Expanding the CMS for new Content

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

A CMS is often expanded when the site requires tools to help publish existing content or introduce new content. Too often, however, the developers are asked to upgrade the CMS without first an idea of what the content is or how it will be presented or used. This inevitably leads to poor development, rewriting and late delivery of a project.

Next time a project lead, either you or your superior, ask(s) for CMS work, make sure to follow this checklist to ensure that proper work is done:

  • Provide sample content. It’s a simple yet often ignored point. The CMS is a tool and without a target work, is useless. The more content the developers have to reference, the better the end result will be.
  • Indicate what information is optional. Not always will the content be complete. There may be times when a price, birthday or last name is missing. Knowing this the programmer(s) can build the CMS forms to better match the content.
  • Describe the editorial process. How will the content be entered? Who are the contributors? Are they internal staff members or external writers? How often will new content be added?
  • Provide mockups of the design. Structure is important in identifying how information must be separated. It is too easy for the developer(s) to provide a generic WYSIWYG editor for a block of content. However, this grouping of information limits its usefulness. For instance, separating description and price into separate fields will allow the sorting of priced items by their value. Had they been grouped together to begin with, extra work would be required to extract the price from the description.
  • Describe version 2.0. The programmer(s) should be aware of future expansion to the content and novel ways in which it will be used. This gives them the ability to make critical decisions about the programming process that will make future work on the CMS cheaper and faster.

Optional checklist items may include:

  • SEO structure. How should the content be marked up?
  • Advertisement implementation. How will the advertisement of this section differ from other content?
  • Traffic tracking. What visitor information will be tracked?

With this information, the developer is ready to expand your CMS to meet your new content needs.

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