This article is part of a series on tips, tricks, and tools to help businesses better manage their content online and get the most from their content marketing strategies. Click here to view other articles on CMS Tips
This is the first article in a series on tips, tricks, and tools to help businesses better manage their content online and get the most from their content marketing strategies.
In this post, we’re looking at tagging and taxonomies – what they are, where to use them, and how to use them right.
This post is a part of a series on tips, tricks, and tools to help companies better manage their content online. Miss a post? Catch up on all our CMS tips.
In this article, we’re looking at CMS categories and hierarchy – what goes where and why, as well as common gothchas and structural best practices for your content.
Every January, we gaze into our crystal ball and share our insight into what the year ahead will hold for the every-changing world of web design.
Here are our predictions for what 2017 has in store.
Flat design has faced its share of criticism over the last year, with designers arguing that it’s taken the soul out of design. Frankly, we think this is a little overblown. But a consequence of this is that we think there will start to be a backlash against the flat motif.
While we don’t expect the trend to swing back to full-on skeuomorphism, we do anticipate some shift away from completely flat websites. Whether this follows in Google’s Material Design or a move in an even less flat direction remains to be seen, but we think we’re moving inexorably towards a more textured world.
Don’t worry though — sans serif is sure to stick around for a while yet.
Design teams no longer have to fight quite so hard to get a seat at the table in website planning, and this early engagement has led to an improved average experience across the internet.
The next step, we think, will be a move towards ‘content first’, with the content strategy developed first and foremost and then the website ‘container’ built around it. With content an increasingly important Google ranking factor with every passing year, the necessity of good content strategy for the bottom line isn’t lost on major companies and brands.
The presidential election saw the proliferation of fake news on an unprecedented scale, triggering responses from both Facebook and Google to crack down on fake news advertising revenues. What’s more, Google has redoubled their efforts against online piracy with another Pirate update to further restrict illegally streaming and downloading sites by throttling their revenue streams.
With the ad networks starting to pay more attention to what ad space they’re selling, it stands to reason that brands and companies will start to pay more attention to where their ads are appearing, to ensure they’re not tainted with the same fake news brush as the content they’re sitting next to.
With flat design has come a relatively flat colour palette. But over the last year or so, we’ve started to see the high-end creative sector of the web (agency sites, designer portfolios, etc.) move towards bright, primary colours and harsh, graphic designs.
With that in mind, we think 2017 is going to see the mainstream catch up with the trendsetters, filling websites with stronger, more vibrant colour palettes – which will look great on high end phone screens and monitors.
The last trend we see coming down the pipe is a continuation of cards and grids. Progressing in tandem with the focus on making the container work for the content, grids and cards remain one of the best ways to present disparate pieces of information to an audience.
There’s a reason the design of newspapers hasn’t changed in almost 400 years – the format works.
The world is a mysterious place, and only time will tell if we’ve read the fortunes of internet trends correctly. Even if not, it’s always fun to give it a shot.
Think we missed a major trend for 2017? Let us know in the comments below!
Last year, we talked about how the most important web investment for companies to make in 2016 was mobile. Since then, mobile has become the primary device for many people to browse the web and continued to play a bigger and bigger role in eCommerce.
Which naturally got us thinking: if it is not mobile anymore, what is the most important digital investment you can make in 2017?
Process automation is not necessarily as flashy or sexy as creating a responsive site or building a mobile app, but it is critically important. In 2017, we expect to see the importance of function grow and lead to a renewed focus on how efficiently things work. We see a few of reasons for this:
Over the last couple of years, the ability for companies of all sizes to automate their processes has grown. There’s been many new SaaS providers focused on translating conventional analog processes into the digital world. One example is in the field service management industry which as been one of the early beneficiaries of process automation, is set to see opportunities for process automation increase to $5.11 billion in 2020.
We know that just within one market, the huge number of possibilities that exist to automate processes. We believe this is also an indicator how many of the tasks people do day-to-day are outdated and ready for automation.
