8 features that improve your CMS experience

Gillian Foley
Gillian Foley

Before I joined evensix, my knowledge of Content Management Systems (CMSs) was very limited; so limited in fact that it spanned WordPress and WordPress alone. It was all I knew and though I didn’t love my experience with it, it was a tool my digi PR teams and I worked with on behalf of clients so I didn't give myself the time to have a strong opinion about it. Fast forward a number of years, and I'm now working in a digital brand and product agency. One of the tools that is a cornerstone of all of our development projects? You guessed it, a CMS.

Over the past few years, I've managed countless successful projects while ensuring the seamless integration of various digital tools into our clients' marketing and product strategies. Among these tools, a CMS is pivotal. And during my time at evensix, I’ve learned about and experienced first-hand quite a few of them. My core outtake isn’t a big revelation: not all CMS platforms are created equal. But I have learned what I appreciate in a CMS from a client’s perspective.

So I've popped together the features that I think are game-changers for content managers, not only enhancing their workflow but also their brands’ digital presence. Some ground-breaking, others just expected. And I'll be honest… I’m now biassed. These are all features that one particular CMS offers; our CMS of choice: Sanity:

1. User-friendly Interface

It sounds simple, right? Surely it goes without saying that a tool that people are constantly using to manage their data will be user-friendly?! Wrong. Take my previous experience with WordPress. One of my main frustrations with it was that there were SO many options available in the menu. And it was down to me to work out which was being used, what it did, how to navigate it. It didn’t seem intuitive or offer a good user experience at all (caveat that that is just my opinion!)

With Sanity though, I was pleasantly surprised (and our clients have been too). It's sleek and intuitive, with a refreshingly clean interface out of the box. From there, it's customisable so each CMS is bespoke to the client (more on that in the next point) to reflect the work they do—and tailor that even further for different users, be they an SEO manager, merchandiser, or marketer. This user-friendly approach means that no matter your role or goals, you'll find the platform accessible and straightforward.The ease of use encourages team members to dive into content creation and management without the steep learning curve often associated with other CMS platforms.

2. Customisability at its Core

As mentioned in the previous point, a highly customisable CMS is a huge benefit and actually, the ability to be custom-built can be quite crucial for businesses looking to tailor their CMS to their unique workflow and content needs.

Whether it's simply developing a CMS that has been created specifically for your needs (none of those endless navigations with multiple unused fields), or having the ability to define custom content types, integrate with other digital tools, or build bespoke plugins, this is a huge plus. And with Sanity, this is a given. So much comes straight out of the box, but it also provides the flexibility to create a CMS experience that fits your project requirements like a glove, and this aligns perfectly with structured content and creating a content model. This level of customisation ensures that your team can work in a way that maximises productivity and aligns with your specific goals.

3. Real-time Collaboration

In a previous life, my team was working on a campaign landing page in WordPress. A couple of them were managing different parts of it, and all remotely too (thanks COVID).  Except instead of being able to efficiently work in the tool together, only one person was allowed to edit at a time, which meant the others had to wait their turn. When I went to review, I had to take control to make an amend, which then kicks someone else out. It’s a lot of added admin when you want to work collaboratively.

Instead, imagine the convenience of Google Docs, but for your entire digital content ecosystem. Real-time collaboration allows multiple team members to work on the same document simultaneously. This interaction eliminates bottlenecks in content production and approval processes, ensuring that your projects move forward swiftly and smoothly. It's like having your whole team in the same room, brainstorming, editing and giving feedback in the moment on the same thing, which significantly accelerates project timelines.

The ability to all work on the same content at the same time means that the right people can feed in the right information simultaneously, which improves efficiencies across the board. Imagine product, partnerships, marketing and legal all contributing to the CMS for a product launch. Bliss.

4. Single Source of Truth

In today's digital age, your content needs to flow across every touchpoint you have with your audience. But imagine you were talking about a brand partnership and that partnership is mentioned in a blog, a news article, a product section of your app, and your ‘about us’ section across all platforms. You’ve just realised there’s a typo in the brand name and now you have to go back, find all the references and make sure that that one reference has been updated across all platforms. Phew.

