CMS Fridays: More About Them, What The Sales Person Won’t Tell The Client, And Vice Versa

You’ve solved the problem!

You’re implementing Drupal, SharePoint or something else that’s a “content management system”, and you’re getting the client involved in creating the content. One problem — getting them to use the content management system is impossible.

Seriously, I’m all for putting power in the client’s hands, but they have to be prepared for that power, and most of the time the person “given” that power has many more things to do than edit content in a website or extranet.

Here’s a few more truths about content management system and how they affect clients.

Sometimes what you wish for is what you get

All clients love the idea of editing their own site, but have no idea what it takes to create content. It means sitting down, opening up Microsoft Word and actually putting thought into the words that you are going to write. And that’s a lot of work, and they usually have no one on staff to do that task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients wanting to edit their sites because it’s been sitting for months, and they’ve forgotten the password.

Once they get in, they usually get out as quickly as possible, and ask you to add the photo or make the change.

Having that power and using that power are two different things, and many a time the client just throws up their hands and expects the company that implements the CMS to add the content.

What to avoid? Write in the contract that you aren’t responsible for content until you are responsible for it when the client is footing the bill.

The client has no one adept enough to use the CMS technically

Some CMSes, like SharePoint and SilverStripe, are straightfoward to use and for the most part don’t require extensive training to get the ball moving; within five minutes of each, I can train someone on how to add a page, how to edit content, and how to upload files.

Some of the other CMSes? I would never want my mom opening up Joomla.


The reason they’ve brought you in for the project is not only for your design skills, but for your technical skills. The reality is that most companies small enough to want to go open source are also too small to maintain a site if it gets much further than changing out some text because their staff isn’t technical enough. Open source doesn’t mean free, and that free sometimes comes with technical overhead.

What to avoid? Put in time for training. A lot of it.

Open source is still open source — buggy and sometimes hard to use

When you use “free software”, you sometimes get what you pay for, and the client will never understand why you’re using it, other than, “you’re billing me for this, why doesn’t it work?”

The open source CMSes are what they are: developed by programmers that have a love of developing software, but sometimes do things their own ways or they aren’t thoroughly tested. Some clients don’t understand this, and figure the CMS should be bug free right from the get go.

Whatever system you select, explain to the client there’s going to be an upgrade path, and associated costs with it. This may mean some kind of maintenance deal in the future that’s like dependent on the upgrades coming out.

What to avoid? Have a very real conversation with the client about what open source means, and explain to them all software is buggy. Seriously.

CMS sites don’t plan themselves, and a bad information architecture can set you back years

The client is fully engaged, learns how to use tool in a way cavemen learned how to use fire, then “burns” themselves the first way through.

Bob down the hall in accounting can barely spell information architecture, much less construct one, and a single workshop over an hour isn’t going to give someone enough training when some of us have been honing our craft for years. It’s about planning, and poor planning for some CMS implementations can be death for user adoption. Or, how’s your company intranet holding up?

What to avoid? Book an information architect all the way through the project. If they are engaged, they can give the guidance needed for the site, and it will save time and money in the long run.