Going hand in hand with the growth in the number of providers and interest in process automation is the decrease in cost. Part of this is caused by the increased competition in the market, but also because of the shift from software licensing to cloud-based subscription software service providers.
With cloud-based systems on a monthly fee, smaller companies can more efficiently manage the investment to try these new technologies. Without the traditionally significant upfront investment. This model also saves businesses time and money by shifting the responsibility for updates and maintenance to the service provider.
Cloud-based subscription models have made it easier for companies of all sizes to start optimizing their processes with technology, which we believe will lead to continued growth in 2017.
Finally, over the last ten years, we’ve seen digitalization accelerate. More and more services are available online, some exclusively so. Libraries, banks, government forms, taxes, immigration – one by one they have all shifted some part of their consumer-facing and internal processes online. With that transition to digital becoming more pervasive, organizations are now looking for more ways to maximize productivity with digital tools, which we believe will inevitably lead to process automation.
If you are looking for a way to reduce costs or increase productivity, it can be an easy avenue to pursue. Here are a few ways you can start approaching process automation:
The first step in process automation is (it sounds silly) to identify processes that are ripe for automation. There’s no need to take on the biggest, most cumbersome process first, rather we suggest you focus on something small that:
A common example is a monthly expenses report.
Once you’ve identified your process and successfully automated it, you can apply the same identification methodology to bigger processes, before moving on to solving these problems.
Your CMS can do more than just publish content online. You can use it to manage templates, workflows, collaboration, and required approvals. For example, most organizations have one (or several) gatekeepers who need to sign off on things. Instead of using an inelegant email chain, you can use your CMS to quickly solicit approvals and edits from a broad range of stakeholders, in a central location.
There are plenty out there – Trello (now Atlassian), Basecamp, Wrike, Agiloft, KiSSFLOW. All these tools do variations on the same thing: provide a clear view of a project, help people know what’s happening (and what they need to do), and when everything needs to be done. It means that there’s a clear understanding by everyone of everything, so fewer things are liable to fall between the cracks.
Other tools like Zapier and IFTTT let you automate and amalgamate your digital tools with a basic ‘if this then that’ type logic, which can achieve quick wins for process automation.
Business process automation is going to be an increasingly important topic as business look to do more with less in 2017. And with the advances in AI, in new SaaS providers, and with CMS features and functionality, there’s never been a better time to get started with automating your business process.
If you want to stay competitive, the best thing you can do is get automating.
Ready to get started with your business process automation? Get in touch today to see how we can help you!
With 2016 now behind us, it’s a new year with a fresh budget to spend.
Here are 5 areas where we think you should be focusing your digital investment for the coming year.
Until recently, companion apps have been the exclusive purview of big chains. Irrespective of the perceived user benefits, smaller companies have seen them as just too much investment:
Subway, Staples, Home Depot, banks – these are the types of enterprises who were getting apps for their stores – not Dave’s Groceries down the road.
But in 2017, we think this is going to change.
For starters, this trend is already underway – Small Business Trends reported that 50% of small businesses will get an app or be working towards that objective by 2017.
Second, the standard for user experience constantly increases. Pressure on all companies is higher than ever and will only be turned up in 2017. One way to stay competitive on mobile devices is with mobile app development.
Finally, mobile is increasingly the device of choice for people. Whether it’s the superfast processors in the latest smartphone or using a keyboard with your iPad Pro, the traditional computer (let alone the desktop) is becoming less important for work and play.
If you don’t have a mobile app yet, we think it is a worthwhile time to start thinking about one.
Beacons and GPS, geo-fencing, and NFC are all examples of ways companies can use physical location to link the user to a digital experience. While these innovations have been on the books since around 2014 (especially for retail stores), the cost continues to drop, and they get easier to implement.
