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CMS-driven Websites: The Diagram Approach

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
Published on August 20, 2013

CMS-driven websites can be very complicated but when implemented properly, can improve efficiency for everyone in your company. At Diagram, we strive to make sure all clients have the tools to utilize their CMS-driven website to it's fullest potential.

CMS-driven websites are complicated beasts, but any competent design and development company can create a CMS-driven website that looks how you want it to look and functions how you want it to function. But while that website might look impressive on launch day, it’s not going to be worth the time and money spent on development if your content editors can’t keep it maintained because it is too difficult to update. The last thing you want is for your site to become stagnant, losing all of the great advantages of the CMS you acquired in the first place.

At Diagram, we want to help our clients realize their goals of having well-designed websites that will be useful and functional for years to come. This means we don’t just look at the site from our developer’s perspective, but we design the site from the point of view of the client’s content editors, IT managers, and marketers, making sure the site is functional for everyone who needs to use it. Let’s look at how we make sure each of these groups’ needs are met:

From the Content Editor's point of view

The initial selection and implementation of a CMS is important, but we make sure to take a step back from those high-end details and evaluate the CMS platform implementations not only from a look/feel/functionality perspective, but also from a content editing perspective. The people who edit the site’s content often don’t have development or programming experience, so we need to keep the following thoughts in mind when designing the site for their use:

  • It should be as easy as possible for CMS editors to create and maintain rich digital experiences without the need for developer intervention. If content editors need to contact IT staff for assistance every time they want to publish a piece of content to the site, they might not feel that it is worth the hassle.
  • It should be easy for content editors to edit content without the need to worry about the front end interface. Instead of spending time trying to wrangle HTML code to get content to look like they want it to, they should be able to quickly and easily enter their content and publish it in a format that fits the site’s style guidelines.
  • Rather than creating multiple versions of content for different channels, content editors should be able to create content once and publish it everywhere (COPE). This means implementing tools that allow content to be published to as many digital channels as you want: mobile, desktop, social, etc.

From the IT Manager's point of view

In addition to the content of a website, we need to consider the underlying code of the site, especially when it comes to upgradeability. As with any software, CMS programs are regularly updated, and it’s important to keep them up to date, for reasons such as support, functionality, compatibility, and security. This means that when designing a CMS-driven site, we need to keep upgradeability in mind. Development must be done in a way that ensures software upgrade paths remain intact. The last thing you want is for a software upgrade to break your site and render it unusable. We make sure to follow these rules when developing a CMS-driven website:

  • No modification of core CMS software code
  • Only use the latest APIs to access and insert data to and from the CMS
  • No compiling of CMS-specific DLL references
  • No direct SQL calls to the CMS databases

From the Marketer's point of view

Business moves quickly on the web, so your marketing team needs to be able to update your site quickly and easily, without being chained down while waiting for a developer’s assistance. We want to clear any IT roadblocks, empowering your team to create rich digital experiences through the CMS editor. Here are some of the ways we can help your marketing staff use your site to its maximum capability:

  • Using a multi-tiered system to synchronize content from an authoring environment to the production site. By setting up a staging environment in which changes can be made and tested before going live (whether following a schedule or publishing on-demand), users don’t need to constantly contact IT staff to make sure content is being correctly published to the site.
  • Creating multiple, flexible page layouts allows users to easily create content and have it appear on the site without having to enlist a designer or developer to make sure it is formatted correctly.
  • Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) allows users to avoid duplicating content, with a single piece of content being published to multiple digital channels automatically, making for a seamless use of all the marketing possibilities the web offers.
  • In addition to standard analytics, inbound marketing automation suites can be utilized, providing granular quantitative and qualitative reporting on website visitor trends.
  • Most of all, we want to do our best to reduce or eliminate your dependency on IT staff and/or developers for your everyday website workflow.


As you can see, there’s a lot more to consider when designing and developing a CMS-driven website than just how it looks and functions for the site visitor. At Diagram, we make sure to consider the site from everyone’s perspective, whether they are a user of the site, an experienced member of the IT staff, or a content editor. If you want a site that will help you realize your business goals, you’ll want to make sure to keep all of these aspects in mind, and we can help you do so, making sure you don’t miss anything. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if you need any help getting a look at your site from all relevant perspectives.