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other services important for cms projects

There is more to implementing a CMS than purchasing a solution. The following headings are provided to highlight services or activities that need to be considered in any website or web application roll-out. One of the key decisions relates to what is done internally, what is outsourced (or purchased) and what is a combination of both. These headings can be used as a checklist for specifying a project.

Online Strategy
Too many websites are created without an overarching strategy. Internally, you need to determine why you need a website and what you expect the website to achieve. Either internally or with the assistance of external consulting, you need to develop an implementation strategy for achieving these objectives and benchmarks against which these objectives can be measured. This should all be factored in to decisions about CMS products and the management of the activities discussed below.

Branding and Design
Whether you are creating a new site or replacing a dated one, your brand message is crucial. Audiences of your website have no personal impression or impact from products or premises, as a result your visual identity and the 'feel' of your website is important. If you do not have advanced internal skills in this area you should consult an expert such as one of our Endorsed Design Partners. You should also select a CMS product that provides flexibility in content design while at the same time helping to protect and maintain your visual identity and brand equity.

Content Creation
Once your web strategy is in place and your identity is under control, what are you going say? Writing for the web is different to other media. You need to structure material around your site structure and get the point across fast. In addition you may need to consider the impact on search results. Again an EDP, Komodo CMS or an expert writer can assist. You should start preparing content or at least a content structure as soon as possible. Content entry is the single largest cause of delayed site deployment.

Rights, Responsibilities and Roles
With your new Content Management System powered website, who can do what? And perhaps more importantly who will do what? Often ambitious sites are conceived and built without full awareness of the never ending workload that this has created. Even fairly simple sites need to be maintained and updated and even with a simple to use and efficient CMS, someone still needs to do the work. From day one, you should have a plan for who can access areas of content, who can edit them and who will be made responsible for the roles of contribution, maintenance, publishing and editing of the various sections of the site. With this plan in hand, there are two important questions. Firstly, can the CMS that I am using (or considering) accommodate the rights, responsibility and role framework that I wish to use? Secondly, can I manage all of this workload internally or do I need designers, writers, editors or other external specialists? Beware of overstretching your resources.

Transactional Elements
"Nice website, but what is it for?" is probably not what you want to hear after investing time and probably money into your new website. If the reason is self-evident from the site's content then you already have your answer, but most websites are there for a purpose and usually this should extend beyond just existence, being a corporate brochure or providing contact details. For many organisations, once you have someone at your website, you probably want to transact with them in some way, the most common being called eCommerce. Even if you don't want this today, you should ensure that any CMS choice has you covered for future growth. If you want to sell online, renew memberships, collect donations or close-out some other transaction then an eCommerce solution complete with SSL certificate, payment gateway, shopping cart and maintenance system will be required. Even if you just want to communicate with you constituency in some way, you will still need some dynamic elements, forms, surveys, bulletin boards and the like. The questions to ask are, once I have a customer at my website what do I want them to do next? This question will bring along a number of others, such as, does my CMS have all of this covered? And of course the perenial, can I integrate this solution with my internal systems and current business processes? When you start moving into heavy duty transactional systems, Content Management starts to merge with a bunch of other IT domains such as ERP, CRM, and accounting systems. Obviously you need to draw a line somewhere, at least for the early stages of your deployment, but make sure the future bases are covered.

System Integration
If you read the last two headings, both roads lead here. In the IT sense of system integration, transactional systems often result in a requirement to 'integrate' with other software systems. What your IT minded consultants forget however is that you also need to 'integrate' your website into your business and matching your site with your business practice is usually about rights, roles and responsibilities. Before our IT minded friends think we are going soft, lets cover the technical issues of integration. If you have conceived your project well and considered the other issues on this page, you will know what integration needs to occur and what integration would be beneficial. As a general rule, one software package doesn't integrate well with another. Even Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, part of the same Office Suite don't always play nicely with each other (all great products of course), let alone the various solutions from various vendors. So the rule should be, make sure your selected application covers all the central functions for its particular purpose and integrate as superficially as possible. This will keep the price down and the ongoing issue of 'keeping solutions integrated' much simpler. Having depressed everyone, the good news comes in the form of Open Standards. Particularly in the world of the web, RSS, CSS, XML and a whole bunch of other lovely acronyms describe a world of connectivity where one application shares with another. Most CMS solutions can be integrated at this level in some way, but the reality is always much more complicated than the marketing pitch. If you really need profound integration, then check it out up front and be prepare to spend (time or money) both today and into the future. On the topic of non-technical integration, this will be apparent under some of the other headings on this page.

Proofing, Checking and Regular Maintenance
Utilising a Content Management System creates a publishing environment and at least five groups of 'people'. One, an audience(s), two, writers, three, editors, four, publishers, and five, administrators. To benefit from the audience, you are creating a publishing framework and someone needs to take on the roles, either individual people or a lesser number of confused individuals with many hats. Nevertheless, someone needs to regularly review the site, contribute content, edit the content, publish it and then check again. Welcome to the merry-go-round. Doing this in-house can be cheap, effective and maybe even fun (for a while). Perhaps you should make sure your vendor or consultant can help if the fun goes away or if you need professional assitance.

