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Understanding Content Management Systems

Understanding Content Management Systems

In 2003 Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little introduced us to WordPress. WordPress is an open source content management system (CMS) for blogging. Over the past 16 years Wordpress developers have contributed to the growth of the platform by adding plugins and themes to make Wordpress the largest CMS platform in the world. As of February 2017, WordPress is used by 58.7% of all the websites whose content management system is known.

Wow, there was a lot of industry jargon in that previous paragraph! for those of you still with us, let's break down what all of this means to you.

Content Management Systems

As marketers shifted away from the concept of selling and moved towards story telling, the types of content being created for websites changed. Company websites grew from simple 3-5 page digital brochures into complex websites with hundreds of landing pages, blog articles, videos, downloadable content, and more. The natural progression of this movement was a need for a better way to manage all this content.

The first thing to look for in a CMS is how it organizes your core website pages, blog articles, and landing pages. When we talk about a website page, we are often referencing a core page of your website, essential to the hierarchy of your design. The most common website pages include:

  • Home
  • About
  • Contact

These are the vital pages that tell the story of who you are as a company, why people should do business with you, and how they can find you. The rest of your website is made up of engaging content designed to expand on these core pages and answer vital questions about your products and services. As previously mentioned, traditionally these pages are made up of landing pages, and blog posts.

A good CMS will help you differentiate between these pages types and organize them in way that is simple for you to understand and find what you are looking for.

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Using Plugins and Modules to enhance the user experience

The most important advancement in content management systems, is the inclusion of "plugins". Plugins are blocks of special code within a page which usually enhance the user experience. Also known as modules in some CMS platforms, you can use modules/plugins to add special features to your content.

In our own website, Larmahil utilizes custom modules to create the following user experiences:

  • Multi Step Form - Our multi step form takes a long form which would normally be difficult for a user to view on a single page, and breaks it into shorter steps with simple instructions and navigation to move forward or back. You may find the multi step form on our CRM Selection Survey.
  • Timeline - The timeline module allows us to break up the page content into smaller blocks of text which are easier to view and read. Checkout the timeline on our Services Page.
  • Search - When site has a large amount of content adding a search feature will help visitors find the best content to answer their questions. Test out our search bar in the bottom left corner of this page.

Plugins and modules are prevalent in all CMS platforms, and discussing everything you can do with them is an entire article on it own. I will leave you with this thought, if there is anything you wish your website could do there is likely a plugin to do it for you.

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How Templates and Themes work in your CMS

A theme is a group of templates used to create the look and user experience of your website. A template utilizes common elements found on all pages of your website to create a consistent and repeatable design to your pages. Within the template you will find the header and footer, these elements generally do not change from page to page in any website. As always there are a few exceptions to this rule, in some instances you may not want your visitor to navigate away from the page which they are on, so you may remove the menu from your header or footer.

It is important when selecting a theme for your company that you match the content you already have, or content you are creating, with a layout which can support it. For example, if your website is going to feature a large number of images, you will look for a theme designed to display your images in an effective way. If you have a lot of articles you will want a blog.

The website's navigation is the most important element, because it is the navigation which will determine how people find important content on your site.

Other factors which can influence your theme selection may include:

  • Typography: the fonts, sizes, and colours of your headers and paragraph text
  • Animation: effect when images, and texts appear on the page.
  • Forms: capturing user information through sign-up forms and contact forms

Using a content management system should simplify updating your website content. At Larmahil we believe businesses should own their content and have the ability to easily change or update it. We teach all of our clients how their CMS works, and we offer CMS training programs for websites built by other agencies. Once you understand the fundamentals of your CMS you can focus on creating new and compelling content for your company website.

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