Currently, location-based signals are one of the best ways to provide a cross-channel experience, taking users from your brick-and-mortar locations to your online properties and back offline again.
For example, you might use geofencing technology to identify customers in your physical stores, and then be able to retarget them with email broadcasts or push notifications with new offers or messages, seamlessly blending your different marketing channels and identifying your highest value targets.
For the past year, there have been countless conversations about the role AI will play in our lives in the next 5-10 years. And in 2017, some brands are already rolling out ambitious AI projects. But for most companies, what we can expect is greater chatbot integration across a broad range of industries. Basically, people have become accustomed to using Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant as an interface to engage with products and services online.
Now, it’s up to companies to meet that expectation.
To do that, there’s going to have to be a twofold investment. First, in building out back-end systems to literally talk to Siri and her friends, making your service easier for your customers to use automatically.
Second, there will have to be increased investment in content that can be optimized to pull an answer when users ask a question into Google. For example, a robust FAQ about your industry with common questions and answers, all tagged as structured data, will help users find what they want faster than ever.
2016 saw extremely high profile hacking incidents – including for both political camps during the US election, as well as Yahoo’s massive data breach. Collectively, these events have raised consumer awareness of IT risk to new heights. We’ve reached a point now where security is a zero-sum game for online producers.
Even one hacking incident could have significant repercussions on a business, to both its economics and reputation. The new normal will have companies balancing the security of their digital properties with an effective user experience.
Finally, augmented and virtual reality. So far, we’ve focused on things that are actionable tomorrow – most companies can turn around and start building an app or conducting a security audit right away, should they want to.
Augmented reality and VR are a bit different. Yes, the hardware appears to be mainstream enough now with multiple providers on the market. And yes, the lesson learned from Pokemon Go was that augmented reality is a whole new platform for brands to reach consumers with. We wanted to mention it because, frankly, everyone else is predicting that 2017 is the year of mass deployment for an industry that is projected to be worth $120 billion in 2020.
But there are a few things to consider before you invest a portion of your budget into VR headsets.
First, most of the early applications focus on gaming. Yes, there are some token efforts outside of gaming and digital optimists are all screeching about the various other applications, but for now the focus remains on gaming.
As for augmented reality, yes it is a new channel to reach customers. But Pokemon Go is perhaps an inaccurate predictor of future success. After all, Pokemon Go had the distinct advantage of being first to market. Plus, it was a game.
So for 2017, we think that VR and AR will see big strides. But unless you’re a gaming company, you can probably hold off investing in 2017, and instead focus on honing existing channels of communication. It will also give you time to truly think about how your business can properly leverage AR/VR in a year or two, when the technology is more commonplace and can demonstrate true value, as opposed to simply appearing as a gimmick for early adopters.
2017 is looking to be a great year for companies to refine their digital products and services, helping consumers by forging stronger cross-channel experiences, improving mobile experiences, and interacting with customers with AI in a simple, customized way.
We’re pretty excited about it.
Do you think we missed something that should be on the radar for 2017? Let us know in the comments!
We tend to think differently about our stuff in the real world and that in the digital world.
For things we own in the real world, maintenance and upkeep are an obvious part of sustaining the investment we’ve made in them. We do maintenance on our houses and cars, not because we necessarily like it, but because when we don’t the results are obvious.
However, for some reason, we tend to forget that digital assets like websites, apps, and your CMS, need maintenance for the same reasons. A long neglected website is just as obvious to users, and says just as much about its owner, as a long neglected yard does to passers-by.
To try to help change this habit, we take a look at what we mean when we talk about CMS maintenance, and the different kinds of upkeep these digital assets need.
CMS maintenance can be seen as a common collection of simple activities that keep your site stable and running smoothly. They include:
This reduces the likelihood that your site is vulnerable to viruses or malware (especially if you’re on an open source CMS like WordPress).
