Content management checklist

by oneafrikan on April 25, 2006

Today I spent the better part of the morning with a client, talking to them about their content management needs, and how we could create a solution that worked for them now and in the longer term. It was so refreshing talking to people who recognise that the web is not their domain (they are consultants in the financial services industry) and that it’s better to spend less and use everything, then to spend lots and not use it all. Kinda like – why own a Ferrari when you only drive it in Central London?

The reason I want to write about this is that there are always a few things to consider whenever doing any sort of content management, and they’re often overlooked in the excitement of a new project. Being mindful of limitations and asking the right questions will always be better for the project.

So, without further ado, here’s your starter checklist:

  1. What kind of server are you on? Will the developers have access to it? How much does it cost you per month?
  2. How often are you going to change / update / add new content? In what cycles? Who will be doing it? Will there be an approval workflow?
  3. Have you written any content yet? Do you know exactly what the different elements are, or will they evolve?
  4. How tight is the design of the site? Is it pixel perfect precision where allowing client formatting is a no-no, or is it clean, simple and text based where formatting is not going to affect the layout of the site?
  5. Do you want to link to non-html files within the site? Do you know what format they will be in? What size will they be?
  6. Are you going to be available during the development of the site, or are you going to want to “give the keys and come back to a working site”?
  7. Have you already allocated a budget? If not, why not?

Most of the above questions are aimed at qualifying whether the client wants a bespoke system that will work specifically for their needs, or whether an off the shelf solution will do the trick. In my experience, there are only really two situations you’ll find yourself in:

  1. I have a specific design, and I know what my content is; I don’t want to be formatting copy, just adding new types of content in a pre-defined format
  2. I have a design that is flexible; my site is copy based with categories, subcategories and pages per category where I will only need to format text into bold, italic and underline, with maybe a few changes colours. I don’t know how my content will evolve, but I want to be able to add differing types of content easily.

Based on that you can start eliminating, and most importantly start making accurate guesses as to how long it will take to do something, which will lead to a happy client and a successful project.

4 comments

I concur doctor.

I say this works, if your clients understands what ‘content’ is and why it has to be managed. Sure, one does explain what it’s all about. BUT, I have had, I think 80% of the clients I get, don’t have or can’t make the time to ‘manage’ thier content, which puts me in a bit of a pickle.

I am a one man-show (for now, unless the sangoma i paid to tell my future is right), I cannot be tired down to maintain and managing a clients site and content. I did once, by the way, maintain a site for the month of March. My lord, I think I had 20 hours for that whole month I can call constructive.

So, enter what I think, I spoke of a while back, a team web information designers/architects/professionals. I do believe most clients should invest in this, if they don’t have a plan to maintain/manage thier site, somebody to do it for them, for a fee of course. There is nothing worse, than building a beauty of site to have a client load up, a pixilated image which has been resized out of perspective.

I am not sure if I have digressed, but I think there is a business (model) in what retailers called, ‘after sales’. I think content management needs to include a plan for this.

My (2c).

by lebogang nkoane on April 25, 2006 at 8:03 pm. Reply #

For sure, most definitely Lebogang.

Problem is that most small to medium enterprises, even if they ARE technical or web companies, don’t have the budget for a web content person, let alone a web content team. The mistake a lot of people make is that they think that by getting in a web developer, they will also automatically get web content… which is so not true…

If I had a pound for every time I had a client expect me or us to develop content for their web site, well then I’d be in the pound seat! Seriously though, the model I think for you is to develop relationships with good web writers / copywriters that can help you with the content side of things (sub-contract) and who are also web savvy enough to work on your CMS platform…

Other than that, all you can do is to charge yourself out for content planning as well as content management system development, so that clients get the picture that they are different jobs, and you need to allocate time to both separately…

;-)

by Gareth Knight on April 26, 2006 at 4:19 pm. Reply #

I use my proprietary (snicker) CAT model to demonstrate the elements of a successful site/project:

Content – something worth reading/doing
Aesthetics – attractively presented
Technology – in a way that is resilient and works for everyone

Neglect any one of these and you’ve got trouble. The problem is, most one man bands or small web dev houses can only cover one or two of these areas credibly. The answer is indeed to partner/subcontract with people that can fill the gaps as their primary skill.

Getting the client to decide which proportion of the budget to spend on each of these areas is a good way to make the issue visible.

by Adrian on April 26, 2006 at 4:48 pm. Reply #

Adrian

Yup, and I find that clients will often err on the side of spending more money on design and tech, and generally the least on content, which is actually the worst thing to do. Sure, your site needs to look good and function well, but your content is what people are coming to your site for (very few exceptions) and so that is what they should focus attention on, at least initially until that’s done.

Interesting… I think the budget approach is a good one to take. Thanks for the insight ;-)

by Gareth Knight on April 27, 2006 at 12:14 pm. Reply #

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