are ways to work around that that are detailed in another post. At a minimum have a protocol of checks and balances in place before anything goes live.

Inventory

Take stock and inventory your current site. This may take a while. A site we migrated from static to CMS recently had over 1,500 static pages and thanks to our Content Strategist many of those pages were consolidated and merged. The client had redundantly duplicated pages for their two different types of clients and a good chunk of the pages were outdated or no longer in use but still live. Duplicate content items can be leveraged as a single content item by the CMS, yet used in as many places as needed. Editing the single piece of content, updates it anywhere it may be used across the site.
Performing a thorough inventory and planning with a visual site map will give your organization a clear view of where they stand, what they have to work with, where they are going and where they ultimately want to be. Maintaining this visual site map will be key for your growth and planning.

Design

The look and feel of your new CMS rests in the hands of your designer, user experience expert and usability expert. Multiple areas of expertise may reside in single individuals and some organizations require all three competencies to be a part of any given individual’s repertoire.

Deliverables:

  • Theme (overall look and feel) – all CMSs are themable. A theme can be changed to a different one in a few clicks, but they can take days, weeks or even months to complete. There are so many different aspects to any given site that it would be relatively easy to overlook an obscure piece of the site that needs to be themed if care is not taken.
  • Templates – depending on the needs of the site, these can range from single column, double column to triple column, etc. Or really to meet any design need the site may have.
  • Landing pages – Most sites are built to deliver content to the end user for the purpose of selling them something or gaining conversions (to sell something). Landing pages are one off pages that are not typically readily accessible from the main menu. They are heavy with SEO and are found through web searches or pointed to directly by marketing material or keyed to a particular event.

Migration

Migrating content from static to a CMS is a daunting task involving man-hours, plain and simple. You might be able to get away with performing a database dump if you are migrating from a CMS to another CMS, but this can be tricky depending on the formatting of the content of the old CMS and the formatting of the new CMS. We’ve tried it and it is absolutely possible, but there will in all likelihood be clean up on every single page. The chances that you’ll have the same look and feel in your new CMS as you did in your dated static site are slim to none. So the task of manually bringing content from static pages to your new CMS is typically a manual one. And a manual necessity to ensure proper formatting of your content.
You will absolutely want the Content Strategist involved with the migration and depending on your timeline there may be a need for additional bodies involved to pull it off. One tactic that we have found very useful is to have the content owner migrate their own content. Or to hand over formatting of their content after the initial dump of it from static to CMS. This involves educating on the use of the CMS, best practices and the intention of the various layouts of the site in question.
One of the best ways to ensure you are migrating clean content without word processor or other editor artifacts is to copy the textual content from your old site and paste it into a text only editor. Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on the Mac are good examples. Then copy that and paste it into your new CMS editor. It is the only way to be absolutely sure you are starting with a clean slate and that formatting can be consistent across your entire site.

Formatting

You can choose to format your content as you bring it over or format it after a bulk import. Either way, this can be as tedious as migrating the content itself, if not more so. Try to stay away from simply dumping text-only content out there. Have imagery interweaved with your text. Not advertisements as those do not go over well in usability testing, but relevant and meaningful imagery that helps to tell the story on the page. Relevant charts, diagrams and storytelling imagery help to effectively communicate to the end user.

Quality Assurance and Testing

Test often and in every browser your target audience will be using. For public sites, you’ll want to test in every browser on every OS and on every device possible. This does not have to be a costly equipment endeavor however, just make certain to perform the testing at regularly scheduled milestones.

Conclusion

This should by no means be considered all you should do or have in place. This is a really great bare minimum starting point for your migration project. If you are in the market for migrating a site from a static to CMS or CMS to CMS and need help, guidance or just someone to do it, Isos Technology can help.