By Kato Mivule | April 20, 2009
Though Joomla (Content Management System) CMS Technology has been around now for quite a while, major Ugandan Media Publications did not jump onto the CMS Technology that quickly.
However, Media Outlets like the New Vision which is State owned embraced the CMS technology earlier on but the emphasis by the Web Developers seemed to have been placed on the Back-end of the CMS application that New Vision Newspaper utilized rather than the Front-end dynamics of the CMS Technology.
CMS Technology provides Media Outlets the ability to utilize a Database in which all Media Content is stored in an organized process, this being the Back-end of the CMS Application. Media Content such Newspaper Articles, Advertisement Banners, Graphics, Videos and Audio Files can then be accessed through the Front-end of the website front page, template, or portal.
The Advantages of CMS Technology is that since Content is stored in a Database, it is separate from the Front-end application and should the Front-end falter, then you have documents stored securely in a Database that you could always back-up automatically on separate Data Storages.
The Front-end simply became like clothing that one could change anytime to suit the theme of the company without damaging content.
However, for Ugandan Media Outlets, this new technology meant that they required more expertise beyond that HTML Only Based Web Development. This meant that they had to acquire Web Developers who had very strong backgrounds in MySQL, MSSQL, and Oracle Database Development and at the same time programming skills in Database Manipulation languages like PHP, .Net, Java among others.
This meant that Media Outlets in Uganda had to spend money to retrain and train staff in utilization of the new CMS technologies even if for the most part this Technology is free and under Open Source License agreements. The lack of trained Database Professionals explains the reason why Ugandan Media Outlet Companies took long to transition to CMS Technology.
However, Ugandan Media Outlets are transitioning with fast pace in employing CMS technology. There are problems when one browses a Ugandan Newspaper website. Sometimes the Database is not available; this could be partly due to the numerous Power Outages in Kampala.
Media Outlet Managers in Uganda have to struggle with the issue of “sovereignty” over their content in case the website is hosted outside Uganda, somewhere on a Server in the UK or USA. In such cases, they would rather have their content not available at some time than have any control both over their Servers and Content.
The other issue is control over the URLs and Search Engine Optimization – SEO. Many times from my browsing experience and Google search of Ugandan Media Outlet Content shows a lack of consistency in Search Rankings.
I have observed how at times ‘Friendly URLs’ are utilized but then after some time a reverse is made back to the ‘Native URL’ structure of the CMS application. In such cases ‘301 Redirects’ are not used to redirect users to the right content, instead users bounce on a ‘404 Page Not Found ‘Error message.
This might be due to the fact that the Ugandan Web Developers are ‘experimenting’ with different SEO software. However, pre-planning in the Web Development process might help overcome such issues.
On the Front-end part, Ugandan Media Outlets like the New Vision have held out to old Templates and not moved forward to newer and more user friendly templates than the one currently used. Yet at the same time New Vision seems to be experimenting with newer templates on the Bukedde Newspaper Website, a local Luganda publication run by the New Vision.
Browsing through the Bukedde Newspaper Publication Online shows another barricade that Ugandan Web Developers have to deal with. This has to do with over Categorizing Content and can be seen on the Front-end of the website.
The Menu and Navigation system is overdone and with same content repeated in the many Categories and sections of the CMS. One wonders if a visitor will have to browse through each Menu Category just to get to the story. Secondly the Content of the Newspaper website is so much centered on News and Advertisement yet Content on the locality is absent.
This does not mean that the Newspaper website becomes a Portal. However, the goal should be that the visitors return to the website and thus more advertisement revenue. Content like Local Housing, Businesses, Employment, Hospitals, Clinics, Markets etc should be part and parcel of Ugandan Media Outlet Websites.
The embrace of CMS Technology is still in the infant stages and of course one does not expect to Ugandan Newspapers to be at par with say the New York Times, LA Times, Guardian UK, Financial Times, or Wall Street Journal websites when it comes to employing CMS Technology.