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The Extra Benefits of a CMS

Having a full-featured, extensible content management system (CMS) has many benefits. The obvious ones include being able to edit your own content, uploading new images, and keeping a consistent site structure and layout. But this is just the beginning of making your CMS, and website, work for you. I’ll lay out just a fewextra things that a customizable CMS can provide for your company.

1) Custom Reports

Websites typically generate a decent amount of data, whether it’s user registrations, page views, or video plays. Having this information locked away in a database or a text file, with no quick and simple way to display it, limits the amount of value you can extract from your website. Like they say, “knowledge is power,” and this valuable information about your site is no different.

The key to getting value out of this data is the ability to sort, filter, and search it. On the desktop, opening up the data in a spreadsheet is the way to go, but it is more convenient, and quicker, to handle this in the same place the data is actually coming from.

For a recent project, we built an ad serving system for one of our clients. Their needs were simple: they only wanted to keep track of a few things–mainly how many times an ad was shown, where it was shown, and how many clicks it received–and to have this data presented neatly where they could run their business queries against it. Since they were using our CMS, which is very extendable, building in these enhancements was a simple process. Now inside of their CMS, in the same place where they can edit their ad supply, they also have a simple-to-use reporting tool where they can quickly see which ads are performing the best, or which sections of their pages are drawing the most clicks. This helps them make quick business decisions about ad placements and ad pricing, giving them an insight into their site in an expedient manner.

2) Extranets

Many of the websites that Newfangled builds have two sides to them: the side that the average visitor sees, and the side that more privileged users such as business partners, remote workers, or business clients see, usually behind a secure login.

A CMS can control all aspects of this extranet, and NewfangledCMS has been specifically designed to excel in this purpose. The main concern of an extranet is who can see what. For example, a site may have two kinds of press releases: one kind that the public can see, and another that you only want internal sales people to see. A CMS makes it easy both to create content for each kind of user and to control the login capabilities of the different users. You can easily go further than that and have two categories of sales people, say regional and international, that can both view a common type of sales press release and also each have their own specific releases. CMSes makes it simple to create these new different groups and assign permissions to view the various types of content.

3) Dynamic Flash Content

A common request from our clients is to have a slideshow with images they can easily control. While whipping up a Javascript-driven slideshow is simple (we do a lot of those!), occasionally a client desires one with more of a visual impact that would not be easily built with standard Javascript. Using Flash for something like this makes sense, as impressive animations can be quickly created and the interactivity of a Flash object can increase the “stickiness” of a page.

Having a CMS to help you drive your slideshow makes managing it a simple matter. Normally, Flash brings external data into something like a slideshow through an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) file. This file, in this case, would probably have a list of all the images to show in the slideshow, and possibly extra information like captions. Though XML was designed to be easily read by both humans and software, writing it and keeping proper format to keep Flash happy can be an ominous task. This is where having a CMS makes life easier.

With a CMS that can be geared towards this purpose, like Newfangled’s, you can upload your images and write your captions all in one place within the CMS. You don’t have to worry about updating the XML by hand–our CMS can automatically generate it, which gives the editor a slideshow that’s easy to update and easy to manage. And if you ever decide that you’d like to add an new element, like a secondary caption, that’s easy too, and since all of the XML files are generated by the CMS, nothing else needs to be done by the editor.

Though a full-featured CMS has tons of obvious functionality that make the job of a content editor easier, it’s the hidden, less-advertised features that can really make your website work for you.

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