Tools Available in the Content Management System

What is a Content Management System?

A website content management system (CMS) is a software system that helps a person put information into a website, without having to learn how to write scripts or use coding languages. Such people are commonly called digital authors or web authors.

There are many benefits to using a CMS (NPS-only link), including cost savings, branding, compliance with federal rules and regulations, and more.

To make the most use of our CMS, it helps if all NPS employees (regardless of whether or not they're a web author) understand what tools are available within the system.

The Design and Purpose of Tools in Our CMS

A wide variety of tools, also called elements, are available in the CMS. More are added as the field expresses particular needs and as the NPS Web Services Division is able to develop them and add them to the software system.

Within the CMS, each element is lumped into a group based on its purpose or how it functions. To mirror that, pages are linked below that illustrate the design and style of all of the elements in a given group.

Element Group Description
External Content Elements calling on data from outside sources (e.g., job opportunities from either USAJobs or, weather forecasts from NOAA, etc)
Form and Data Sheet Elements Approved forms that can be used for specific purposes (e.g., a Lost & Found form)
Listing Elements Elements that list something, such as shared content articles or details about park campgrounds.
Map Elements Interactive maps! Who doesn't love these? (Note: Maps are built in separate systems, such as ESRI's Story Map or NPMap Builder, and these elements simply call upon those existing maps).
Multimedia Elements Fancy stuff: Audio, videos, large images, webcams
Park Elements A few park-specific elements
Promotional Elements Big, beautiful elements meant to advertise (or promote) other parts of your website or Several different styles from which to choose.
Structured Data Elements A wide variety of elements that will call upon very particular pieces of the NPS structured data system, ranging from park hours of operation to visitor center details and more.
Text Elements A couple of elements allowing you to add basic text and some interesting styles for text call-outs.

Elements Not Displayed

Not every element can be displayed in the body of a page.
  • Alerts
  • Anniversary banner
  • Banner image
  • Navigation

Special Page Types

Talk of tools of the content management system starts with page elements, but also should include mention of specialty page templates.

Most of these specialty pages can use some (or all) of the page elements described above. Sometimes there are limitations, and sometimes a special page template has only one custom element on it.

Many of these special pages are collectively called "shared content," because they can be easily shared across various parts of, as well as external websites and apps thanks to the NPS application programming interface (API). This extends the reach of our content significantly.

  • News release instructions (NPS-only)
    Every site type (park website, organization website, etc) can create news releases. Using this special page template ensures that your news shows up in the correct, consistent spot on your website; that it is shown in the NPS-wide news aggregator; and that it is available in the API to any external party that wishes to consume news coming out of national parks.

  • Events instructions (NPS-only)
    Every site can create events. Events can be tagged so that they can be created once and show up on related calendars (on your own website and/or on other sites). Pro tip: Don't just upload your park or program events as a PDF; put the information on your event calendar, which is where the public is looking for such information. PDFs are not as likely to surface at the top of search engine results

  • Article instructions (NPS-only)
    An Article should generally contain information that is relevant to the public in a way that crosses our NPS internal boundaries (e.g., a topic relevant to multiple parks, or related to a broad subject). Articles use a special template that allows them to be shared via listing elements on related park, subject and RLC websites.

    Any author can create an Article.

    • imagine Article X. This Article might detail research on black bears in parks 1, 2 and 3. Each of those parks might link to Article X (either via a simple text link, or via a listing element). Any related subject website, such as the bears subject site, might also wish to link to Article X (again, via a simple text link or a listing element).
    • imagine Articles Y and Z. Article Y explores the culture of a specific Native American tribe. Article Z explores archaeology in parks within a certain geographic region, including info on the same Native American tribe. Each park which exists to tell the stories or preserve the culture of this Native American group might wish to link to one or both of these articles from relevant parts of their park websites. In addition, there might be future subject sites which also wish to list one or both of these Articles (e.g., an archaeology subject site, or a subject site specific to the Native American tribe in question).

  • People instructions (NPS-only)
    Like Articles, People assets are a common kind of shared content. All People assets should be unique - if you intend to create such an asset, check to ensure there is not already one for that person (e.g., needs just one Person page about Abe Lincoln).

    People assets should just sketch out the basic biographic facts of ... people. More detailed stories can then be created as Articles.

  • Place instructions (NPS-only)
    Like Articles, Place assets are a common kind of shared content. A "Place" should be unique and be about a physical location of some kind of significance. It is not necessary to create a "Place" about an entire park unit, however - just about a physical place within a park unit.

  • Things to Do instructions (NPS-only)
    This specialized page allows you to recommend a particular activity, or Thing to Do, in a park. Things to Do should be fairly specific, and do not need to replace or replicate existing activity-based info you might already have on your website.

    For example, you may have an exhaustive list of hiking trails on your website already, which is great and helps the trip-goer who wants to weigh all their options and choose some trails to hike. In addition, you could consider creating a Thing to Do that explains what trail(s) you recommend for birdwatchers in the fall, or which trail(s) you recommend for wildflower viewing in the spring. Make Things to Do that are specific and focused!

  • Trip Ideas (NPS-only)
    Trip Ideas are composed of Things to Do. They let you recommend an itinerary for a visitor who is going to either a particular park, or to a series of parks.

Last updated: May 15, 2023