What’s a Visual CMS and Why You Need It

“Visual CMS” – illustration by Elin Jonsson.

When dynamic content explodes online every second, how will your campaign stand out?

For your website or web campaign to get the traction it deserves there’s no getting around the fact that the days of a bit of text with a pertinent image or two are long over. Video, interactivity, animation — to draw traffic and convert, content must be all singin’, all dancin’ to stand out from the crowd.

Unfortunately though, building attention-grabbing content can be a costly and time consuming process, involving several different departments or even outsourcing to external agencies.

With the whiplash-inducing speed of online content consumption, concepts become outdated in minutes. What was original and topical when your marketing department thought it up is old news by the time your developers get coding. Not to mention that having a single idea trawl through several different departments very often ends up proving the old adage “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

But short of getting your marketing creatives to learn to code or expecting graphic designers to come up with web campaigns, what can you do? What if there was a tool that allowed any piece of web content to be conceptualised and executed in as little as minutes, by the same person? Enter your visual content management system, or “visual CMS” for short.

What is a Visual CMS?

A Visual CMS is a design and publishing tool for visual, animated, interactive web content.

It’s like a desktop publishing tool such as Adobe InDesign or PowerPoint/Keynote for web animations and interactive content — minus the need for coding. It has the tools for design, animation and interactivity to take your content to the next level.

Who uses a visual CMS?

A visual CMS can be used by any content creator, from marketing creatives to graphic designers and copywriters. It allows non-coding users to create the kind of vital eye-catching content you need, with the same ease as uploading an image or blog post.

Does it integrate into your existing systems?

A visual CMS integrates into your existing content management systems (e.g. Wordpress, Episerver, Adobe AEM) and e-commerce platforms (e.g. Magento, SAP Hybris, IBM Websphere, Shopify, Demandware, WooCommerce). You can even plug in a visual CMS to a static website, to enable an isolated part of the website to be editable.

Both users and search engines will see the content as part of the same website, so you won’t be facing silos of content in different systems or risking traffic dead-ends.

A visual CMS integrates seamlessly with your existing content management system.

Why do you need a Visual CMS?

A visual CMS puts content creation power in the hands of your ideas people, and allows for undiluted creativity to make it online in just a few clicks.

Standard content management systems are designed for text and images only, and even then any unique design requires coding.

Simplify workflows

Old CMS systems necessitate a concept being passed from one department to another and requires a complex workflow involving several interim deadlines and various iterations drifting back and forth. A visual CMS allows a single content creator to complete a web content project themselves.

Allow content creators to work more independently…

A CMS that enables designers, copywriters and content creators to execute their own concepts saves time, money — and cuts down on the risk of a project losing its original spark of imagination by the time it finally makes it online.

… and collaboratively

By allowing creators to control designs themselves, a visual CMS facilitates active feedback sessions where the concept can be developed in real time, without the need to collate static notes to send out to coders. It adds flexibility to the process, allowing ideas to be tested and tweaked instantly.

Save time and act quicker

The ability to publish and hit the web instantly is crucial to catch that topical story while it’s still trending. Very often being the hot take that goes viral and grabs that tsunami of traffic comes down to being the first out there. A visual CMS allows you to react instantly while your competitors are briefing developers.

Less dependence on IT department or web agency

It’s equally vital that every aspect of your web presence looks and feels ahead of the pack at all times. If your website has looked much the same for several months, you could be hemorrhaging traffic and conversion in the time it takes you to launch a project to revamp the design.

Creating a constant flow of quickly executed tweaks and updates will ensure that neither consumers nor search engines will be put off by a site that feels static or out of date.

Don’t waste your coders on trivial tasks

For the fast growing start up, keeping every workflow as lean and mean as possible is a no brainer. But it’s not just a question of paring a project down to require the input of as few resources as possible: it’s equally important to ensure that every resource is being used efficiently and to the fullest of their ability. Having developers create code to tweak fonts and pixel size several times as creatives debate back and forth is a waste of their time and talent.

Using a visual CMS to let your creatives bring their own ideas to life frees up your coders to focus their time and attention on work that requires their expertise.

Get better effect from your advertising budget

Companies spend billions on Google AdWords and display ads, but how do they capture the clicks that the ads generate? Often the ads are just linked to the company’s start page that might not even correlate with the message in the ad that was just clicked. With a visual CMS you can quickly create custom landing pages inside your existing website.

Pick your visual CMS:

If you are ready to see the difference a visual CMS can make to your web presence, efficiency and budget, there are several options out there for you to consider. The current leaders are Ceros, SnapApp, Zmags and Ion Interactive, and hot new Swedish alternative, Weld.