5 questions to ask when comparing CMS options

We’ve shown that having a content management system for your site is important. But there are a number of content management systems available for use on sites. Web development companies usually pick one or two they like best; they might develop their own (for example, we built a CMS called datAvenger at Sephone), or they may choose to use an open-source CMS to power the sites they make.

But what should you compare if you’re looking at a few CMS options? Here are five questions to ask.

Is it hard to learn how to edit my site?

If you make a lot of changes to your site (or even if you don’t), the most important piece of the CMS puzzle is feeling comfortable with the area where you edit your site. If it’s a hassle or burden to find the page you want to change, wrangle with an editor, and then stumble to push the page to the live site, you’ll find yourself frustrated – fast.

If, on the other hand, editing makes sense and is easy to do, you can have an up-to-date site that changes whenever you like. There’s no reason why a simple content change on your site should take more than a few minutes. Don’t compromise on a CMS that makes you do more work.

Will my site play nice with search engines?

It’s important that people can find your site on the web. Search engine optimization (or SEO) isn’t all about the content on your site; it’s also about how your site itself is built. A good CMS can help your site shine on search engines.

A good first check is to see how the page addresses (known as URLs) look for your site. Many older content management systems use a combination of codes and ID numbers in the URLs for every page:

http://www.example.com/index.php?pageId=25&section=5
http://www.example.com/directory.php?dirId=25&person=52&view=standard

These kinds of URLs are tough for search engines to understand because they don’t say anything about what’s on the actual page. Look for a CMS that builds URLs using the title of the page, or another set of keywords you can customize:

http://www.example.com/about-us
http://www.example.com/directory/person/jim-smith

These make it easier for both search engines and your visitors to remember your site.

Bonus tip: Ask how a site’s CMS handles mistyped or broken links. In the tech world, we call these 404s. Ideally a CMS should show a screen that tells your visitor that the page is not available. It should also send a special server status code (a 404) so that search engines and other sites can tell that the page doesn’t exist. This helps search engines remove a page from their results after you delete it from your site.

What kinds of content can I have on my site?

Form moduleAs we mentioned in our “What is a CMS?” post, most content management systems allow you to edit text in a rich text editor. This allows you to style text, add links and images, and more. Chances are, though, that your site isn’t only text. What if you want to add a form for visitors to fill out, an image gallery, or a widget from another site? Make sure that the CMS you choose can support the kinds of content you need (or can be customized to adapt to what your site needs to do).

Can I preview my changes before everyone sees them?

The administration area for some content management systems allows you to see how the changes you make will look on your site before you publish them to your live site. This is a great feature if you’d like to be able to tweak what you write before the world can see it.

Bonus tip: See if your CMS saves drafts as you work. If your browser or computer crashes, you don’t want to lose all of your changes!

Are pages for my site ready to be shared on social networks?

A link shared on FacebookFacebook and Twitter make it super simple to share links. Will the pages you share look their best, though? Facebook, for example, lets pages choose what they want for a description and image of a page when it’s shared. Check to see if your CMS can control how this looks instead of posting just the first few words from the page (or just the page title with no text at all).

These five questions are a good starting point when you start to compare your CMS options. If you’d like to know more about how content management systems can help your site, read more on our blog or get in touch with us!

datAvenger is a product of Sephone Interactive Media.

What is a content management system?

We all know how important it is for your business or organization to have a presence online. When you first decide to set up your site – or when you decide to make a change in how the site is run – one of the most critical decisions you can make is whether the site will use a content management system (CMS).

A content management system allows you to make changes to your own site, even if you have little technical knowhow. Instead of calling up a developer every time you’d like to change some text, rates, or a phone number on your site, a CMS lets you log into an administration area with a username and password and make the change in an editor. Once you’ve made the changes, they’ll appear instantly on your site.

Features of most content management systems

Content management system editor

Content management systems often feature rich text editors that allow you to style the text of your pages.

Most content management systems allow you to do a number of common tasks on your site.

  • Adding and removing pages
  • Editing pages in a WYSIWYG editor
  • Inserting links and images on pages
  • Customizing page titles and addresses

Reasons to use a CMS

There are a number of reasons why content management systems make a lot of sense for businesses.

  • Save money: Instead of paying a web developer every time you want to change your site, you can make edits whenever you like.
  • Save time: The changes you make in a CMS are published instantly; there’s no waiting hours (or days) for a change to be done.
  • Stay in control: A CMS lets you have complete control of what’s on your site. If you want to add or remove a page, or if you’d like to change some text, it’s easy to do!

We’re about to release the latest version of our own advanced CMS, datAvenger Pro. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll feature more posts about content management and how to make the most of your site!

Learn how to update your datAvenger website navigation

To start, login to your datAvneger (this is found at yourdomainname/admin) and you will be brought to the content dashboard.  From here click the Settings tab at the top of the screen.

