A Content Management System (CMS) is the holy grail of websites. It's what every small business owner needs for his/her website. Let me explain…
Every business should have a website, but I know many business owners don't think they can afford to have one developed because web developers are so expensive (unless you offshore the work or have your neighbor's high school son build it for you).
The biggest cost associated with most professional websites is not the initial development, but rather the ongoing support and maintenance. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone say to me, “my old developer charged me $100 to change one word on my website!” And what if you want another developer to work on your site instead? Oh, you can't because the site is developed on a proprietary platform, and only your current developer can make changes.
I agree you shouldn't have to pay a developer to change a word on your website, and that's why I recommend a well-implemented CMS. The days of being held at gunpoint by your developer are over! That's what we call vendor lock-in, and you should avoid it at all costs!
How will a CMS solve all of your problems? It provides you with the structure of a basic website out of the box without much configuration required. There are plenty of advanced things you can do with your CMS, but the basics are there for you right off the bat.
Here are some of the basic features included with almost all CMS's:
- An administrative interface for editing the site
- Themes for easy design and styling of your site
- Plugins for adding functionality that isn't included in the CMS itself
- Add/edit/delete pages and menu items
- Add text, images (and maybe video) to pages
While it will do a lot for you, a CMS itself won't do everything. You still need to install and configure the CMS to meet your needs. For many small businesses that want a professionally developed site, all you will need is a custom design (theme), and the rest of the setup and configuration is relatively simple. Hosting, email, and other considerations still apply, so you may need technical help. And if you want to add any of these or other non-standard features, you'll probably still want a developer involved in the project:
- Payment processing (e-commerce)
- Community features (forums/message boards, user-generated content, social networking)
- Advanced Facebook or Twitter integration (i.e. Facebook Connect)
- Affiliate programs for driving sales
You may want to know what your different options are for selecting a CMS. Well they're virtually endless, but the only ones I recommend on a regular basis are WordPress and Drupal because they are the leading CMS's built on PHP and MySQL, which are the platforms I recommend for most small businesses (a topic for a future post). Wikipedia has a great list of content management systems that will give you a more comprehensive look at CMS options on every imaginable platform.
I will also plan to talk about buying a domain name and setting up hosting in a future post. For now, I'll help you with that if you contact us.
What CMS do you use, or are you stuck with vendor lock-in? Let me know what questions you have about content management systems and how they could help your business.