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Eagle River Partners
Online Communications News June 8, 2004

Content Management and Other Goodies

This time around we're taking a look at some of the resources available to small organizations looking to improve their online communications using website content management.

We also introduce a new site, BrandonsArms.org, and throw out a bunch of online communications goodies collected in the last couple months.

Enjoy and take a moment to use the send this to a friend button above to share this newsletter. You can always find out more at Eagle River Partners own website.

Content Management for Non-Profits Comes of Age

Site Launch: BrandonsArms.org


Content Management for Non-Profits Comes of Age

Here at Eagle River Partners, we have been spending quite a bit of time with content management systems. Basically, a Content Management System (CMS) is a hunk of software that helps you interact with and manage the content on a website.

The most basic CMS will probably provide a comfortable interface for editing and uploading content without knowing HTML, JavaScript or anything else particularly technical. As you move further along in sophistication, you will find better built user interfaces, tools to manage workflow among your authors and editors, the ability to relate pages and even chunks of content to each other in a variety of ways, and all sorts of other tools that, used well, can go a long way towards helping keep a site current and deep.

Most any true CMS is database-driven. This means that your content and information about your content sits in a database. Folks browsing your site are calling pages with programming written by the CMS but optimized by you through your own administrative interface. As pages load, chunks of content are pulled from different parts of the database to form a page that might have a variety of different but related content. The end result for the user is a richer, more useful experience.

Today, we recommend a CMS-driven solution for almost every client and potential client looking for a site design or re-development. In many cases, the up-front effort to implement a CMS is higher than creating a set of static pages but the potential long-term benefits to content quality and site return on investment can be significant.

Few small to mid-size organizations use a CMS to manage their site. This is largely due to the same factors that limit most communications and technology programs at non-profits: no time, money, people, etc.

We have hit a point in time, though, when these sorts of reasons are ringing hollow. Organizations and their staff are far more familiar with online communications than they were three to five years ago. The depth of content on most sites has moved beyond the ability of organizations to manage it by hand. Meanwhile, there is a wide range options in both the open source and proprietary CMS markets.

In a future issue, we'll take a look at some CMS tools and provide some comparisons that can help you evaluate systems on your own.

In the meantime, here are some great resources for finding out more about content management tools.

An article from Rob Prideaux at TechSoup titled Knowing When You Need a CMS

Also from TechSoup, Introduction to Open Source Content Management Systems. This was authored by Joe Cancilla.

Rounding out the TechSoup triumvirate is an article on Web Content Management Systems by Aba Maison.

This trio of TechSoup articles should give most anyone a solid footing for analzying their needs and content management options.

A good place to find out more about your CMS options in the open source area is a site called simply Open Source Content Management (OSCOM). The OSCOM matrix provides links to several dozen open source CMS tools.

Another good site is CMS Watch. Here you'll find a range of information about a variety of tools. Some are big bucks programs while many are quality open source tools.

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Want to communicate with your constituents for just a couple pennies each? Read more about Email Newsletter Hosting.

New Site Launch: BrandonsArms.org

We're proud to announce the recent launch of a site for the organization Brandon's Arms.

As Brandon's Arms' mission statement says, Brandon's Arms was founded to promote public safety, with emphasis on proactive measures to reduce or eliminate injuries and deaths from the accidental or criminal use of firearms.

The site was developed in early May on a very tight timeline - about seven days altogether - and was recently declared 'Link of the Week' at MichaelMoore.com.

Like most Eagle River Partners clients, Brandon's Arms is a fairly progressive entity. Currently, Brandon's Arms is raising money to stop a bankrupt gunmaker, Bryco Arms (known as one of California's 'junk gun' or 'Saturday Night Special' gunmaker), from buying back its assets at a court auction under a different name with the intent of setting up shop again. It's a pretty significant campaign with a hard deadline of June 17th.

You're welcome, of course, to spread the word about Brandon's Arms if you're so inclined.

In addition to being pulled together in relatively short order (thanks to Tracy at The Hauser Group for providing content quickly) brandonsarms.org is XHTML and CSS compliant.

For the non-web-geek-arati out there, this means the site is darned easy to maintain, loads fast as lightning, is search engine friendly and plays nicely with text and other alternative browsers. There's nary a table tag in sight.

Other Goodies

You Crazy Yep, its been a while since the last issue of Online Communications News. Admittedly, we put this together with a thinly staffed team. So, while the little folks over there are slowing down our publication efforts at the moment, hopefully they can help out in about, oh, 15 years.

Meanwhile, we've come across a teeming multitude of useful and interesting sites related to online communications. A few...

A9.com - A search engine from Amazon. More than just books.

Nonprofits by Design - A series of columns discussing the role of design in non-profit branding efforts.

Resources for the Well-Rounded Web Craftsman - A blog article with, admittedly, a bit of ranting, but also some fine recommendations for books that would be handy on the shelf of any organization's chief web monkey.

Widgetopia - Christina Wodtke, one of the brightest lights in the Information Architecture field, collects website icons and interface widgets from across the web and talks about why they work (or don't).

Anyone putting together a site has invariably run across the need for little icons or the clever interface area. Does it matter what you use? Does anyone care? Hard to say but this is the place to go to get some ideas and learn a bit about why some things just seem right (or just fail miserably).

CSS Panic Guide - Using CSS to help build a site? Get your resources here in one nice place.

del.icio.us - An online bookmark manager and so much more. See what others think of your bookmark. See what others bookmark that might be similar. This description stinks. Must be experienced to be understood.