web cms, 5 Ways Marketers Can Improve Content Management System Experience

It's a 400-word blog post. One static image. Four hours? Yes, that's what it took a junior marketer to publish the piece.

It's an actual CMS horror story recalled by Christine Polewarczyk, senior director of global enterprise marketing with SDL.

"It should have only taken 15 to 30 minutes at most to post that blog," said Polewarczyk, who caught up with CMSWire exclusively after her talk last week on global marketing at the Gilbane Conference in Boston.

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web cms, 5 Ways Marketers Can Improve Content Management System Experience

Polewarczyk added, "But instead it ate half the day. In this case there was a massive loss in productivity because of poor CMS usability and performance."

So what does a good CMS system do for a marketer? How can marketers avoid four-hour, 400-word blog posts? Start by getting intimate with your CMS and knowing what eats up too many valuable resources. 

In her "B2B Marketing Guide, Top 5 Pillars of Global Inbound Marketing," Polewarczyk says that your website is the home base for all of your marketing.

"You need to be able to optimize this experience in every way possible, and do it quickly, responsively, and agilely," she told CMSWire. "Assess your CMS and make sure that it actually serves your needs."

Ask yourself:

  • Can you quickly and easily post content, incorporate images, optimize for search and social and/or test page designs?
  • Are you losing significant productivity because of slow, buggy or poorly architected tools and systems?
  • Do you need better support to do marketing in multiple languages?
  • Do you have translation capabilities integrated into your CMS?

"Make sure your website and CMS do what you need to deliver high-impact marketing," Polewarczyk said.

Find Inefficiencies

What should give marketers clues their CMS needs improvement?

For starters, if you can't easily a/b test page designs and layout, that's a problem. For example, on a landing page, can you easily remove menu and navigation to improve conversion, test button placement and colors or even just test two different sets of copy?

A good CMS allows you to easily post multimedia assets. A good CMS gives you enough standard page template designs to give you flexibility and variety. It includes information architecture and taxonomy that make sense based on your target audiences and content strategy.

Can you easily post content, images, videos, infographics and more or do you have to use workarounds to achieve what you’d like to do as a marketer? How long does it take to post content? Is it overly complicated or confusing? Are you losing productivity because of slow or buggy performance?

Make Yourself Heard

If there were a theme for last week's Gilbane conference in Boston, it could be getting marketers and technologists to work together. Some organizations are really doing that by having the CIO report to the CMO and others are pushing for the creation of chief marketing technologist positions.

For CMS, working together seems essential. So what's a good way to approach the IT department and developers about problems with CMS?

"I find a lot of times marketers will say, 'Oh I hate that the CMS does this or that all the time,'" Polewarczyk said. "I’ll then ask them if they’ve ever submitted a help-desk ticket, sent an email to someone or asked their manager to escalate the issue for them. More often than not, the answer is 'no.'"

Marketers must regularly communicate issues and ideas for improvement, Polewarczyk said.

Learning Opportunities

"It would be beneficial for organizations to build a process," she added, "that allows for regular feedback and communication between marketers and the web technical team."

Don't Be Like These Guys

Back to some CMS horror stories. 

Polewarczyk recalled a company that worked with a Drupal CMS in which no content authors were involved with IT in developing the back-end UI. Polewarczyk said that when she got in there during testing, she was surprised that the order in which the fields were laid out was not intuitive.

"Additionally, some fields that should have been larger — like the body field on an article — had extremely small boxes in which you could enter your content," she added. "Yet fields that should be quite small like the meta description were enormous and took up almost the entire screen. A field that only needed to accommodate about 160 characters including spaces was big enough to accommodate about 2,000. Obviously the development team who had set up the content field layout wasn’t really thinking about what would actually go in those fields or what they were for."

And as for that 400-word, four-hour blog post by the poor junior marketer, Polewarczyk recalled that was an "extremely buggy" homegrown CMS.

Why did it take so long? Because of a painfully slow staging server and some hyperlinking bugs that messed up the formatting and spacing every time one added a hyperlink; and that ate half the day for a junior marketing manager.

CMS Users: Get Involved

So where do we find success stories with CMS — options that really work for organizations?

The best CMS, Polewarczyk said, is heavily influenced by the content authors that will be using them every day.

"The back-end user interface and page layouts are intuitive and flow in the natural way that a content author would be inclined to post the content," she told us. "It’s easy to spot when a CMS has been developed with the influence of people with strong information architecture, taxonomy or user experience background. And likewise, very easy to spot when they have not."

So where does a marketer get on the "CMS selection team" train? All the way through? Just in testing?

"I believe marketing should be involved in CMS selection from the onset — defining requirements all the way to testing and implementation," Polewarczyk said. "Ideally whoever is representing marketing has a background in Website management and content strategy."

Title image by 3Dstock (Shutterstock).