Content Management

A content management system (CMS) is a web publishing tool which allows your staff to manage your website content through a simple interface. It facilitates the creation, management, distribution, publishing, and discovery of information. By separating your site’s visual design from the content, it also makes major changes to the site less expensive and much simpler. Using a username and password to login to a secure area of your site, the CMS allow you to load a page into a simple editing tool and make changes, or to add new sections and material to the site, even the home page. All of your site content is stored in a secure database with regular backups, and your content pages are generated, along with corresponding menus, every time you add or modify new information.

For many organizations and users the Web has become a primary source of information exchange and communications. Web sites need to be developed with this in mind; that web documents need to be treated with the same respect and care as printed reference; they need to be accessible, organized and archivable. Management and production of web documents need to be straightforward and secure. The PXI CMS is a publishing system designed to meet these needs, with the added goal of reducing the costs.

The PXI CMS is our hosted content management system. We’ve developed this system over a 8 year period, focusing on the specific needs of nonprofit organizations. It’s designed to explicity foster and support best practices.

Usability

We spent some time researching current CMS systems, and the way people interact with them. We discovered some persistent problems with the user interface to CMS systems, which we aimed to correct in the PCI CMS.

Stay tuned for screenshots and demos of the user interface.

Functionality

Rather than try to include thousands of options that bog down the interface, we developed the new CMS system to be modular. There are two layers to this modularity:

Design Elements

Most CMS systems either use some kind mini-html editor embedded in the system to control the layout of the pages. The html system is flawed because it demands too much of the user, and is inherently unable to guarantee valid, accessible code. Moreover, by embedding layout information in the documents themselves, this means future upgrades and changes to the website will involve removing this from every page – vastly reducing the lifetime of your investment in content-creation, and increasing long-term cost-of-ownership.

We’ve developed a micro-templating system that allows the user to include simple, meaningful tags around special elements of a document (such as a data table), which are then referenced to stylesheets we create for the website. All of of the layout information is separate from the actual page content, which means the page is not ‘locked-in’ to a particular design, and that the design can be updated by changing a single file.

Interaction

Any interactive features of the website are developed as plug-ins to the main system for the client’s specific needs. In a nutshell, this means you don’t pay for things you don’t need, and that weren’t designed with for your specific needs. For instance, the e-commerce needs of one organization are not the same as another – we’ve created a middle ground in which you aren’t forced into a one-size-fits-all system, but don’t need to have an entire system designed from scratch.

Plug-ins

Document Integrity

By document integrity we mean two things, accessibility and permanence, which are features of the documents (the actual web pages) the system produces. When you create a new page using the CMS tool, that page will be:

A Note about URL’s

URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. The web addresses you type into your address bar (like http://www.yahoo.com) are URLs. Other terms for this are URI’s (the I stands for Identifier), and IRI’s (International Resource Identifier). For most websites, a lot of time is spent considering a good domain name, and a lot of effort is devoted to protecting and publicizing that domain name. However, very little thought at all is given the URL’s of the pages on their sites.

The overwhelming majority of websites with content-management on the web today create URL’s for each page that look like this:

http://www.company.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=01A5CF3A-1
http://www.company.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?FOLDER<>folder_id=666655&PRODUCT<>prd_id=831789&bmUID=1113755560428

The JSP and ASP extensions refer to the server technology being used by these sites. If that technology is changed or updated, any links to these URL’s will break and people who have linked or bookmarked the page will find they can’t access it. The other stuff at the end of the URL’s is extra information that is used by the server to figure out what page is being requested, and is specific to the architecture of the CMS system. If the system is changed or upgraded, again, the links break. Links are very valuable, both the website and to the people whocreate the links. If upgrading your server platform breaks your links, that’s a real problem. More importantly, the

Web is about created an inter-connected library of information – these connections are links, and web developers (and the people that hire them) can work to ensure that these connections are stable.

The PXI CMS develops permanent, platform-neutral URL’s for every page. From the above example if that webpage was created with the PXI CMSm, the URL of the web page would be:

http://www.company.ca/shop/footwear/hiking_boots

This URL is platform-neutral; each page is referred without any extraneous information from the server or Content Management System. It’s easy to read, so users can form a reasonable expectation of where a link will take them. No matter how your website evolves, using a permanent URL schema will ensure that your documents will remain accessible.