This doesn’t just mean the core CMS, but also your plugins and integrations. This can be scheduled to happen automatically, but it is also worth checking to understand what the updates include and ensure it’s happening for all parts of your CMS.
When your site fails or goes down without a backup, it will cause you some serious headaches, varying from annoying to unmanageable. Scheduling regular automatic backups, and double-checking your backup files will help prevent disaster – or at least mitigate the impact.
You never know when a change is going to cause problems with a specific aspect of your site. Something as simple as updating software, changing layouts, or even just adding fresh content can interact in a unique and bizarre way, and perhaps produce an effect that’s not quite what you wanted. This can be caused by any number of issues including discontinued plugins not incompatible with the newest version of the CMS, changes to a third-party API requiring reintegration, or changes to templates by the publisher.
It’s important to check regularly to make sure there are not any compatibility problems, from both a user perspective (poor experience viewing/navigating the site) and from an internal team (e.g. two plugins not playing nicely, causing an error that requires troubleshooting and reducing productivity).
A simple, but surprisingly common cause of frustration for users is being sent to a non-existent or expired page – aka the 404 error. Doing this to your visitors is not the quickest way to have them bounce from your site, but it’s up there.
Routinely checking your site’s outgoing links to make sure they all work is pretty simple. Services like Screaming Frog can help you so you don’t need to go trawling through all your content.
First, it will improve the security and stability of your digital platform. For open source content management systems like WordPress, there is a constant crush of hackers trying to crack sites and access what they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, one of the main challenges with the big open source distributors is that once an exploit is discovered in one site, or for one version of the CMS, it can usually be rolled out much quicker to other sites.
This is why WordPress and other open-source sites are updated frequently — to respond to the growing number of issues, issue fixes and help keep their sites secure.
Simply, an out of date CMS is a higher security risk. And this isn’t just open source websites, the same applies to proprietary CMS software — there’s a constant attempt to crack into your goodies, and keeping your CMS up to date makes that harder.
Second, customer experience.
Things like plugins not working correctly, poor display due to a new device or new OS, and broken links, are probably not mission-critical.
But they do have an impact. They:
An unmaintained CMS probably won’t cost you your business, but it might have a substantial negative impact on your sales and your brand. Although it might not be immediately obvious, our experience is the opportunity cost of not maintaining your website is far more than dollars required to do it.
Keeping your CMS and digital assets up-to-date, when done regularly, it’s a small job. But, the work accumulates in magnitudes the longer you leave it – requiring a bigger investment to bring it up to date while costing you opportunities in the interim.
Our advice? Spend 30 minutes every other week to make sure your CMS is up to date and running smoothly from both an administrator and user perspective – it’ll be one of the most valuable hours you spend each month.
Unhappy with your current CMS, or just want to focus on managing your content not your technology? Get in touch with us to see if our managed hosting service is right for you!
Content is the lifeblood of any website, and content management systems (CMS) are key to creating content you users will love. So we put together a few questions you might want to ask when you’re either choosing a CMS for the first time or changing from you existing system.
A content management system is a web application that lets non-developers quickly and easily update, add to, and edit a website. There are literally hundreds of them out there, and they sit in two general camps:
Understanding the basic idea behind a CMS, we can start looking at what questions to ask when you’re scoping various platform and vendor options.
It’s an important question, even though it seems obvious. Before you start looking at vendors, you want to establish requirements – what do you want your CMS to do?
To do that, you’ll need to establish key pain points not being addressed by your current system. Then, you’ll need to consult all the various parties who are going to be using the new CMS and see what they want. What features are really important to them? What features are more nice-to-have versus need-to-have?
The parties to consult might include:
Finally, you’ll want to establish a list of focal needs. These are divided into Idiosyncratic Requirements and Priority Requirements.
Don’t forget – at the end of the day, your CMS really only has two functions:
Which is why this question is so important. A huge range of users are going to be interacting with your CMS. For the most part, these users won’t have the same expertise as developers. Your CMS is no use to anyone if you need to call in a dev team every time you want to upload a blog post.
