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Nadia Modrow - 08.24.2017

Law & Order in an Enterprise CMS’s Content Structure: A 3-way Approach

A website's content structure (often referred to as a content tree) can be a tricky thing. For websites built on enterprise CMS platforms, the content manager now has double the work; they must ensure their customer base can easily navigate to the priority content while also considering what would be the most user-friendly way to manage all the data items in the back-end.

Think of the content tree as the spine of the content - the hub of all things, but often overlooked. A CMS content tree can, depending on the client and website’s purpose, contain a large amount of data. Organizing how the content manager wants to work with the various aspects of their website at the very beginning of a project can save both time and money.

It's a given that the front-end organization is top of mind for the client. But it’s not uncommon for the back-end organization of the content tree to be ignored at the front of the project. As a result, a CMS's content tree is often defined by the developer, possibly reviewed by a business analyst, tested by QA and then presented to the client as-is. But the configuration implemented without client input might not work well for the client. And when the client's content manager is brought in to provide feedback, it is usually at the last minute, when content needs to be added to the website before go-live. By that point it’s too late to make substantial changes, so instead the content is bent and molded to fit an inefficient organizational structure. The result is that the compromised structure can cause the client's operation to slow down, creating frustration, followed by overall dissatisfaction with the CMS product the client has invested in.

At Sagepath, we avoid this scenario by including User Experience and Technical Architects in client stakeholder sessions. This is a great opportunity for the delivery team to learn the client’s personality, style of operation and daily needs first-hand, all of which are already crucial in determining functional requirements. Having UX and technical experts lead a discovery session about the proposed content tree structure brings in valuable client input and helps to avoid the issues that come with inefficient structures. We ask these five key questions prior to development:

  • What is the organizational style for the website’s current content management?
  • Are you happy with that style?
  • How often do you update content?
  • From what devices do you currently access it?
  • How many people will be managing the content?

If the client is happy with their current operations style, then it must be "carried over" into their CMS.  If not, when the delivery team considers the structure of the new content tree, they need to reference the answers to the five questions above and weigh the following three aspects:

  • Is it possible to develop their ideal state?
  • Does it match the client's overall operation style and requirements, if any?
  • Is it user friendly?

Once those answers are determined and applied, the project will often move forward without any significant speed bumps toward the end. Certainly, including client input via stakeholder sessions is no longer an option—it’s a must, delivering excellent returns in time, cost and frustration saved.