“Easy to use” is a natural requirement for a content management system (Web CMS). The bottom line for every organization is being able to use the tool the way it’s meant to be used in the most efficient way. But when choosing a Web CMS, what do you look for in terms of ease of use?

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Web CMS must fit into your overall business goals. Consider how you’re trying to engage with your customers both on and off the Web, as well as how you can reach them in the simplest manner possible. Simplicity comes in multiple forms, though. For instance, who will be using the Web CMS? What tools do they need to integrate into the WCMS? Which channels do you plan to communicate through? How often?

All of these aspects fall under the “ease of use” requirement for a WCMS, and all are vital to your overall strategy for creating the best customer experience possible.

The People Behind Your CMS

When selecting and implementing a CMS, one of the most vital criteria to take into account is the different types of people operating the CMS. What are they familiar with? Does the CMS have a user interface that resembles that? For instance, one that has an MS Office look and feel is likely to be adopted quickly.

Another aspect to look into is whether people are occasional or regular contributors, and whether they’re on the move or behind a desk all day. For mobile users, the WCMS should be accessible via multiple browsers on different operating systems, as this enables anyone to access the WCMS from any location. All day desk-bound heavy users might prefer a desktop application, just like people prefer to use Outlook rather than Outlook Web Access if they have the choice. Occasional content contributors or temporary staff might prefer to contribute content directly from MS Word, rather than using a dedicated CMS user interface.

Integration with Existing Tools

This is necessary to ensure ease of use for a broad audience of users, particularly those who work with a variety of business tools that aren’t necessarily web-based (i.e., Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop). For instance, look for a CMS system that enables you to import Word documents directly without having to use Notepad to strip out complicated HTML (which unfortunately is still common practice with many CMS’es these days). And wouldn’t it be great if you could directly edit an image in your favorite image editing tool, all within your CMS?

Another feature that falls under this umbrella is the ability to see what the final product will look like as you’re working within the CMS. The CMS that’s easiest to use will enable you to type, insert pictures and objects directly on the web page, and move them around via drag and drop rather than code.

Real-Time Updates to Multiple Channels

A website might be your organization’s central hub, but its content is no longer in a silo. This means your CMS must be able to adapt to today’s digital, cross-channel marketing. It should be able to store digital assets regardless of output channel, allowing you to re-purpose content across multiple websites, email messages, social media channels and mobile websites. This ultimately helps improve consistency of your overall brand messaging and generates an uninterrupted customer journey.

For this to happen, you’ll need to select a CMS that is based on an infrastructure where you can create one piece of content that can be pushed out to multiple channels with various form factor requirements. This enables you to adjust the content to meet Twitter’s 140-character requirement, Flickr’s photo requirements, and/or to simply re-purpose the content for multiple areas of your website.

Another essential part to your cross-channel content is the ability to update it quickly. The CMS should be flexible to facilitate updates/changes in real-time, so that if you have something urgent that needs communicating you’re not stuck waiting for the content to appear on your sites. Also, the workflow (particularly in large corporations) behind the Web CMS should be as simple as possible and have the ability to be overridden by authorized people, to ensure the content is approved and goes live in a timely manner.

Simple Customization and Personalization

Your customers demand a personalized, relevant experience with your brand, which means your CMS needs to be able to support those needs. The key is to find a Web CMS that helps you tailor content based on the way the customer interacts with your website. It should allow tracking of popularity of content to show which items on your pages yield better conversion rates for specific audiences. This is what makes personalization possible. Although a certain amount of coding is usually needed on the backend, the CMS still must be able to coordinate the content delivery by tracking the customer’s previous behavior. Essentially, the Web CMS should be able to serve specific content to become active based on the customer’s actions.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to ease of use for a Web CMS, what you really want is to find a solution for organizations struggling to get a broader base of content contributors by making it easier for anyone to create and post content with tools they already know how to use. If the Web CMS allows all types of people (even those with non-technical expertise) to contribute and review content in their favorite applications, then it will result in a more efficient process, fresher content and an overall positive experience for your customers.

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