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website content management strategy

The 3Cs of Website Content

One thing many prospects tell us that what they absolutely must have for their website is 'content management' yet, as we progress through a web design discussion, it rapidly becomes clear that the enquirer doesn't have the first idea about what their content actually is.

Integrated business content

Years of experience in the development of designer websites has shown us that, although people routinely ask for content management, they don't actually mean it. What they really mean is that they want the peace-of-mind that comes with the knowledge that they can 'get at' their content. There is a fundamental disconnect that business owners feel between them and their websites. This disconnect genuinely exists when a business owner sees their website and a standalone entity, something that floats about in cyberspace and is not part of their business.

Content strategy

What's missing is a content strategy. A website that is conceived, developed and maintained as an extension of the organisation's regular business processes will not suffer from such a disconnect because the website is not maintained with reactionary updates but updated as a routine part of business.

The 3Cs of Website Content

When it comes to content, there are 3 progressive states which indicate how mature an organisation's attitude to their website is. What I call The 3Cs of Website Content are:
 - 1. Content Strategy
 - 2. Content Marketing
 - 3. Content Management

Most people do content back-to-front

Take our prospect who wholeheartedly states that their website must have 'content management'; typically this insistence comes on the back of the recommendation of a friend or our archetypal bloke down the pub. When we begin to probe the request a little further, by asking about the shape and size of the content that needs to be managed, it's usual to find digital tumbleweed blowing between us because the prospect hasn't usually given much thought to the request.

The brutal truth is that if you're planning your website solely around the convenience of the people inside your business then you have completely missed the point of why your website exists - your website simply exists for your customers and no other reason.

The CMS is the last thing you should be considering

Before you even consider which CMS you should be using to manage your content, you firstly need to comprehend just what content you actually have inside your business and what content you need to go and source. This quest for content is shaped and regulated by a content strategy - something that considers and expresses why the customer would wish to find such content on a website in the first place and what the customer would want to do now that they're on the page of relevant content.

With your website content strategy in place you will know the reason why your website exists and so filling the website with rich and engaging content (words and images) will become a doddle thanks to the strategic framework you've constructed. Only then will you move onto the 2nd of the 3Cs: Content Marketing.

Social media and content marketing

The successful use of social media by commercial organisations is centred-upon the creation and distribution of rich and engaging content (words and images), content (marketing) that the general populous would love some much they feel compelled to share your marketing with others. Ask yourself: what is so good about your marketing that would make people share it? Can't find an answer? Then you need a content strategy. If you have no content strategy then you'll quickly discover that continually trying to think about what 'stuff' to push out through social channels will do nothing but give you a headache. Just as it is completely wrong to think about content management first, so too it is totally wrong to plaster your website with social media buttons because you've heard from some bloke down the pub that content marketing is important.

Letterpress not Wordpress

When it comes to content management, I like to think of those old wooden drawers with which letterpress printers used to store and organise their lead type. Each type drawer (or case) was divided up into sections of differing sizes to keep the letters apart; the more frequently a letter was likely to appear then the more letters of type would be required to typeset a job and so the larger this letter's section would be. For example, the section for the letter e would be larger than the section for the letter z. These cases of type are true content management systems and letterpress type cases are the forerunners of digital content management systems such as Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal.

What held true long before the Internet still holds true today. A content management system (like Wordpress) is completely meaningless and, therefore, useless unless it is chosen with a fundamental strategic understanding of the shape, size and form of content it has to manage. Remember, The 3Cs of Website Content are:
 
- 1. Content Strategy
- 2. Content Marketing
- 3. Content Management
 
Content strategy comes before anything else.

guy avatarguy30th November 1999
Very interesting! I have certainly seen many people (including myself) over the years insist that they be able to adjust their own content and then never do!
The problem is that people suffer website "burnout". They spend a lot of time "designing" their website initially. By designing I mean not only the look and feel but the content as well. Then when it is finally launched, it tends to go on the "back burner" (with a loud "Phew!"). Sadly, and I'm as guilty as the rest, very few of us actually put the resources into keeping it up to date, relevant and new. Unless we are prepared to put a Content strategy in place as Steve suggests we should then a Content Management System is as much use a chocolate teapot!
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sydneyb avatarsydneyb30th November 1999
very refreshing to see someone else 'preach' this! The design world would be a better place if those responsible for it all think - content first. :-)
mBrown avatarmBrown30th November 1999
A cms is only as good as the web developer behind it.

A cms is usually a giant machine capable of handling lots of content, components, plugins and modules with relative ease. Most people dont need that unless they are updating a lot, rolling out new stuff all the time etc etc.

In fact, the average cake shop website only need consist of a couple of pages with some basic code that has a max file size of 1 or 2 mb. They dont need mysql databases, ruby on rails, real time stats, email management accounts and so on. Its like hiring an articulated truck to deliver a golf ball.
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