The best way to test the usability is to actually test a CMS. Develop a list of tasks that mimic everyday use of the CMS. For example, uploading a blog post. Get a few people from around the organization – the more stakeholder input at this point, the better – to try to complete the tasks you set, and give you feedback on their experience. It’s worth spending a little extra time trialling every CMS from you shortlist: usability is what’s going to make your CMS either a dream come true… or a total nightmare.
We live in a world where everything has an app, and it’s tempting to reach for tech for every solution. Don’t forget that a CMS is a tool to address a specific problem. If you’re having trouble getting buy-in for content marketing, you’re struggling to get content created in the first place, or your content strategy isn’t in place securely, then a CMS might not be the solution.
Don’t think that an expensive CMS is a substitute for a content strategy.
Let’s say your goal is to increase the number of social followers for your business. A CMS probably won’t help much with that goal. Creating great content will. Conversely, if your goal is to upload more content and the roadblock isn’t in creation, but rather IT is just way overworked, a CMS would be a very valuable asset.
You need to understand the problem clearly to see what CMS is right for you.
Thankfully, sneaky deals and weirdly phrased pricing designed to confuse consumers are things of the past. That said, in some cases, there are some other costs to be aware of:
Make sure you ask about these so there’s no confusion and CMS heartbreak down the line.
If you have older systems, be sure to ask about this. Many industries, including healthcare, logistics, or retail, have specific software that they may need to integrate in a new CMS.
Another consideration is migrating your existing content to your new platform. You want to make this process as easy as possible, and you want to do it without losing any of your content. Make sure you ask how your shortlisted CMSes perform in this regard, or if the vendor will facilitate the process for you. And if you can, try and migrate some of the content to see how it goes.
There are plenty of on-page and off-page SEO techniques you can implement to help people find your site and push it up in the search rankings. And a lot of this can be automated to make your life easier. You should look for a CMS that will help you do that.
For example, your CMS should:
These little things are just that – little. But they do make a difference over time and most importantly, can be agonizing to implement with each piece of content you upload. It’s best to look for as much automation as possible.
We’ve talked before about our love/hate relationship with plugins. On the one hand, an open source platform with a plugin rich environment like WordPress means that no matter what you need, there’s always a plugin out there.
However, what’s emerged is a situation where many CMSes (especially WordPress) rely on plugins for system critical functionality.
And while plugins do a fine job of enabling that functionality, they do slow down the site and open the door for compatibility and security vulnerabilities.
So before you buy or change, make sure you know what comes built in and, and what comes bolted on.
It should be standard now that any content management system you’re considering is capable of delivering content that looks good on all screen sizes, either through a mobile site or responsive design.
Considering the explosion of searches and web traffic coming from mobile devices, this is no longer a nice-to-have. We’d recommend choosing a CMS that is capable of doing both, so that you can choose which mobile solution is best for you.
You don’t want to have to go through the effort of porting over an old CMS into a new only to outgrow it 18 months down the line.
You should be looking not only for a CMS that suits your needs now, but will grow with you as your needs evolve.
For example, let’s say you decide you want to go for a basic open source CMS, because you just need a new site launched quickly. Will that same platform support your marketing goals in 6-12 months? Will it support user management for a larger team when you have multiple staff members carrying out different tasks on the platform? Will it integrate with the CRM you’re planning on migrating to next year? And if it doesn’t now, will it be able to when you decide you want to enable those features?
Websites tend to get more complicated as they (and their respective businesses) grow larger. Make sure that you think of the future as well as the present when you’re considering your website and CMS needs.
Finally, does your website provide a good user experience? Do people like to use it or hate it? This will come in part from how you use the CMS, but a lot of this will come down to the CMS itself. For example:
Make sure that you investigate not only the potential of your chosen CMS, but a realistic representation of what you can get your CMS to do. Drupal, for example, provides huge flexibility – if you know what you’re doing.
