As web development trends advance, so do the requirements of the clients paying for and maintaining them. The “old approach” was to have your “tech guy” make changes to the website as and when required. Another was to hire someone on an hourly rate each and every time you wanted to make changes or additions to your website. Below I will discuss some of the things to consider when deciding if a Content Management System (CMS) is the right choice for you.
What is a Content Management System?
A CMS is a web based piece of software that enables you to update / edit / create and manage your websites content without the need for any programming knowledge. It is not restricted to just content though, some advanced Content Management Systems enable you to create users, manage security, increase search engine optimization and much, much more.
How does a Content Management System work?
A CMS is considered to be the “back-end” to a website. The front-end being the actual website that is publicly viewable, and the back-end being the area where you actually manage all of that information that appears on the website. To get a little more technical, your developer will generally install a CMS, create what is known as a “theme” that hooks into your data and the rest is up to you!
How can a Content Management System help me?
The most obvious advantage to having a CMS based website over a traditional one is obviously the ability to manage all of the content on the website yourself. This is just one of many advantages that a CMS can bring to your website though:
- Ease of use – Any CMS you use will generally be very user friendly (that is the point of them, afterall) This means you can easily train lots of staff to be able to update the website. This helps to cut out the “the web guy is out today” problem.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – A hot topic at the moment in the web design world. Using a CMS can actually help to increase your search engine ranking without any work from yourself. It doesn’t do everything for you, but should help you along the way.
- Security – A CMS will generally offer a more secure solution.
- Community - If you are using an open source CMS and have a question like “how do i add a twitter feed to my website” for example, there are thousands of users using the same piece of software as you who can help. This obviously doesn’t apply as much if you opt for a bespoke CMS.
- Other features - Depending on the system you use, some CMS’ offer such features like being able to schedule when new content is added, enable public discussion on your content, add advanced features like slideshows and in some cases even add shopping cart solutions.
How much does a Content Management System cost?
In terms of the software itself, most of the common ones (see below) are normally free. However, a developer will generally charge significantly more for the setup of a CMS based website simply due to the increased time and difficulty involved with setting such systems up. Don’t let this put you off though. To get a true feel of how much a CMS costs you must not only consider the upfront cost, you must take into account the future savings you will make. Along with having full control over your website the main advantage of using a CMS based website is the long-term savings you can make in terms of the management of the website.
Which Content Management System is the best?
This question really depends on your needs as a client. There is not one single CMS that meets the needs for every single website. If your website is a blog or multi-page website, an open source (free) option like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla might be for you. If you have more specific needs, you will probably require a bespoke solution that is developed especially for your requirements.
For more information on the open source options, and which one you should ask your developer to use, please read this post which delves into the subject in great detail.
So do I need a Content Management System?
I think I have clearly outlined to you all of the benefits a CMS can bring to your website but if you are still undecided please consider your answers to the following questions:
- Is your website going to contain more than a few pages?
- Does your website require regular maintenance and upgrades?
- Do you plan on making updates more than once a month?
- Do you want full control over your website?
- Are you comfortable paying a higher upfront fee if it works out cheaper in the long run?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then a Content Management System is probably for you.