From Settings you have a bar with 4 options, Navigation, Theme, Tools, and Account.  As we are going to be dealing with the navigation we want to select the navigation tab.  This will bring you to a screen where you will see a drop down that asks “how would you like to control your navigation?”  The choices are Automatic, which will display all of the pages you have in alphabetical order in your website navigation.  The other option is manual, which gives you a bit more control.  Select the manual option and you will see 2 columns, your navigation and available pages.  Available pages are all of the pages you currently have created on your site, and your navigation are the pages that will show up in the navigation of your site.

To add specific pages to your site navigation simply drag the specific page from the available pages column to the your navigation column and drop it there.  Once you have moved all of the pages you want to the your navigation column, click update and this will save your site navigation.

This process is the same for removing navigation just drag the pages from the your navigation column to the available pages column and then click update and this will remove pages from your site navigation.

To watch a video demonstration of how to update your datAvenger website navigation click here or watch the video below.

A new update for all datAvenger users

It’s been a while since we’ve pushed any new features to datAvenger users. Well, starting today you might notice some new goodies in your admin area. Let’s run through some of the changes!

Checkboxes

If you have the Form module available on your site, you’ll see that we’ve added one of our most-requested features: checkboxes! Checkboxes work a lot like selection fields, but they allow you to select more than one choice per field. The selected choices will appear as a comma-separated list in the notification email you receive when someone completes a form on your site.

Speedy admin

We’ve done a bunch of work to make the admin area speedier overall. Pages in the admin area load more quickly, and opening a page to edit takes less time now, too. We’d had a few reports of frequently-edited pages not showing up in the editor, and we’ve taken care of that with this release as well.

General cleanup

We’ve added additional polish all around the datAvenger interface: help text to tell you what sizes of images are best in the Theme Builder, a password reset utility if you forget your login information, and more. Hope you enjoy this new release!

Making uploads easier

We’re excited to announce the latest feature in datAvenger: drag-and-drop uploading in the Assets tab! We’ve made a short video to show how it’s done:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbljwzCdKuY

Using this new addition is really simple. Just drag files from your computer right onto the datAvenger screen to add them to your site. You’ll see a yellow border around the area where you can drop the files, and a message will appear in the bottom corner to let you know the progress of your upload.

Drag-and-drop uploading works in the latest versions of FirefoxSafari, and Google Chrome. If you’d like to use another browser or can’t upgrade to the latest version, you can still use the “Upload additional assets” link to add files to your site.

New features just in time for the holidays

And you thought we weren’t going to get you any presents this year. Boy, were you wrong! You were all good boys and girls this year, so we have three new features just for you.

List view

toggle

list-viewYou may have noticed some new buttons under the Content and Asset tabs. These buttons allow you to switch between the default Thumbnail View (See #1) and the fancy new List View (See #2). In the Content tab, List View condenses your website’s pages into a two-column list, allowing you to see and manage more pages at the same time. The same menus are available in List View as in Thumbnail View such as Edit, Edit Metadata, and View. It also works in the Assets tab, hiding the thumbnail of each asset to create a two-column list of all of the assets that have been uploaded to your site.

Under the Asset dropdown, your documents show in one section, and images in another

Under the Asset dropdown, your documents show in one section, and images in another

Create a link to an image

Not to be confused with displaying an image on a page, linking to an image will direct the viewer to the image itself – outside of the website. This can be helpful if you want a small image to be a link to a larger version of the same image, or if you want the viewer to be able to see the image but don’t want to include it on your page. We’ve expanded the Asset dropdown from the Insert Link window to show documents in one category, and images in another.

Anchor tags

The anchor symbol next to Meaning means that this has an anchor attached to it. The link above it links to this anchor

The anchor symbol next to Meaning means that this has an anchor attached to it. The "Meaning" link above it links to this anchor.

You asked, and we listened. Insert anchor tags with ease with the new Add Anchor button and the new dropdown menu in the Insert Link window. For those of you who aren’t familiar with anchor tags, they are a different kind of link that allow you to link to a specific area on a page. Anchors are really helpful for long pages like Glossaries and FAQs.

Say for instance that you have a glossary on your site, divided up into sections by the first letter of the word. The page would consist of 26 sections, with the corresponding letter at the top of each section. If you added an anchor to each section heading you could

The new Insert Anchor dropdown will detect what anchors you have placed on a page and allow you to link to them.

The new "Anchor on Page" dropdown will detect what anchors you have placed on a page and allow you to link to them.

then list each letter at the top of the page and link to the section headings farther down the page. When a viewer clicks on a letter, it would “jump” down to that section of the page. Many sites with anchors also include a “back to top” link to bring the viewer back to the original list of links.

Quick tip: keyboard shortcuts

Want a new and easy way to move between views of Content or Assets in your datAvenger admin area? Simple! Just use the up, down, page up, or page down keys while you’re viewing either the main Content or Assets page. The ‘up’ and ‘page up’ keys will move the view to the previous page (just as if you’d clicked the ‘<>’ link).

We’d love to add more keyboard shortcuts to the datAvenger admin area in the future. Have a suggestion for a shortcut you’d like to see? Let us know!