Having a website built can be a significant investment, so website owners may also wonder about what happens when the website is complete. Do they have to budget for the cost of making changes whenever updates are needed? Will there be a cost to make even small changes such as changing the wording of a paragraph, or adding a news item, staff member, or phone number? If your site was built using standard HTML pages, then the answer will be “yes.” While making a small change for one client may just take a few minutes, making dozens of small changes for a number of clients can easily eat into a web developer’s work day.
This is why the use of content management systems (CMS) for developing websites has become so popular. While it may cost a little more initially to have a website built using a CMS, clients gain the freedom to change the content of their site as often as they want without incurring additional cost. Go ahead and edit that page, add news items every day if you wish, change your company’s policies. You can do it yourself if your site was properly built with quality CMS.
Let’s go over a distinction between three terms, design, development, content. The design of your website consists of the entire look of your site, such as the colors, layout, backgrounds, placement of interface images, etc. The development is the coding that makes the design functional. If you want a professional looking website, then design and development are both best left to those with the expertise. But the content is different. While initially it’s best to have your web developer insert the content in your site, because it may affect the layout, once this initial content is entered, it’s fantastic for clients to be able to keep their own website fresh with updates. Not only is it cost effective to have this ability, but keeping your website fresh is important. Why? Because fresh, quality content is one of the keys to search engine optimization.
If you’re wondering how it works, managing your website is done through a password protected control panel. As a client, you’ll receive a username and password to gain access to the control panel, where you will be able to choose to either edit content that already exists, or publish something new. After typing your content, you’ll have a toolbar for formatting that will be familiar to anyone who uses a typical word processor.
We don’t want to mislead you to think that once a website is built there will be never be professional maintenance required. Periodic updates to the content management application may be necessary in order to minimize security risks. This will be the case with any content management application, unless you use one of the mainly blogging websites as a host. And, if you require or desire design changes, that too will necessitate having a professional make the updates.
Is a CMS for everyone? No. If cost is your first priority, and you don’t have the time or inclination to make more that just very infrequent content changes, then it may not be right for you. But if you, or have someone in your organization to designate, plan on actively maintaining your website, then seriously consider a CMS.
There are many choices in content management systems, and in a future blog entry we’ll be discussing some of the more popular ones, and why we have our favorites. Watch for it in a few weeks. Meanwhile, see how several of WebWorks Cafe clients are using their content management systems to keep their websites up to date and refreshed: