When Everyone Writes for the Web

How do you include non-technical staff in the ongoing development of 2,500 Web pages? Believe it or not, you do not have to turn these staff members into Webmasters. A content management system (CMS) makes it fairly easy for staff to create and update Web content. At the same time, the system provides the tools that administrators need to control Web development and protect information. As the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) has found, a CMS is not only a good idea when managing a content-rich Web site, it is indispensable.

In the redesign of its Web site, NACUBO considered content management to be one of the most challenging and important parts of the development strategy. We carefully evaluated several leading content management systems in the association market and within higher education. Ultimately, we selected the Ingeniux CMS platform on which to build our new site. We launched the new NACUBO.org site on March 8, 2004, and appreciate the benefits of using a content management system.

The Need for Content Management

Like many other organizations, prior to using a CMS, NACUBO realized that its Web site often contained out-of-date or obsolete information, possibly dissuading visitors from returning as often as we would like. It is no secret in today’s virtual world that visitors might be turned off or confused by seeing information on a site for an event that has already been held, or reading about a discontinued program, product, or service. NACUBO’s original process for content development involved 20 to 30 staff members from a variety of areas sending requests to two technical staff members, without any priorities, workflow, or strategy. This created a bottleneck effect that frustrated those on both sides of the process.

Maintaining accurate, relevant, and error-free Web content is critical, because the site is a direct reflection of the organization. NACUBO decided that the best strategy for ensuring that members and partners view us at our best was to implement a content management system, enabling each staff member to maintain his or her own content.

Selecting a System

The key for NACUBO was to find a content management system that the staff would find easy to use. We did not want a system that would require the content authors to do HTML programming or learn complicated new systems. To get total buy-in, we needed a system that would be understandable and that would incorporate the tools our staff already worked with.

Some organizations build their own “homegrown” CMS or co-opt an open source solution. However, building a CMS was not even an option for NACUBO. From cost, risk, and functionality perspectives, it was clearly better for us to purchase a commercial CMS. We chose to focus our technical resources on extending and integrating the CMS, rather than reinventing it. Taking this approach, the Ingeniux platform enabled us to develop and integrate our member management system, and still hit our launch date.

Evaluating content management systems can be confusing. There are a lot of vendors and the range of systems varies greatly. We looked at how the CMS would help us reuse and reformat content, workflow and user management, and publishing capabilities. We also studied the vendor’s technology approach: Did the company adhere to open standards, or were the technology and file formatting proprietary? We were wary of systems that could lock us in or make it difficult to migrate content to new systems. Lastly, we evaluated business questions, such as the vendor’s viability and success in our market. Any product we chose would have to earn high marks in all of these areas.

Content Management In Practice

How is it working? The staff was trained on the system in January. Within 45 days they had built, edited, organized, and published more than 2,500 pages of Web content.

The Ingeniux tool provides an HTML editor that enables our staff content authors to work within a simple word processing template, with the same functions and buttons that they use in their everyday work. Ingeniux also supports drag-and-drop importing from MS Office and other applications. Since most content published on the Web originates from other systems, the ability to easily import information is extremely important.

One of our key tasks in implementing the CMS was to develop a schedule for updating and maintaining the site content. To do this, we needed to identify the sections that frequently require updates: who should edit the content and approve the updates, and how often each section should be updated. The workflow system that is built into the CMS enables us to track who each page is assigned to, the workgroup that they belong to, and the status of the page.

By allowing content authors to make their own changes, NACUBO now has a site that is robust, frequently updated with fresh content, and fully integrated with all back-end operations. Using Web services, Ingeniux CMS integrates fully with our membership database to create database-driven pages for eCommerce and to deliver products, programs, and services. The CMS also allows NACUBO to password-protect the site on a page-by-page basis for our membership.

Our staff is working well with the CMS, and we update our site daily. The site has never had more content or functionality. We have learned from experience that we could not support the quality of Web site that we currently have without a content management system.

Mark Olson, NACUBO’s executive vice president and COO, points out a bonus to the CMS implementation: “With our IT team now free to focus on new projects rather than on supporting Web authoring, NACUBO can develop a more ambitious roadmap and better use technology to serve members.”

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