I normally focus on the technical aspect of things, but I’ve been doing Web CMS implementations long enough to learn one very important non-technical thing. There is only one real key to success in a CMS implementation.

The One Key to Success

Yes, there's just one: adoption. Many components of the project come to play here, but if your user base does not find your new content management system to be easy to use, simple, intuitive and not a time waster, it has no chance of success.

It doesn’t matter how technically advanced it is or what it can do for you. If it can’t make managing your website a simple thing for your users, it just isn’t worth it for them.

So what does that mean? Is there some special checklist of features you should be looking for? Nope. Is there a finite list of applications which will get the job done? Probably, but it normally doesn’t come down to that.

More often than not, it comes down to process. How was the CMS implemented? How was it introduced to your users? How was their feedback received and incorporated into subsequent updates?

Contrary to popular belief, a website with a CMS is not a build it and forget it matter. It, like all investments, requires monitoring, adjustments and improvements.

The 3 Steps to Success

Ok, so the magical process that I’ve found is:

  1. Do not, under any circumstances, skip mapping out the UI specifically for your CMS.
  2. KISS Method (keep it simple stupid). This normally translates into staged roll-outs.
  3. Build on your success.

The User Interface

Every CMS has its own quirks to managing content. Each have different ways of allowing your user base to create and edit the content. Knowing this, it is important to understand, prior to implementation, exactly how your users will be able to create and manage their content.

Enable the Subject Matter Experts

The purpose of a CMS is to distribute the workload of managing a website down to the individuals within your organization who know the content. The subject matter experts (SMEs) if you will. Now think about it. These users have their own jobs to focus on. They really don’t want to spend a lot of time managing the website, your job (assuming you are a webmaster reading this).

A vital step in implementing any CMS is to discuss with these users, prior to implementation, exactly how they will be expected to manage their slice of the pie.

Dissect the Display Templates

I suggest taking the final designs and dissecting them. Specifically call out -- for each template -- what areas they will be allowed to modify / control. Also, show which areas will be automatically generated based on content entered elsewhere in the system.

Demonstrate the Efficiencies

Finally, demonstrate how and where content will be reused. This may seem like extra time planning, but its worth a lot more at the back end of the project. Imagine spending 4 months implementing a new system and importing all of your content, only to find out the marketing group doesn’t want to manage their press releases the way you pictured it?

Spending time now getting early feedback builds a sense of ownership. This will go a long way toward increasing your adoption rate later on.

The KISS Method

Today, most websites are not simple brochures translated to the web. They are increasingly adding functionality designed to sell, enhance, and support products and services.

I like to bring up the KISS method to remind us all that staging a website roll-out is not a bad thing. Not only does it let both yourself, and the development team focus on a smaller piece of the pie, it gives your target audience a reason to come back.

Each time they do, more gets added! Also, keeping it simple allows your user base to learn how to use the new CMS one piece at a time.

When being trained, they do not need to learn how to redo everything at once. They can focus on one piece, and master it. Since they’ve also been included in the initial planning, their sense of accomplishment will increase.

Build on Your Success

So now you’ve launched your new content management system. Your user base has participated in the planning of how they will interact with it. Further, you’ve kept the initial roll out simple allowing them to get use to the change.

Now, build on your success. While your user base (the SMEs) is actively maintaining your website, its time to move on to enhancing and building out new feature sets. Congratulations, you are now managing the website, and not its content.