I am often surprised when I meet with a new web design client and they describe the kind of site they want and they make no mention of a content management system (CMS.) Now to be fair, I understand that there are still a lot of people out there who are unfamiliar with what exactly a CMS is, and how it can positively impact their business.
A CMS is a computer system that allows for publishing, editing and modifying content all without having to touch the website’s code. This is great news for business owners who aren’t particularly tech savvy. Typically, the process you would go through to have a site designed for you is the same as it has always been. You meet with your web designer and communicate your needs with them. They then design and build the site, but they do it within the framework of a specified CMS. Then you can take control of the site by adding content and expanding the site as needed.
There are many CMS’ out there, but the most popular today are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Many of my clients think of WordPress as purely a blogging platform, but that really isn’t true anymore. It can be used accomplish any number of tasks, and I have done and seen some pretty cool things done with WordPress.
Many design firms can also provide you with a custom CMS built to your exact specifications if what you want cannot be built within any of the existing systems. In my experience however, any of the Big 3 will work just fine.
I always recommend a CMS to my clients, even if they don’t think they need one. Once I explain the benefits, they almost always agree, and are actually really excited about the possibilities that a CMS can open up for their business.
Here are the five big reasons why you need a CMS:
You Can Control Your Content
In the days of static websites, you would not only pay a web design firm or freelancer to design and build your site, but to update it as well. After all, you probably don’t know how to write code, so it would only make sense to let the experts handle that. Because of this, most websites would remain unchanged for years. Well times have changed. It is no longer acceptable to run a “set it and forget it” website. We are living in a social media driven world now and people expect new, fresh content on a regular basis.
With the CMS platforms available today, it is extremely easy to maintain a website. Even with absolutely no coding knowledge, anybody can add articles, news, photos and videos through a user-friendly back-end interface. You no longer have to wait for your web designer/developer to get to your updates. You can add your new content and upload it either instantaneously or schedule it for later.
Let’s say you are a start-up company. Not big yet, but plenty of room to grow. Wouldn’t it be great to have a custom website that can grow as your business does? With a CMS, your designer can build you a site to grow on. If you have an e-commerce store, all that needs to be designed is a set of templatized product pages that you can use to add more products as you acquire them.
Similarly, lets say you need to add a whole new section to your site a year down the road. Maybe you own a restaurant and you expand to a second location. It would make sense to add another page for the new restaurant. All you would need to do is log in to the CMS, choose a page template, give it a title and add the content. You can then choose for that page to show up on the website’s main menu if you wish.
You Will Save Money
Apart from the hassle of having to go to your web designer every time you need to make an update, there is also the issue of the extra expense involved. Web design doesn’t come cheap, (assuming you go with a skilled designer,) and constant updates can really eat up your bottom line.
With a CMS, you can either take on the duties of updating the site yourself, or task somebody within your company to do it. Either way, bringing site updates in-house is a huge money saving move. On top of that, the start-up cost of having a website built within a CMS is usually not much more than that of a static site.
You Can Add functionality
One of my favorite benefits of using a CMS is the seemingly endless supply of extensions and plugins that can add to your site’s functionality. Did you forget to have your designer add an automated reservation booking system? There’s a plugin for that. Simply do a search, click an button and its installed. There are extensions for everything from search engine optimization to capturing leads.
CMS plugins are amazing for adding new functionality to your site with minimal effort. However, I caution you to not go overboard with them, because if you use too many, they can really slow your site down. But then again, there’s also a plugin to help with that.
It’s Considered “Best Practice”
It is for all these reasons perhaps, that building a site using a CMS is considered to be today’s best practice. It is now the industry standard because, simply put, building a site the old way just doesn’t make much sense anymore. Mostly this has to do with the fact that web standards, in general, have shifted away from static, unchanging sites over to more dynamic sites with frequent updates. Search engines want to see that you are adding to the online community on a consistent basis, and they will reward you with higher search engine rankings if you do.
Going beyond search engine results, your visitors are much more likely to come back if you have something new to show them on a regular basis. Ultimately, this is what’s most important, as the more times a customer or potential customer visits your site, the more likely they are to make a purchase. This goes for businesses that sell products on their sites, as well as more service-based businesses.
With all of these benefits, can you think of any reason to stick with a static website? Even if you don’t plan on updating your content frequently, you are much better off having the option to do so. Chances are, you will learn to see the value in updatable content, as the internet is moving in a more and more social direction every day. When you are ready to start taking control of your own content, you will be glad to have an easy way to do it.
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