Site Monitoring, Traffic, and Contact Management
With your site now up 24x7, you want to know it is going to stay up, and how effective it is. You should ensure that your hosting provider is monitoring site uptime (and letting you know when there are problems), you should also have access to traffic statistics that give you a feel for who is using the site and what they are doing (either inbuilt or as an added extra) and your CMS should at least be able to manage the contacts (people) that are actively using the system. That means administering their accounts, managing usernames and passwords, handling rights and getting in contact with these people when you need to. All of these are outside strict Content Management but they are all important for a well conceived and managed website.

Search Engines and Attracting Visitors
It is a pretty safe guess that if you have a public website you want visitors to come and use it. If you expect quantities of traffic just to 'rock-up' you will most likely be disappointed. The most useful visitors are usually those that know exactly where they are going and what they want to achieve, most of these will either key in your website address (URL) or be following a link to your site. As a result, a quality domain name (easy to remember, obvious, short and intuitive) is a good start. You need to market your own web address, on your stationery, and in all the traditional ways that organisations market themselves. You should also try to encourage as many related and reputable organisations to provide links to your site on their own. Not only do these provide traffic to your site, they also help improve your search results through a process called 'inheritance' (don't ask, it's a very long conversation). Links from high profile sites that you respect are the absolute best way of promoting your site, ring people and ask them to include you, it is well worth the effort. For example, for a restaurant site, you should be included on local community sites, find-a-restaurant sites, tourism what-to-visit, and where-to-eat sites. Start with the free ones and then consider better quality paid ones if you can justify the expense (usually not worth it for most organisations). Then finally, you want good results from search engines. If your domain is a good one, you have quality appropriate content on your site and you have had other quality websites link to your own, you have already started maximising the effect you can obtain from search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Once you get to this point of success, and probably well before, you are likely to get numerous emails promising you better search results. Trash all of these emails, follow the rules below, and save the $10,000 or so that these specialists ask, you can do the same or better yourself.

> Ensure your selected domain name is relevant to the primary seach phrase customers will use.
> Make sure your CMS has 'human readable' URLs (page names).
> Make sure your CMS is 'friendly to search engines'. Ask your vendor about it!
> Name your site pages in a way that suits customer searches.
> Do not duplicate page names.
> Make sure your CMS allows you to give pages a 'Window Title'.
> Use moderately long and content relevant 'Window Titles'.
> Make sure your pages have text, not just graphics. Graphics will not assist searches.
> Keep your text concise, well written and relevant to search terms.
> Don't be afraid to repeat important search terms. The more the better (to a point).
> Use headings and sub-headings.
> Use more pages instead of long winded text (yes, guilty as charged).
> Use plenty of internal links.
> If your CMS offers a sitemap, use it.
> Make sure you can get to all pages by clicking links (preferrably text ones).
> Register with key search engines (or ask you CMS vendor to do it).
> Fill in metadata fields for search engines that use it. Ask your vendor if you don't understand.
> Create quality content that is interesting to people.

This may not get you to 'Number 1' in the search results but it will get you as far as the $10,000 would have. If you really want to get to number 1, then external sites linking to you is pretty much the key. Each search engine has its own system of calculating where you sit, but in most cases it comes down to two things, firstly how relevant is the content (this falls to your content and editing skills), and the second is a more subjective measure of how important your page is. Some engines make you pay for the priviledge, others use some form of algorithm. Perhaps the best known is Google's 'Page Rank' system - basically a score out of 10. The only way this goes up is by having other quality sites (with high Page Ranks) linking to your site (preferably exclusively). One really good link (say from Microsoft's homepage) beats large numbers of weak ones. Good luck, do everything listed above and go and find benefactors who want to link to your site. Good hunting!

A final word of warning. This can become obsessive and it shouldn't, and if you go beyond what is reasonable (link exhange programs, white text on a white background, and other obviously manipulative measures) you are likely to be black-listed and end up with no search results.

Technical Support
A short paragraph as respite from the ones above! Make sure your vendor and hosting provider give you the support you need - pre-installation, during installation and post-installation. Find out what you can get for free, and if you need to pay, what is the turnaround time, cost and level of commitment. Your hosting provider and CMS provider should feel like business partners because they basically are!

Training and Staff Support
Obviously the CMS should be intuitive and need little training and support, but as with technical support above, find out what is available before hand. What is included, both as materials, on-line and in-person. Is there a community, what are the resources to find out more, and where do you go for help and support. What are the costs, what are the experiences of others and can you get training and support for the other services we have discussed on this page.

Community and Network Opportunity
Community and Networking Opportunities are basically Training and Support on steroids (let me apologise now for all of the poor humour on this page - OK on this site!). Training and support get you up and running and hopefully humming and in the case of Komodo CMS, telling all of your friends. However for those that desire it, community and networking lead to the type of immesurable benefits that can lead to outcomes well outside of the scope of a CMS project. Does your vendor give you access to a community where you can ask web, communication and business questions and get useful information. Can the whole exercise of building a better website help you build a better business? We hope it can and so do most of the reputable vendors in this space. At the end of the day, we are trying to help you communicate better, not just to customers or staff, but to the world at large (yes, my staff are coming with my medication now, before the evangelising really kicks into high-gear).

Hosting, Uptime, Security and Backup
Yes, yes, yes and yes! You get the idea by now, you really want a tick in all the boxes, not just a software product. Make sure your ISP is a quality provider and handles the CMS system, uptime is hard to guarantee but at least get a commitment, security should be obvious within the product and any weaklink should ring alarm bells and you should ENSURE all of your IT systems are backed up reliably (including your web infrastructure). All outside of the strict scope of CMS, but they shouldn't be.