Content considerations for CMS developers

ALPHA. This guidance is provided as a general starting point for anyone designing online content, or working on digital projects that involve designing new content or reworking old content. It is a work in progress, and we welcome feedback and suggestions to improve the advice. Contact us with your feedback.

Often decisions about how content is to be entered in the CMS are made during the CMS design phase. Ideally these discussions should include someone with an understanding of how the content will be managed and presented.

You should also consider options for future reporting and reuse of the content.

General template requirements

'Info' or ‘general content’ page templates should capture:

  • ownership — ideally capture a business unit, and a subject matter expert.
  • review schedule — select 1, 3, 6, 12 months from entry date, or enter a custom date.
  • summary field — this might display at the top of the page, and/or might be used to populate the meta-description field. Depending on how you want to reuse the summary field content consider a character limit. This can stop descriptions cutting off mid-word, or mid-sentence. Something around 150-200 is fairly standard.
  • last updated — this can be configured to display on pages. It builds trust in the currency or your content, as long as it is updated regularly.

If you have any control over the wysiwyg editor tool, talk to a content person about what formatting functionality and tools they need. For example a button to strip code from content that gets pasted in, or a picture/media button may not be standard.


If you upload documents into your CMS to link to, they should be entered with descriptive metadata:

  • title
  • author
  • subject/description
  • keywords.

Consider ways of capturing file type and size so that information can be automatically added to the link text when you link to the document.


Images should always display alt text. Consider how the CMS author is prompted to add that information.

If you will have lots of images consider:

  • common placement in the template
  • guidelines around display size and file size
  • consistent presentation of captions
  • how you will credit images consistently.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 guide the development of some standard content elements in relation to:

  • navigation elements
  • link style and behaviour
  • responsive design and mobile friendly content structuring
  • heading styling.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

CMS folder structure

Think about the folder structure in the CMS and how and where images, documents and html pages will be stored. You need to be able to find images and documents, and know that they relate to particular pages or topic areas.

Mirror the display structure of the site as much as possible.  Alphabetical lists of files are not always intuitive.

If folder names will reflect in URLs consider folder naming rules to minimise duplication of keywords in the URLs.

Develop naming conventions for documents, particularly when there will be a lot of the same kind of document:

  • put dates first, then description
  • use consistent date formatting in filenames — it makes it easier to scan lists
  • use full words, not abbreviations.

Search and analytics

It will be important to be able to report on the value of the pages you create, and one of the key ways to do this is through Google Analytics.

When you set up the CMS, make sure:

  • Google tracking code is added to all pages
  • event tracking code is added to links to downloadable files.

Consider the internal site search, and how the search results page displays results.

Print style

Design your print CSS carefully so that it strips out navigational items, doesn’t leave chunks of white space and just displays the core page content.

Printed pages should include:

  • identifying header — page 1 only
  • full URLs for any link text.

By default the browser print function should also include:

  • page URL — every page
  • page number — for example '1 of 5'
  • date printed.


If you have a lot of contact information in your site consider a common format, or a special area for storing contact details. If the same contact details will appear in multiple places consider how you might enter that information once and have it populate from one source across all common contact fields.

If you do go down this path, make sure that the reusable elements can be labelled descriptively to facilitate easy reuse.  Do not call them 'ID1', 'ID2', etc.

Business as usual (BAU) planning

To make ongoing site maintenance processes easier, consider some reporting functions when you set the CMS up.


  • how page owner — or central administrator — is notified when pages are due for review? Do you need to design a report, or be prepared to extract that report regularly?
  • a feedback option on all pages. How that will be collected, stored and managed?