10 Best Higher Ed CMS Features

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Last Updated: Dec 27, 2022 11:00 AM

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People don't want a quarter-inch drill bit.

They don't want a hole, either.

They want the feeling they get when they walk past a beautiful painting, reminisce as they gaze at a family picture, or watch their favorite show on a TV mounted on their living room wall.

The same concept applies to higher education content management systems (CMS).

Higher ed webmasters and marketing executives don't want a CMS; they want what that CMS does for them.

They want to create a website that's easy to navigate and provides the best user experience (UX) possible for their visitors to build a connection and gain a desired outcome.

Establishing a personal connection through strong, relatable narratives helps grow audiences and increase enrollment. For colleges and universities, these connections foster trust and engage current students, alumni, parents, and other key audiences. Prospective donors and future students will react to images and descriptions of your organization's vibrant, healthy culture.

With the rise of technology and CMS improvements, crafting content that reflects your school's brand image can now be easier for all involved. The following 10 features should be part of your CMS wishlist if you want to provide your end users and site visitors with the best UX possible.

1 - The Best College CMS Assists With Strong Web Governance 

Your brand defines your policies and procedures. It helps to form the kind of content you need and invites the right audiences to come and read your material. Your brand helps differentiate yourself from the competition, reveals what you stand for, and creates the right image.

Key components of a healthy CMS web governance should determine who will staff new and existing projects, web standards, brand guidelines and voice, and who’s responsible for ongoing maintenance and optimization. Learn more about web governance by visiting our blog post on how to build a web governance framework and committee

2 - The Best University CMS Includes In-App Support

Even the best and most user-friendly CMS comes with a learning curve when end-users first familiarize themselves with a new software. It’s, therefore, important to make sure your new CMS comes with complimentary in-app support to help you and your team navigate through unfamiliar features to get the most out of your subscription.

Here at Hannon Hill, Cascade CMS users enjoy unlimited in-app support. Product functionality not working as expected? Questions about product features or product-specific APIs and developer features? No problem. Your web team can submit as many support tickets as needed to get the job done and receive the support of one of the best product support teams in the industry.

3 - The Best Higher Ed CMS Has A Powerful Workflow Builder

Workflow, the steps users must take to create content in a CMS, should guide users of all tiers when it comes to gaining approval and publishing content. Workflow builders help higher ed web teams create new methods for categories of content to be reviewed, edited, published, or deleted. While CMS features like pre-built workflows can help you determine where to start, your website may need more customized care.

A powerful workflow builder that allows you to see each part visually can be intuitive for users and streamline your ability to create and publish amazing content. Cascade's Workflow Builder ensures content is accessible, meets your organization's guidelines, and allows content creators of all skill levels to contribute without sacrificing brand consistency. 

4 - The Best Higher Ed CMS Has A Mobile-Friendly Interface

More and more people are on-the-go and view web content on mobile devices. 85 percent of adults in the United States read on their phones, whether that’s during daily commutes, long walks, or while waiting at the DMV. To ensure your audience can view the information you post wherever they are, design a mobile-friendly website, or miss out on millions of readers. 

With a mobile-friendly interface, your college or university can reach prospective students on their turf when they are most attentive. Attract more visitors and engagement in the new year by investing in a CMS that automatically converts content created on your desktop into a mobile-friendly layout. 

5 - The Best University CMS Integrates With Personalization Tools

Personalization is the future of digital engagement. A university CMS must be able to integrate with personalization tools, such as Clive, to deliver audiences a targeted experience through digital personalization.

Personalization is relevance, and relevance is respect. Show the individual nature of your college with the kinds of creations, bios, and testimonials that make your school unique to those visitors who can benefit from it the most. Serving the same stale content to each site visitor while disregarding their interests, preference, and ideals is a sure way to alienate yourself from those seeking to enroll with you.

6 - The Best College CMS Provides Effective SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential factor when trying to rank your university on top of search engine sites, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. When it comes to the optimization component of SEO, be sure your CMS can create title tags, meta descriptions, and a strong internal linking structure so readers can find and enjoy the content you’re creating.

Effective SEO, such as useful longtail keywords, images, and headlines, can help your website be the answer that some people are searching for. CMS features like reports can help you determine your content's accuracy, who reads it, and where that content goes. With this kind of transparency, you and your content creators can better strategize what components to publish and highlight. 

7 - The Best Higher Ed CMS Allows For Content Sharing

Employee churn, quiet quitting and economic uncertainty going into the new year puts additional strain on university marketing and web departments. Short-staffed teams have to keep up with demands and continue to create and publish content to keep key constituents informed. News and events may be relevant content to both business and medical schools and should be shared on both sites with ease.

That’s why your CMS should enable you to share content across all pages without the duplication of work by storing content in small reusable chunks, not a massive WYSIWYG editor. “Create once, publish everywhere” is a phrase once coined by NPR and adopted by our product team to make your life a little easier. 

8 - The Best University CMS Distributes Meaningful Reports 

Keeping your content fresh is critical to SEO success. It’s impossible to ensure quality control of hundreds of university sites and pages without the use of technology. A CMS for the modern college should provide users with daily content reports that identify accessibility issues, broken links, or stale content across pages.

Cascade CMS alerts users and site administrators of pages that have not been updated in any number of days, weeks, months, or years. The Cascade CMS daily content report, task manager, and content review dates dashboard help you and your institution keep content fresh and accessible for all.

9 - The Best College CMS Offers Convenient In-Context Editing

Time is of the essence in an ever-increasingly fast-paced environment. You want your CMS to be as efficient as you, and your contributors are and not slow you down by making you go through tedious steps to edit a line on a page on your website. When considering a new CMS, be sure to focus on in-context features.

The Cascade CMS in-context feature allows content creators to simply click on the region or field on a page and make edits on the fly without having to access a dedicated editing interface. This feature saves time and lets your team make changes seamlessly.  

10 - The Best Higher Ed CMS Help Maintain Brand Guidelines

Since many people of various backgrounds contribute content to a university website, it's important to establish brand guidelines to keep the same tone, theme, and keywords throughout the site so that your content remains consistent. 

A higher ed CMS should allow web admins the ability to give granular user permissions to contributors depending on their skillset and tenure within the institution. These granular permissions, content checks, a robust workflow builder, and the ability to publish to a staging server ensure that all content published to a website is the best possible representation of your school's brand image.


Your content is what makes your school stand out. Whether that's a prospective student trying to understand your school's culture, an alumni turning first-time donor, or future faculty seeking new challenges, content is what ultimately convinces them to choose your school. Your CMS powers that content and makes people want to come back time and again to gain the relevant information needed to make a decision.

Your CMS is a tool that's created to help you and your contributors create the best possible image of your institution with the least amount of effort. Be that maintaining strong web governance, providing a personalized experience, and distributing meaningful reports to guarantee content health across all pages.

The future of your school depends on content. Don't let an outdated CMS platform hinder that content from fulfilling its mission.

If you're in the market for a new CMS, complete the form below to schedule a demo and learn more about what's possible with Cascade CMS.

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Chris Rapozo
Marketing Specialist