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Content Manage Systems (CMS) are wonderful for making simple edits to a web site. They are neither a replacement for a web designer, nor a graphic design tool to create complex images, animations, or advanced web functions. Special features require special skills.
Computers and CMS software are not creative—they are tools where the results depend on the person using them. So what should you realistically expect from a CMS?Let’s start with what a CMS cannot do:
1. It will not perform design work. It uses the templates that were created for you. It’s not a replacement for skilled designers who understand web usability, SEO, and how to get visitors to take the next step (buy something, donate, or contact you).
2. It‘s not a substitute for Photoshop, Illustrator, or the graphics tool of your choice. A CMS has nothing to do with the creation of professional images or illustrations.
3. It’s not a programming tool. Unless your designer provided special tools or templates for the purpose, a CMS will not allow you to create virtual tours, surveys or complex forms, or a shopping cart.
Here’s what a CMS can do:
1. The primary function of a CMS is to enable a site owner to make simple updates to existing pages or templates without having the designer do those things (although we’re happy to make updates if you wish).
2. It will allow you to add links to other pages on your site, or other sites (but if you link to other sites, be sure to use the option that has the other site open in a new window/tab).
3. You can upload photos or graphics. The creation and web-optimization (rescaling and reducing the file size) should usually be done offline before you add them with the CMS. (We do have a feature in our CMS that allows some editing of the image before placing in your page.)
Here are some general recommendations when using your CMS to update your site:
1. Focus on what you know best–conveying your organization’s message effectively. You’re the expert-crafting relevant, effective text is the single, most important thing you can do with a CMS. If you’re not a good writer, find someone else in your organization to help, or at least review what you compose before posting it online.
2. Avoid clutter! Novices try to cram numerous “important” items into a single page, and end up with a cluttered mess where nothing stands out. The page becomes like a messy desk-all the important items are indistinguishable from the rest.
3. Avoid using multiple fonts, sizes or colors that make a site look like a ransom note! Your web designer set up a professional format for presenting headlines and other text items both for aesthetic and (if they know what they are doing) SEO reasons. Failing to follow their lead may hurt your site’s usability and search rank.
4. Avoid using underlined words-visitors assume underscored words are links.
5. Limit the use of centered text. It can be harder to read, especially with long lines and multiple paragraphs.
6. Last but not least, no CMS is very good at dealing with the strange characters that seem to appear when copying and pasting text from MS Word. You can avoid a great deal of frustration by pasting the copy into a text editor such as Notepad first, and then copying it from there to the CMS. Saving a copy of the Word document as plain text and then copying that will probably work, too.