If you've ever used a website builder online or dabbled with Wordpress you'll know that there are many bolt-ons, plugins and extensions available to add functionality to your self-built site. The crux of the matter is, that adding more plugins inevitably slows the site down and opens up more opportunities for hackers and other internet nasties. Continually updating the Wordpress core and downloading the latest plugin versions not only eats into your core business time, but could unveil a plethora of compatibility issues between the working parts of your site which, are all developed by different people across the world.
Then there's the everyday tasks that you have to carry out as part of your daily routine:
- Checking emails for leads
- Adding email addresses to mailchimp so you can market them
- Creating a record of your conversations between you and clients so you can multi-task and still pick up the conversation later
- Generating freebies, downloads, help documents and information sheets
- Having 10 tabs open in your browser to check your sales channels
- Updating social media in another 3 or 4 tabs
- Forwarding leads to individual sales reps
Wouldn't it be nice to have one page open on your screen that does all this?
We've been using the Silverstripe platform for 8 years now and while it's still evolving itself, it does provide us with the ability to create some amazing websites that not only look visually stunning, but allow businesses to improve their workflow by incorporating all of their common tasks into one web-based application. The default functions provided with Silverstripe are pretty basic, but the concept of a design framework is that you can custom build the functions and features you need on top. There are some modules available to achieve some functions such as adding a blog or custom buttons, but the majority of our work is developed from scratch, and done in house. By using the same development team for each working element of the site, you're minimising the chances of incompatibility as the site evolves. It also means that you're not 'making do' with a plugin that 'kind of' does what you want it to do or how you want it to look.
Features of a custom built CMS
So, let's take a look at some of the features above. Of course, these isn't a finite list of what can be achieved, it's more of an example of how we've combined a few of our daily tasks into the back end of our website.
1. Site Tree & Page Editor
The site tree is a standard feature of the back end. It displays a list of all your website's pages and their relation. It can replicate the menu on the front of your website too, so if you look at our menu you'll see that we have a 'What we do' link in our top menu, and underneath it, slightly indented are all the sub-pages that appear beneath it when you click. Within these subpages are more subpages which allow you to build and structure your site in a way that is great for SEO, keeping to one topic per page with the option to drag and drop the page order around as your needs require. Any member of our team are able to edit pages without any design skills or tutorials needed.
2. Integrating APIs
Our development team can link your site's features into many existing websites that provide services you use daily. In our example, we use InfusionSoft to manage our client details. It's a Customer Relationship Management tool and using their API, we are able to add any contacts to our database, directly through our website back end. This is particularly useful when you receive an enquiry through your website. It automatically adds the information to our InfusionSoft account with all relevant details, enabling us to track conversations, analyse our interactions and customer responses without opening another tab. If you're not familiar with InfusionSoft, it's worth checking out. It does a whole lot more, but automated emails is it's key use for us. We've also built websites that pull information from other sources to populate products lists too. A number of estate agents use websites such as Rightmove.co.uk to sell their properties, and while there are tools out there to manage your sale items in bulk, displaying them on your website would usually mean inputting the information twice. Having a bespoke web application built into your site could pull this information across and automatically populate your website periodically or at the push of a button. Our integrations with Infusionsoft and Mailchimp mean we have 2 less tabs to have open.
- A) shows a list of available actions when an infusionsoft contact form is created, such as 'send welcome email, follow up a week later, message them a month later with our newsletter'
- B) shows an HTML editor area, which is a common part of the site's back end, allowing you to add custom information in a similar format to that of a word processor program.
- C) shows an automatically pouplated list of pages within your website where you can redirect them to once they've completed the form.
3. Content without design skills
The page designs can also be coded to display different elements too, such as images, videos, logo sliders, maps and forms. The beauty of the system is that we can create a page type for specific areas of your website that have their own set of available options. A contact page for example, should only have on it your contact information, location and form. The layout and design of the page stays the same whatever information and images you add, meaning that you can't mess up the layout. An 'about us' page would have a different set of options such as team members and company history, which we'd design specifically for this purpose. For marketing campaigns, you can also create pages that don't show in the menu, allowing you to create doorways into your site, that are targeted for specific keyphrases or locations. When restructuring your pages, you can create redirect pages too which prevent any lost pages that google might stumble upon. This area of our page lets us change the text and button of a call to action. It requires no design skills to update and means we can modify the button to do what we like as our focus changes. This means that any of our team can update our website with no design skills necessary and an intuitive interface that's simply styled and straightforward.
4.Automating and monitoring Downloads
Lead tracking and lead magnets are often an important part of creating valuable content for your visitors. We've created an area within our site that allows us to provide downloadable content such as tutorials, product information, workbooks, planners, checklists and more. Of course we provide this for free and it generates page views from a broader range of internet users looking for help with web design and marketing. In order to make this equally as valuable to us, we create these downloads as 'lead magnets'. A lead magnet is basically a form where we request your name and email in return for a free download. This facility generates us a list of people who we know have an interest in our software or web applications and we can then keep them upto date with any of our developments that might be of interest. This has reduced our need for web services such as Leadpages.net who offer a lead magnet creator which is a service that lets you create the same thing, but then have to copy and paste their generated code into your site.
The interface itself is pretty simple, but then the easier to use, the better right?
5. Members Only content
Within the site itself, we have a members area which allows us to converge with ideas, updates and progress reports. A standard part of Silverstripe is the ability to add members and member roles, so you can limit what types of pages each member can see via a group level that we can customise via code. We each have a login, and each login has a role attached to it. The roles might include 'Content Creator' or 'Administrator'. Obviously as an administrator you'd want to be able to edit or add to the whole site, but the content editor might only need access to a specific set of pages or page types. This reduces accidental deletion of critical pages, and allows us to create areas specifically for that user role. In our estate agent concept we mentioned earlier, the roles might be 'branch manager' and 'sales rep'. The branch manager could see an overview of everything including the ability to add properties, manage leads, contacts and pages, whereas the sales rep can only see sales leads that are assigned to him/her by the branch manager. Adding members can be done within the back end and pages can be created that are only visible on the site once logged in. This has allowed us to integrate a project management tool within our site which has removed another tab open in our browser.
So, a website doesn't have to be just a website. It can be a web application that transforms your business and streamlines your processes without the need for design skills, a tonne of browser windows open or the need for many paid subscription sites when the same can be achieved with great coding and a first class consultation to identify every single area of your daily business tasks.
Talk to us about what Silverstripe can do for you!