10 editorial features your content creators need in a CMS
Look for these to help your team be their best
By Jason St-Cyr, Technical Evangelist, Sitecore
Content used to be simple.
In the early days of the internet, a broadcast “brochure” website was often enough to get ahead. Geocities isn’t the standard anymore, though. Technology has evolved and so has audience expectations. Now you need to offer (and manage) comments on blogs, use more images, add video, adopt page analytics, optimize for SEO, integrate social media channels and podcasts, deliver optimized experiences on mobile devices, and so on…
Websites became a whole heck of a lot more complex. So it’s only natural that content management software needed to grow in sophistication to match the needs.
When you’re making a big decision about which CMS to adopt, a lot of stakeholders will want their say. Headless or coupled architecture? Single or multi-site? Web Content Management (WCM) or Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?
But the most important people to keep in mind when making the choice are those souls who will be using it day-in and day-out: Your web content team.
With the content creators in mind, and the fact we know we all love lists, here are 10 editorial features to look for in a new CMS! Content creators will thank you for thinking of them, especially when they need to get new content out on a deadline:
1. An intuitive user interface
Your content team won’t necessarily have a wide range of experience with different content management systems and you’ll want them to hit the ground running. That means you need a simple interface that makes sense from day one.
Tools should be in easy-to-find places, like drop-down lists; or come from user-friendly actions like drag-and-drop functionality, for instance.
2. A WYSIWYG editor
The content team probably shouldn’t need in-depth coding experience to use a CMS. Instead, the CMS system you choose should have a simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor so that they can preview web content before pushing it live.
This should include previews for different device types. If you plan to personalize content, look for a CMS that allows your content team to see what components will be served to different audience profiles.
3. In-context help, great documentation, and readily available training
No matter how user-friendly the system, your content team will still need help every once in a while.
Simple documentation is a must! The documentation helps content creators to get things right, avoid clunky work-arounds, and reduce the calls to the dev team for something they should be able to work out for themselves. The same goes for training—virtual is great for schedule and location flexibility and in-person is even better for interactive learning.
4. Powerful search and indexing functionality
Having a robust search function combined with the ability to index based on topics you want grouped together can make all your content easier to find and keep it findable as long as it’s relevant.
That doesn’t just help your readers. It makes life easier for the content team, too. The content team can easily find out if they are doing a piece that’s been done before, or they can use the search to link to other pieces effectively.
5. Simple content storage and accessible folder structures
If you have an efficient storage system, you can make it easier for your content team to share a pool of approved assets. That means all pictures used are on-brand (and you have the rights to use them). Plus, it makes it easier to find and remove duplicate or retired content.
6. Page and component templates
To reduce your time to market and allow designers and content editors to work in parallel, you’ll need a CMS that offers pre-built templated wireframes and commonly used web components. These will ensure your design and content teams can work in parallel and reduce the burden on your development teams.
This is invaluable when you’re scaling a successful program.
You’ll also want the ability to customize these templates so that you can extend your content team’s capabilities and meet their business needs as they change.
7. Clear version control
Good version control lets you know what’s happening with a piece from the first draft to the final tweaks once the content is live.
Not only will good version control help your editors catch mistakes before they go out, it also helps them have clearer accountability; they can see who made edits, where, and when. The more complex it becomes to see these things, the harder it becomes to manage your stakeholders and produce great content.
Version control also allows you the ability to evolve your content over time, allowing a live version to exist while you work on a newer revision. Rolling back to a previous version also gives your content creators the peace of mind to know they can launch new content but revert if needed.
8. Smooth and reliable scheduling
Making sure that content goes out at the right time can be important for many compliance regulations and it can be invaluable for performance.
Knowing you can rely on the system to schedule and publish content frees up your people from needing to manually post at odd hours, or check that it went out at the right time.
Scheduling also gives you the ability to set up campaigns in advance, especially when you have date-related events or promotions. Many promotions take a lot of effort from the team to create, review, and test, so you want to give the content team the ability to be able to do this work in advance and work to their schedule, not the system’s schedule.
9. Adaptable workflows
You want workflows that adapt to you and your team, rather than you having to adapt to them. That means you can work more efficiently and can put safeguards in place to make sure things work correctly.
The best systems can work across other platforms and channels as well, such as sending an email to an editor when there’s a piece of content that needs their attention.
Reporting on what happens in your workflow can be just as important as reporting on the results.
Knowing how many pieces are being worked on, how many have been published this month, how long pieces take to be approved and so on will give you insights into how to make the system more efficient.
Keeping up with an ever-changing internet
The digital universe is constantly evolving. Your content team has enough to keep track of without needing to learn new coding skills or workarounds—the right CMS will make it intuitive for them to succeed in their daily challenges.
By getting a system with all the necessary features in place, and giving the team the help they need to get started, you’ll give them the chance to focus on what they do best—making great content.
Looking for more criteria with which to evaluate content management systems? Check out “The definitive guide to choosing a content management system” today. And let me know what you think about it – you can reach me on Twitter at @AgileStCyr.
Get the ebook: The definitive guide to choosing a content management system / Read it online.
Blog series, post 1: The right and wrong reasons to invest in a new CMS
Blog series, post 2: Three key pillars of building the business case for a new CMS
Blog series, post 3: 10 editorial features your content creators need in a CMS
Blog series, post 4: How to mitigate risk during a CMS implementation
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