Ensure Your Marketing Team Can Manage the Site

When it comes to a new website the focus is often on the new design, and site performance. However, for those responsible for ongoing site management and maintenance looking under the hood is of critical importance. The admin panel or content management interface plays an important yet underappreciated role.

Alan Gleeson - CMO Contento

Alan Gleeson

Co-Founder / CEO

March 7, 2024

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5 mins read

Admin Panel - Dashboard

The Admin Panel - An Introduction

Why are we writing about admin panels you may be wondering? 

What is an admin panel and what has it got to do with Content Management Systems? 

The admin panel is known by many different names: the control panel/ content management interface/administration interface or admin dashboard, and refers to the back-end part of the site where those responsible for managing and maintaining a site interact with the CMS. 

However, as this blog argues it rarely features in conversations related to CMS selection. It should.

As we illustrate below, elevating its importance will help ensure a smooth transition to a new CMS. 

The Admin panel or dashboard is the part of the CMS users login to so they can manage and maintain a website. However, from experience, many of these dashboards are not fit for purpose and as CMS have matured, every new feature gets slotted into an already overwhelming set of buttons and links. 

  • Each option relates to a decision that needs to be made. 

  • Lots of links equate to lots of decisions. 

Where to start?

As I’ll argue below when a CMS migration takes place, and a new website is being built, an upfront conversation should take place relating to the admin panel. 

Web development agencies will often influence CMS selection decisions, but the nature of most engagements is such that the focus is on the site delivery, not the ongoing maintenance. 

If the site is not easy to manage and maintain, any initial goodwill will quickly dissipate. 

Hence marketing leaders need to ensure that post handover maintenance is discussed upfront. The admin panel represents the key to this maintenance.

Under the Hood

When it comes to a new website, most of the focus is on the front end. 

  • What does the new site look like? 

  • Is it quick to load? 

  • Are the pages well designed? 

In many instances, external web development agencies are brought in to manage the entire process - with a clear goal of delivering a new site. Sometimes a CMS upgrade may also be recommended. After all, ongoing issues with WordPress as well as the advantages of modern CMS like Headless means that site migrations are increasingly on the table. 

However, before any migration decisions are made, it is important to ensure that after the web development agency has “handed over the site” the marketing team left in situ is trained accordingly. This includes a clear understanding on how to execute certain basic marketing tasks like:

  • Adding a new page

  • Updating content

  • Deleting content

You’ll want to minimize the dependency on external developers. 

After all, this has historically been a key bone of contention. 

Who is responsible for ongoing site maintenance? 

Of course, the answer is nuanced. 

In reality, both the development team and marketing should be accountable/responsible for the site, however, each function should ‘stay in its lane’. 

There is little point in trying to have a content editor manage API integrations (if a Headless CMS is being used). Marketing should manage content, and the development team should focus on design, content modeling, managing API’s, security, hosting and domain management.

Traditional CMS Admin Panel

When it comes to the behemoth of CMS, WordPress, it is the admin dashboard that most marketing people are familiar with. 

After all, there is a good chance they’ll have encountered WordPress on their career journey to date (such is its dominance). 

As a traditional CMS, the front end and back end are coupled so there are design elements within the CMS (as well as the content, various plugins and themes). This broader remit means that the WordPress content management dashboard overwhelms. Lots of alerts vying for your attention with no sense of priority, no sense of dependencies and no sense as to the skillset of the person tasked with managing the site.

With a Headless CMS on the other hand, the two are decoupled and thus the back end is primarily a content repository - and the front-end design (and all the plumbing) lives elsewhere. Unlike with WordPress the front-end ‘stuff’  is very much the responsibility of the front-end developer. Hence a reduced feature set equates to a cleaner UI/UX in some instances (although arguably not amongst some of the heavily financed more mature market leaders).

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Challenges with the WordPress Admin Panel

As someone familiar with the WordPress dashboard, like many marketing practitioners, I suffer from cognitive overload every time I log in.

 For mature sites, with lots of legacy plugins in use, it can be downright scary. 

One false move and you fear you could take the whole site down. 

The dashboard will often consist of error messages, references to incompatibilities, and plugins in need of upgrading. 

A lot of extra “jobs to be done” - and all looking for a decision from a non-technical marketing person who simply wants to add a new blog to the site.

Traditional CMS

Other CMS suffer from similar challenges. Webflow is a modern CMS that is increasingly popular, but again because the front end and back end are all accessible it can be a daunting experience for non-technical users.

Headless CMS

With a Headless CMS, there is an opportunity to reduce the cognitive load - after all, the front end is essentially removed from the equation. 

However, most of the leading Headless CMS suffers from overly complex dashboards. 

Several factors cause this:

1- Developer-centric platforms- Because they primarily focus on the main buyer to the neglect of the main user, they focus on feature development that biases towards the needs of more technical users.

2- Feature creep - As these platforms mature, new features keep getting added in a tit-for-tat race to match innovations seen elsewhere, as well as demands from a growing number of stakeholders. Most product leaders will invariably hear from a sales-person at some point arguing “If only it has this feature I can close the deal”.

3- Catering for wide needs - Because Headless CMS are ‘head agnostic’ no assumptions are made as to the use case. As a result, features are added to meet edge case needs leading to feature bloat.

Contento - An Intuitive Headless CMS

Contento, on the other hand, benefits from taking a clear position. It is designed primarily for the needs of marketing people tasked with managing and maintaining a website. 

Baking this assumption in, removes the necessity for dealing with obscure edge cases. 

As a result, the admin dashboard is stripped back. Access credentials mean that marketing users are not being asked to manage decisions they are not equipped to make. Sure they can add a blog, update content or delete content. However, they are not going to be asked to update plugins, manage themes or accept updates.

The net result is that ongoing management and maintenance through the Contento admin panel is an almost enjoyable experience. And that is the way we plan to keep it, staying out of a feature arm race and adding features for obscure use cases.


In summary, with most new CMS and website builds the focus is on the ‘new site’. As we’ve outlined above ongoing management and maintenance needs to be factored into any discussion, especially those relating to CMS selection. CMS usability will become increasingly important and marketing leaders should insist that their ability to manage the site post handover is not constrained by an admin panel that fails to meet the need of time-pressed marketers.

Alan Gleeson - CMO Contento
Alan Gleeson

Co-Founder / CEO

Alan Gleeson has 15+ years extensive B2B SaaS experience working with several VC backed Startups & Scaleups in the UK, US & Ireland.

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