There’s no point falling in love with a site only to discover you’re not equipped to recreate what you saw for yourself, or that it requires a significant additional investment to bring the platform up to the where you want it to be.
When you’re looking at a CMS implementation, the key questions you want to ask are:
With these considerations in mind, you can’t go wrong.
If you still need a little help determining which content management system is the best choice for your business, contact us to discuss.
In past years, as part of the work we do we’ve covered some of the best features to look for in a CMS:
In this post, we are carrying on the tradition and recommending some new must-have CMS features that have recently gained popularity, as well as revisiting staples from years past that you won’t want to miss out on either.
With that in mind, here are 5 more things you might want to look out for.
One of the most common problems that we hear from customers about their current CMS is that it doesn’t offer permissions that can be tailored for them.
Most CMSs – including open source giants like WordPress – have some form of tiered access. But that’s not the whole story.
In order to have a CMS truly optimized for your organization, you need permissions that work for you.
For example, some organizations have many content writers but only one or two content publishers. Other organizations might need their content writers to be able to upload only certain types of content, while others might be able to publish – but only on certain parts of the site (e.g. non-static pages).
When you’re looking for a CMS, make sure that whatever tiered publishing options there are will work for you – what each level can do, if users can be designated with multiple roles, and in how many users there are for each permission level.
We’ve talked a lot about business process automation recently, finding better ways of working to save time and make processes work better.
Another way your CMS can help with that is with templates.
Templates can help streamline processes by having all of the grunt work required for publishing done once upfront instead of every time a new page or post is published.
For example, imagine that you were publishing a new product to an e-commerce site. A solid template might:
Each of these tasks is small, but over time (and many products), these small tasks add up and eat into how long it takes to make updates to your catalog – time that is expensive to your business.
This is a feature that White Shark Media called out that we think is absolutely brilliant.
Microdata is data that’s published on a site that lets Google read it, and potentially include as rich snippets in search results, including answers to questions.
For example, if you Google ‘how to tie a tie’ you get a step by step guide that Google pulls from a website. That’s what microdata does.
Historically, this has been a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have. But with voice search eating up more of the search volume, microdata-driven answers are moving front and centre as people use their phones to look not for information but for specific, clear answers.
The metaphor that’s usually used is that of a library – traditional search is like asking a librarian for help and getting them to point you to the right section (a list of URLs). Finding the actual answer is up to you.
Voice search is like asking the librarian for help and expecting them to give you the specific answer, straight away.
As this type of answer-driven rather than information-driven search increases in volume with the likes of Siri and Google Assistant, we can expect to see metadata results rise in priority. As such, your CMS should be working to optimize microdata for your content, and ensure answers relevant to your business are being offered by your company.
Your website needs to be searchable. Oftentimes, customers will be looking for a specific solution to a specific problem – and if you can provide that, you can drive a high conversion rate.
For example, imagine that you own an ecommerce site. Some customers will come to browse. But others are more likely to come looking for a specific product, and might not want to trawl through all your categories seeing if you have it.
Search makes your customers’ lives easier. It needs to be in depth, easy to use, and fast.
Nobody’s perfect – and neither is your website.
Things are going to be posted by accident, and your CMS needs to be able to quickly solve that problem.
Versioning ensures that you always have a copy you can revert back to if something gets posted by accident. After all, it’s much better to plan for the worst and catch problems quickly then just assume everything going to go perfectly.
This is also a valuable feature if you plan to update a page or section of your site for a seasonal event or promotion, and want to roll back to the previous version when it’s over.
As content management systems continue to evolve, we see continuing development of the features customers are demanding, and what you should be expecting out of your CMS.
From new microdata requirements, to robust, easy to use templates, your next CMS should take advantage of these cutting edge features to make your website and administration faster.
Not happy with your CMS? Get in touch to discuss with one of our experts.