Content management is one of the hottest topics in web development. A Content Management System (CMS) is simply a piece of software that allows website owners to internally update the text and images on their websites. Open-source developers have given affordable (free) access to secure, tested content management systems for small and large businesses alike. More specifically, you no longer need to know how to create HTML code in order to format the copy on your site! Editing the text on your website has now become as easy as updating a Microsoft Word document, and there are cost benefits to this as well.
If you’ve spoken with any web development company in the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly had a CMS discussion in one way or another. Some of the general benefits that CMS gives your business can include:
• Reduced site maintenance costs (changes are completed in-house)
• Immediate content publishing offers readers more frequent updates
• Increased website flexibility and scalability
Why use a CMS? Who knows your business better than you? Certainly not your web development
firm. Putting the responsibility of generating the actual text on your website on the people who know your business best – your employees – is a good business decision.
Your company hires outside help when the requirements of a project exceed capabilities
of your current workforce, why would the creation of your corporate website be any different? Your company should hire web developers for only those tasks which your team cannot accomplish alone (such as designing and developing your site’s framework). Updating and entering your company’s content can be easily accomplished with a CMS. It is for this reason that any and all web development
projects should include a content management system of some type, where businesses have 100% control over their content now and in the future.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE? Two general types of CMSs are available: Proprietary and Open Source. Examples of Proprietary CMS’s include: Expression Engine, DotNetNuke, and Microsoft’s Sharepoint.
Examples of Open Source CMS include Joomla!, Drupal, and WordPress. Chances are that you visit websites that use Open Source CMS every day (Wikipedia, CNN.com, New York Times, and even the Wall Street Journal). The obvious difference between the two types is cost. A proprietary CMS tends to come at a premium cost, while open source CMS is traditionally free – you only pay for customization. While there are other differences, the point is, a proprietary CMS is not always a better product. There is, and always will be, a debate raging over whether an open source or a proprietary system is “better.” Our opinion is that the answer is “whichever saves you money.”
OBTAINING SUPPORT The other issue lies with support. While Open Source CMS systems do not traditionally offer official paid support, the systems are well documented and widely accepted. Paid support can be a good option, but only if the support team in place is knowledgeable
about the system. A web design firm who hires engineers familiar with open source systems is actually quite comparable to paid support for a proprietary system. Many of the proprietary CMS systems
we see coming out of individual web firms are simply replicas of larger projects and rarely offer any innovative benefits. Why pay for a product that doesn’t offer any extra benefits over a product that is free?
A safe approach to supporting a CMS would be to leverage the work of thousands of open source developers and hire a select few to be on staff to fix critical errors and further customize and expand the system for clientele. With regular updates and immediate security-hole identification of open source developers, there’s little reason to spend extra money to work with the proprietary systems in small business. In fact, doing so actually limits your growth, as proprietary systems do not allow others to contribute security fixes and enhancements. Open Source CMS usage means you have thousands of software engineers working for you to ensure the success and reliability of your website!
Lastly, how long did you wait for your last website change? If it was too long, perhaps it’s time to explore the CMS options you have today. Ask your next development firm what CMS options they have and what benefits come with each available option.