CMS setup
If a client plans to handle their own website updates after launch, then you’re most likely building their site using a content management system (CMS). With the proper setup, a CMS gives non-technical users the control to make changes to a website without advanced technical expertise or the help of a web developer.

However, one topic that is often left out of the conversation when building CMS-driven websites is back-end optimization. Although the primary focus should always be the front-end user experience, a website also needs to be easy to update to be successful.

Follow these guidelines to ensure you’re delivering a back-end experience that will make clients feel both empowered and confident in managing their website.

Understand the end-user

Start by assessing the users that will have editing capabilities for the website. Evaluate items such as:
  • Technical level. Are they comfortable with technology? Do they know their way around a computer? What types of activities do they engage in online?
  • Skillset. Are they good with file management? Will they be comfortable editing images? Do they have any experience with content formatting?
  • Access to software. Do they have the tools that they need to manage website updates? If they will need to create or update graphics, do they have access to an adequate program?
  • Expectations. What types of edits do they plan on making to their website? What changes will be needed most often? Are their editing goals realistic?
Use the answers to these types of questions as the basis for any decisions you make related to CMS setup.

Design with your users in mind

The back-end of a website is likely the furthest thing from everyone’s mind when working through the design process, but it should play a part in the decision-making process.

Evaluate your design from a content editor’s perspective. If you’re working with users that are uncomfortable with technology, will they be able to edit all content areas without worrying about breaking the layout? Will they be able to achieve the same content structure without assistance?

Sometimes this requires compromise in your website design. Find the right balance between effective design and editing capabilities that work best for everyone.

Get more tips on designing for a CMS-driven website

Choose the right CMS

Choose a content management system that aligns best with the expertise of your admin users.

Some CMS options are designed with non-technical users in mind and are easy to navigate and use. Others require more familiarity with technology and aren’t as straightforward.

Start by thoroughly researching your CMS options. That way, you’ll know if your final selection will meet your technical requirements and be a good fit for the people using it.

Learn more about choosing the right type of CMS for your website

Hide unused options & set proper access

Within your chosen CMS, start your setup by hiding as many unneeded options as possible. For example, if there is a CMS feature that won’t be used on the website, hide that section from the navigation. This helps streamline user options and makes it less likely they will end up in the wrong place when editing.

Don’t forget to set the proper roles and permissions for admin users either. Don’t give inexperienced users access to areas of the CMS where they could potentially break things! By locking down those areas, you can eliminate the potential for accidents.

Optimize content editing

The ultimate goal should be to make content editing as straightforward as possible. First, it’s important to clearly define what content should be editable. Never assume what a client does and does not want access to edit, but instead have the necessary conversations to define expectations.

Once you have that narrowed down, here are some general tips to keep in mind:
  • Don’t rely on open fields for complex content areas, requiring users to format content properly. Break out pieces of content into single fields to ensure consistency in layout. The more steps a user has to take, the more likely they are to make a mistake, so make the content as modularized as possible.
  • Use proper labeling and organization, so things are easy to find. Make it as clear as possible how and where content will be displayed on the front-end.
  • Customize your text editor to remove any options that you don’t want editors to use. This may include color pickers or other tools that could overwrite default styling. If possible, add styling options that are custom to your website content.
  • Enable automatic image sizing and compression wherever possible. This cuts down on the possibility of users adding improperly sized images that can negatively impact website performance.
  • Add help text to fields, such as for important steps, character counts, or image dimensions, to serve as reminders when updating content.
Depending on what CMS you’re using, some of these steps might not be possible. Just optimize as best as you can with the tools you have available. Anything you can adjust to be customized to your website’s particular needs will be helpful in the long run.

Create examples & templates

It’s often helpful for users that aren’t tech-savvy to have examples to guide them. Set up the first round of pages and any other content to serve as a reference point for users. Be consistent with layout and structure, so it’s clear what patterns any new content should follow.

If users will need to edit graphics or images, provide templates where possible. This will help to ensure the integrity of the design isn’t compromised and that new content will follow the same styles.

Provide training & documentation

When you’re ready to hand off the CMS, don’t just send it over and hope for the best. Conduct a training session with anyone who plans to make edits on the website to ensure they are given proper information and instructions. Plan to walk through the most common editing scenarios, so they have a more thorough understanding of how to edit their website.

Consider providing documentation about the CMS for future reference. Write up details about any unique customizations. This gives content editors a way to troubleshoot issues without needing to immediately reach out for assistance.

Overall, an optimized editing experience makes everyone’s life easier. Web developers won’t have to worry about the day-to-day maintenance of content, and clients have the autonomy to manage their websites more efficiently. Back-end usability should be a priority on every website project!
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