How Does a Truly Modern CMS Support You?

September 12, 2019

Whether you are a business owner, team member, freelancer or small agency like TheFlow, people have opted to make use of platforms like WordPress, Wix, Joomla, Jimdo, Shopify and many, many more since the noughties rather than building websites by hand but the so called Content Management System (CMS) market is extremely broad - from blog owners to Enterprise users - and the output from these platforms varies greatly. Let's explore this a little...

Your CMS Could Be Harming Your Business

How do you know that you have been wise in adopting your platform of choice to run the website for your business? This post might help to answer that niggling question which is always at the back of your mind but rather than digging into CMS features, I want to focus on a few under-discussed concepts; ideas that should be central to your business thinking. Let’s dive in.

CMS & DIY


Typically, CMSs allow the operator to add, edit and delete pages, blog posts, images, videos, products and more without needing to know the code that drives these websites so the appeal has been understandably widespread. Why pay a programmer multiple 1000’s when you, or your nephew(!) for example, could create a perfectly adequate website at a fraction of the cost?


And therein lies the rub as they say: adequate doesn’t cut it any more. Rather, you have to do pretty much everything related to creating a modern website extremely well if you hope to compete in today’s crowded online markets and so the CMS must support you in your efforts, and not hold you and your business back.

Courtesy of Webflow (https://university.webflow.com/article/intro-to-the-designer)


As with any professional tool, a CMS that can give you everything you require will have a learning curve but it doesn’t have to be complex either. We believe that the visual website and web app building tool which can be both intuitive and powerful at the same time exists in the form of Webflow. However, you have to put in the effort to learn and then utilise this tool appropriately and is that the kind of time you want to spend in your business? Maybe, and that’s great, but if not then maybe talk to us first for some free advice.


My belief? DIY is rarely the sensible approach to building your next website unless you have enough experience and training behind you to avoid the many pitfalls along the way like poorly prepared assets to full-on SEO penalties that can really harm your business.

It’s All About Your Business & Brand


Key to creating a decent brand presence online is how you go about making use of your brand assets from your logo to the imagery you have curated, the videos and, of course, your original text content. Businesses spend a sizeable amount of money in the design of their visual brand to represent their core values, their ethos and their story so this has to take centre stage online too but traditionally with website design this has been a very hit-and-miss experience for us all.


You may be surprised to learn that CMS platforms, including WordPress (the leading CMS on the market), are often not very well set up to accommodate branding and I don’t mean just adding a logo and changing the colours. All too often we see people’s websites built on top of templates that have been used and reused 100’s of times online with little regard for the uniqueness of the business’s brand. Even a layout of a web page can alter how well it represents a brand after all not to mention the use of whitespace, typography, the colour palette across the website’s pages and other subtle facets that make up a brand’s overall DNA.

Courtesy of Webflow (https://university.webflow.com/article/intro-to-the-editor)


So a modern CMS needs to be flexible and powerful enough to start with the design / branding and build the website up from there without requiring weeks and months of design effort. As an agency, if we find ourselves trying to use a platform that doesn’t support us and our clients in this regard, we drop the software and move on. None of us want to waste time and money on tools that slow us down and cause frustration whether in the initial stages of building out a website or later on down the line when we will need to make changes.


Key takeaway: adopt a design-led approach to your website and your choice of platforms when building the website. Don’t compromise your brand - especially when you don’t even need to.

Speed is of The Essence


How can I discuss speed with regards to CMSs and websites without getting all fired up? I say this because speed is SO important. Here are just a few aspects to consider:


  • Don’t pay to reinvent the wheel by coding up features that already exist but you must retain your originality still (see above point on design/branding)


  • Use the best tool for the job: design and build things quickly and allow yourself to iterate without time and budget constraints


  • Pay for experience in your staff or suppliers as the efficiency gains will repay you 10 times over


  • Use the fast turnaround of web pages and websites to give you the confidence to experiment and optimise your online presence


  • Save some of your Website Redesign Project budget by working faster than expected and re-allocate the money: how about switching to using Google’s Tag Manager for example (recommended)?


  • Create fast loading, high quality web pages or suffer the consequences from poor experiences for your customers to full-on Google penalties


I could create a whole blog post just around the topic of ‘speed’, maybe I will in time, but for now my best advice is to embrace any technology and service that gets you there more quickly. Moving quickly no longer sacrifices quality; you can have your cake and eat it.

Day-to-Day Activity: How Efficient Are You?


Remember, once a website is launched it is only just the beginning of the life of that resource for your business. Now comes the opportunity to capitalise on all the effort and that requires constant input and tweaking.

Role 1 - The CMS End User

You know that a CMS based solution, or the CMS itself, is poor quality when you find yourself regularly calling the web designer or tech department to make a change for you on the website. The whole point of a CMS is that it should empower people that would not have otherwise been able, or been confident enough to change a web page to get stuck in, make that change quickly and publish the change to ‘live’ easily. If this doesn’t happen, you can watch your productivity fall through the floor as you wait for 1+ people to queue up your request, take action on your behalf and then finally report back to you (at which point it’s not quite correct and so the cycle starts again). Frustrating and exhausting, right?

Role 2 - The Website Designer

Maybe you are in the hot seat and it is your responsibility to actually design and build the website to the specification of your client or boss? At TheFlow, we love the hot seat but we know how much pressure that can add to your day-to-day workload. Imagine sitting with that key stakeholder and actually designing their feature request together... Or perhaps they need to change out a background image which needs a little image editing prowess… Or maybe there is a tweak needed to the home page as a customer has reported a bug when viewing on a smartphone?


These kinds of user requests are traditionally time-consuming and need to be pushed onto a task backlog ready for a developer to pick up but if you are designing and building with a truly modern CMS, you don’t have to wait depending on your workflow / change request process, of course.


I sat with a client and their list of website changes just yesterday and we worked through them together, in front of the Webflow Designer, and had them finished and published to ‘live’ within 10 minutes and that included chatting time.


Bottom line? Well, it’s the bottom line! When you and the rest of your team surrounding the website are efficient, it directly impacts the business’s profits in more ways than you would imagine including the impact it has on personal and team morale; your ability to serve your client or boss better and let’s face it, keeping them happy is always going to make your life easier; job satisfaction; professional development; positivity towards experimentation; quicker insights; better collaboration… the list is long.


If you find that your CMS is not supporting you to be able to relate to the above, I suggest revisiting your strategy and talking to us as we can help you, your team and/or your clients to feel empowered and fully supported by your CMS each and every day.


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Glenn

McWhinney

Digital Strategist

Ultimately I am a peacemaker: I love taming technology, making it work hard for people; I live to help teams and businesses flourish, even to enjoy their work daily; I believe that harmony is possible in these hectic times but together we find the right path and walk it confidently towards success.

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