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August 6, 2008

CMS is Not a Four Letter Word

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Editor’s Note: Our second blogger today is Megan Slick. Megan and Smart Solutions would like to get your thoughts on CMS.

The Content Management System (CMS) was born out of needs. These needs included:

  • Non-technical website owners having the ability to update their sites in a friendly WYSIWYG
  • Scalability for medium sites to grow into enterprise websites

When websites tipped and every company needed to have a website, the CMS solved many a company’s woes. However, in giving non-technical people ‘control’, developers inadvertently took control away because the people using the system needed to be managed. I have often thought the word ‘management’ in content management system has a dual meaning. Non-technical users have the ability to manage their content, while the CMS manages them by performing functions they would otherwise not be able to perform. That in a nutshell is the past of CMS.

Fast forward to the present, we all have more needs and desires when it comes to our CMS. This has sadly led to huge, bloated CMSs that do ‘everything’ but when it comes to changing those little meta tags, uh-uh, no way, that’s automatic. Many systems do not allow you access to the code. So in an effort to overly help non-technical people, the CMS has taken away most of the control from the technical people. It is no wonder that the SEO and design communities are disgruntled by them. Most SEOs and designers inherit horrible CMSs that confine their creativity and make their jobs much more difficult.

“SEO Friendly” is all the rage among CMS companies now. What does that even mean? One of the definitions provided by Merriam-Webster.com is “not hostile.” I’m sorry, I expect a little more from a CMS than not being hostile to search engines. So now the CMSs are using crawlablitiy as a selling point. Depending on the competitive nature of your keywords, it is often not good enough for a website to be crawlable; SEOs need the ability to optimize. As a result, SEOs have taken steps to allow more control over the code for companies that still need CMS. This includes:

  • Open source CMSs with plug-ins
  • Custom CMSs

Both of these solutions have given control to the technical people (the SEO firm, the IT department, the designers) but what about the non-technical people that need access to the company website (the Marketing department, the PR firm, etc…). Using an open source CMS with plug-ins to soup it up is hardly going to be user-friendly and don’t even get me started on the subject of umpteen versions in a given year. Custom CMSs, while they are going to be perfectly suited to your needs today are only possible for a small percentage of businesses that can afford to take on an initiative so large. Once the custom CMS is developed, the company is going to have to invest untold resources on updating.

In the movie, Little Women, Jo March says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” That means we are on the precipice of a CMS that steps up to the challenge. Go ahead; call me the Pollyanna of CMS but I know that it will happen. These needs are starting to hurt and when needs begin to cause discomfort, a solution is born. The CMSs of the past solved nearly all of the hurdles of that day. Well, the hurdles of today are different. The internet has matured. There is more competition, meaning companies cannot afford to do things wrong. The companies of today need a more mature solution from CMS. The future holds a CMS that is flexible and robust enough to handle the needs of the sophisticated SEO, developer and designer, while continuing to be easy for the non-technical owners.

What present and future needs do you want addressed by a content management system? Readers of the Bruce Clay Blog, loyal followers of The Lisa, I have a simple question, what is your beef? Non-technical and technical users of CMS – We want to know? No pain is too small or insignificant to report – so let ‘em rip.

Thank you Lisa and Bruce for the opportunity to guest blog! It is quite the honor, since I am quite the fan.

Megan Slick writes website copy for SEO firms including Smart Solutions. Smart Solutions provides a comprehensive, online content management system and search engine optimization with a focus on award-winning website design.





3 responses to “CMS is Not a Four Letter Word”

  1. David Thurman writes:

    Thanks Megan for your thoughts, and I would have to agree, the use the term SEO Friendly is way too broad. I use a certain CMS that throws that term around (I would rather not endorse them as of yet) and while unique and user controlled Title-Meta-Description-Keywords are there, the capability to say index-follow or not isn’t there, nor is the capability to no-follow calendar entries, well known as indefinite loop traps. Even the big 3 CMS’s as raved by the community leave a lot to be desired, not exactly intuitive to start using, as for support, good luck unless you have a wad of money to give away, one asks for $1200.00 a day in support fees.

    Someday we will have a truly user-friendly, SEO Friendly CMS, but by then, the way we manage our online content and presence will have changed to Web 3.0 and the whole CMS idea will be moot and obsolete.

  2. Megan Slick writes:

    David,
    Thank you for your comment. I don’t think that we are going to have to wait that long. Those support fees are outrageous by the way! Good grief!
    Doesn’t anyone else have gripes about CMSs? I know you do…come on and voice them!

  3. Scott Hendison writes:

    I while ago I wrote out my thoughts on “how to build a crappy CMS”, which I wrote in response to being forced to deal with a horrible CMS for a non-profit organization I work with.



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