Our content writer and former local government communications manager, Caroline, looks at how taking time to work on your workflow will pay dividends in terms of quality web content.
An average council website, publicising a diverse range of services, may have around 5,000 pages of content, backed up by a media library with tens of thousands of documents, images and links in it. Most local authorities and other large public organisations use an enterprise-level content management system (CMS) to produce their websites, but many don’t make the most of its functionality and, with all of that content, it can be easy to lose track of who is responsible for what. Here is some food for thought for how to make the most of your CMS to achieve great web content:
Producing great website content once is all well and good – but without a content strategy, you won’t sustain that quality and before you know it, you’ll have out of date, incorrect pages and your audience will lose trust in what you’re saying.
Ideally, you’ll develop this when your CMS is being purchased and set up, but you can create one retrospectively and regain control over your content if you’re further down the line.
Your strategy needs to answer questions such as what goals do you have for content? What types of content will you need? Who is going to create and own content? Speak to your content creators by asking them to describe the current process, what works well and what doesn’t. They’re users too and so their experience is key, and will help you create a CMS workflow that retains the things that work and fixes the things that don’t.
For councils, universities and other big organisations, the internal set up is often a centralised web / communications team who manage ‘corporate’ pages and support a spread-out team of content authors with department specific knowledge, based in those services. With public sector efficiencies, web professionals are rare – most contributors have main jobs, with web as an extra responsibility, meaning it’s hard work to maintain standards of content before it’s published. ‘Writing for the web’ courses, accessibility workshops and style guide training are all helpful to promote quality content, along with timely refresher training. However, a properly set up content workflow can also make a lot of difference as it ensures content is seen by various pairs of qualified eyes, before the customer sees it.
A good CMS workflow relies on having people in different roles to move content from an idea to publication, and defining these roles needs to be done well for the workflow to succeed. The titles of the roles will differ slightly between systems but in a simple CMS, administrators have overall control and access, power users or managers will have responsibility for specific areas and authors will create and amend content.
List all of the various roles within your CMS and work out exactly what their responsibilities are, for example a content author at the bottom of the chain can add a new page and put an image on but can’t approve it or add a new section. Then assign their role based on responsibility.
It’s often the case that business roles match up to CMS roles, for example all of your department heads are administrators at the top of the approval chain, but don’t assign roles blindly on this basis. People’s technical skills, willingness to ‘do web’ and available time needs to be considered when you’re assigning roles, otherwise you’ll have lapsed users who attend training and then don’t use the CMS again, which isn’t an efficient use of time.
Once you’ve got your strategy, your quality content creation and your CMS roles sorted, concentrate on workflow. A CMS keeps track of items of content at different stages and ensures everyone involved with it knows what’s happening with it. A good CMS workflow tracks users’ creation of content, amends to existing content and saves the versions of content as a record. It will have an overview of the stages of the workflow and where current tasks fit into them and will alert users when they have a task outstanding.
A CMS workflow lets you have multiple web tasks and projects going on at once with different people responsible for carrying them through the cycle, and keep track of them all. It means you don’t need to monitor tasks and actions manually, making your whole process much more efficient, but also it ensures that your content is high quality as it has to pass through the approval process in order to be published.
If you’d like HeX to help you with your CMS, workflows or anything else website related, just give us a ring – we’re happy to offer advice and support on a range of platforms.