This is where having one single source of truth for all your content literally shines. This means you and your team, clients and colleagues (anyone who has access!) can manage, edit and distribute your content across websites, mobile apps, social media, and more from one central repository. This consistency guarantees that your message remains cohesive across all channels, enhancing your brand's reliability and making your content strategy more efficient and effective as well as minimising the chance for errors. This is thinking of your CMS like a content lake or a content cloud. And model that content right and this is one of the core benefits of content modelling in a content cloud like Sanity.

5. Preview Functionality

No matter the platform, you want to see a preview of what your content might look like. Even though we talk about the single source of truth in the content cloud (or CMS) for your content, we haven’t forgotten the importance of the frontend!

The feature here that is pivotal is being able to preview content in real-time, as it will appear not just on your website, but on your app, ads, in-store kiosks, brochures… the list goes on! This preview functionality allows teams to see exactly how changes will look in the final product before going live.

Most CMSs offer this, I know. But I appreciate a couple of things at my fingertips with Sanity’s solution. Firstly, I can view the edit screen and preview screen side by side, with “live as you type” edits. This not only ensures a higher quality of published content but also allows for more creative experimentation with layout and design, knowing that you can see the outcome instantly. I can also preview thow the content will look on SERPs and on social.

And don’t forget… we’re not just talking about previewing websites here. We’re previewing how the data looks on the frontend of whatever platform / platforms we’re working with.

6. Presentation View Functionality

Not everyone is as familiar with the content model as the people managing it on a regular basis so another much-loved feature of not just Sanity, but other CMSs too, is being able to edit from the Presentation view. It’s basically visually editing the content directly through preview — be it a website, in-store display, or anything you can point a browser at.

You can see what parts of the page are editable, click an element, and be brought directly to the content field to make your change. And I say “edit” on purpose, because we firmly believe in structuring your content first from a data perspective, before you rush to see how it looks.

But for those not as familiar with the content model, or who are trying to edit quickly, Presentation view allows you to navigate to and make amends to content from the frontend. And in Sanity, it will give you the details of where else a reference is used so you have the context of what it might impact before making a change. For those looking to start from the visual side of the platform, this option is hugely beneficial and rings another bell for the usability element of the tool.

7. Cross-platform image customisation

When managing visual content across multiple platforms, you often need different sizes and crops to highlight specific aspects of a core image. Traditionally, this required additional admin creating and uploading multiple variations of each image to accommodate different uses—a clunky process I previously experienced with WordPress.

What we now have the ability to do with Sanity is streamline this complexity with its image management capabilities. As a content creator, you only need to upload the original image once. When it's time to use that image, Sanity's intuitive tools allow you to easily customise it for different contexts. You can resize, crop, and set focal points directly in the CMS, ensuring the image adapts perfectly to various layouts and designs on any platform. This simplifies the process significantly, enhancing efficiency and ensuring your images look their best wherever they appear.

8. AI Capabilities

In the realm of content creation, AI is no longer a futuristic fantasy but a practical tool for enhancing efficiency and creativity. And at this stage, who hasn’t had a play with the likes of ChatGPT or Midjourney? Used correctly, AI can be a content creator's dream. Sanity incorporates AI-assist capabilities that can help with tasks ranging from content generation to image tagging, translations to image creation and beyond. Imagine that all important metadata and alt text being automatically created when you add an image or content… the beauty is, that’s not something you need to imagine anymore. This integration of AI technology streamlines workflows and frees up creative minds to focus on strategy and innovation, rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of content management and necessary admin.

We live in an era where there are so many tools to create efficiencies across different business functions, that ensuring that our team has the best tools at their disposal is paramount. Managing content for a brand is a hefty responsibility and even more so now when getting in front of and engaging with audiences is harder than ever.

For us, it’s vital we find and work with the right tools for the right job. That’s why we embraced headless a number of years ago. And with a CMS being a vital part of content management, finding the right tool that offers a great experience to manage content and collaborate on projects is huge.

What we look for from a platform is a blend of user-friendliness, customisation, real-time collaboration, cross-platform consistency, innovative preview capabilities and AI integration. We don’t want much, right? But Sanity happened to deliver all of this and more which for us, makes it an unparalleled choice for any digital project. If you're looking to elevate your CMS experience, Sanity is, without doubt, a platform worth considering.