Have you ever tried to find a good “how to” article or a good strategy overview written for professional website managers?

I did. And I could find plenty of good stuff aimed at the “I love thinking about the Internet” set or the “I love cutting edge web technology” set. But very little at the “I am running a website group at a real company” set.

Although techie articles and pie-in-the-sky articles have their place, when you need real answers for real problems they just don’t give you what you need. You want actionable answers not down-in-the-dirt details or information about macro trends on the Internet.

So I set out to make a website that provides actionable answers to the questions that website managers ask on the topics that matter. Topics like:

  • Project Management finding big problems, coming up with solutions and mobilizing the teams to get the problem solved
  • Content Management slicing and dicing through requests for new web pages, getting the pieces together and getting it live without hiring a legion of web producers
  • Internet Marketing getting the folks to the site, getting them on the list, and then getting them through the funnel to sales or a shopping cart
  • Web Development developing the technology that makes it all possible

And while those are pretty big topics, they are the topics you deal with every day when you run a big-ish website. And if you hang with me, I am going to spill the good stuff I learned from doing this stuff myself.

The next question you are thinking is… who is this guy?

The Content Management System Sweet Spot

I thought that by 2011 every website would have content management figured out. One way of solving the content management system conundrum would have emerged and everyone would be doing it. But guess what? It’s still a free-for-all out there.

Some folks swear by home grown stuff. Others like open source solutions. And others have gone all out and purchased a big package to solve the problem.

And I guess that makes sense. There just isn’t one solution that works for every site and every organization. There is too much diversity in what folks want out of their content management system (CMS) and processes.

But even with the diversity of needs out there, I do think there is a sweet spot of “just enough” CMS. A place where you get enough CMS to get ease of use and efficiency but not so much that you kill creativity and agility. Check out the article “The CMS Sweet Spot” for the details.

Regardless where you end up with a content management system, there are a set of issues critical to figure out if you want to run a content rich website and keep from hiring a legion of web producers to keep the lights on. More specifically, I’d say that there are 6 issues you should get figured out to make CMS work well for your organization:
  1. Didn’t We Just do Something Like That? When your group cranks out the same project over and over, then it isn’t a project - it’s content production. Separating the projects that tend to require more up front work and client interaction from the day-to-day “update this section, launch this product, post this press release, change this page” sort of stuff will save so much effort that it will amaze you.
  2. Release a Release Checklist – Wouldn’t it be great if you could know when the project is ready to release instead of just guessing? It would be great if you could move the “it’s done” decision from gut-feel to science. And that is exactly what a release checklist will do. A release checklist for projects and content production items introduces a touch of science in what is typically an emotional call.
  3. Find Your Site Design Guide – You probably have a site design guide. Somewhere. If it was up to date, maybe you could avoid that “I want my project to work completely different than the rest of the site” conversation again. And you could avoid a lot of work too.
  4. It’s Supposed To Be Easy, Right? – I have never seen a website that wasn’t supposed to be easy to use. But few folks really get in there and test their content, information architecture or functionality to figure out if it is easy to use. There is so much value in just a little testing that once you start your team will be hooked on getting first hand feed back from real users.
  5. If You Don’t Track Bugs They Will Squash You – It’s simple. If you don’t track bugs, they don’t get fixed. And lots of defects on your site will kill its effectiveness. Plus with tons of cheap hosted or onsite bug database options, there isn’t a reason not to have one. Most bug tracking software will even help you track issues, too.
  6. Perfect Your Release Process – Getting content and functionality from the website group live on to the site reliably is a must. If your team can’t do it perfectly every time, then getting it perfected should be next on your to do list. Not hard to do but critical to do.
Nothing on the list is rocket science but there are a lot of meaty issues to get figured out. The nice part is that whatever CMS you pick to get these issues worked out will first make things all that much easier to get your content management system straightened out. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.