Have you ever heard of web developers who would hold non-compliant, or non-paying clients hostage by refusing to make updates to their websites? That’s not to say that it wasn’t always warranted or justified, either, but my point is that the only one who could control web content was the web developer. In some cases it was the web developer with his programming knowledge, who had all the leverage, taking his/her sweet time in making the client’s requested updates that were often time-sensitive. Clients were at the mercy of the web developer and had no choice but to pay for a maintenance contract, and/or wait until the developer got around to making their revisions. These days, however, there are many web development platforms available that allow clients to make their OWN edits and updates to their websites without the need for any real heavy lifting or programming knowledge.
CMS or HTML?
When clients approach us with a web-site proposal request, the first question we ask them is often, “Do you want the ability to make updates yourself?”. Sounds like an obvious question doesn’t it? But the reality is that with the advent of Facebook and other social media sites, the average user has become pretty web-savvy and used to uploading their own photos, status updates, and editing their own profiles. Many people have started their own blogs on a variety of topics and those platforms are in effect CMS, or Content Management Systems in and of themselves. That is, they allow the user to log-in via an admin panel, and make their own content changes on the back-end of the site without the need for programming knowledge. In truth, we steer most of our clients towards CMS websites because whether they know it or not, it will be a more cost-effective option for them in the long run, to be able to maintain and update the site on their own. We even include training the user on how to update their own site as part of our time/cost estimate.
“In other words, CMS websites allow you to publish, modify and update your content through a simple interface. This type of software also allows site maintenance from a single point. A good web content management system puts great powers into the hands of non-techie web designers and enables you to create great looking websites easily and effortlessly, even if your computer expertise is limited.” – Organiksoft
Pay Now, Save Later
Some clients are only concerned with the bottom line. They simply need a web presence and come to you with a very limited budget. In those cases, a straight up, traditional HTML site will be a better move. I often try to explain to folks that if they anticipate having to make lots of changes to their site (photos, stories, calendar of events, etc.) then it may benefit them to spend a bit more up front because in the long run, they’ll save money by updating the site themselves. Of course, if the client is looking for a simple splash page, or a static brochure-style site that simply displays information, then they don’t need the bells and whistles of a CMS. HTML will do.
There are many platforms to choose from when it comes to Content Management Systems. Some are proprietary and some are “Open Source” meaning that the platform’s source code is openly available to developers. This also means that there are tons of widgets and plug-ins that will give your website tons of functionality. Think of these open-source widgets as ‘off-the-shelf’ functionality that doesn’t have to be custom-coded from scratch. It’s yet another benefit to having a CMS because you can mix & match features and functions in a fraction of the time/cost it would take to build out something from the ground up.
Here are some common CMS Types:
- WordPress (our favorite, flexible design themes, the original blog site)
- Drupal (large active community of developers = more widgets)
- Joomla! (downside is many pay-to-play plugins)
- ExpressionEngine (EE) very flexible
- TextPattern (kind of too minimalist for my taste)
- Radiant CMS (built on Ruby framework Rails, no WYSIWYG editor)
- Cushy CMS (No software to install)
- SilverStripe (PHP CMS like WordPress, smaller community)
- Alfresco (not the easiest to use)
- TYPOlight (similar to Drupal)
The great news is that there are tons of options out there for both developers/service providers and users. Take some time to do a little homework and determine what will work best for your needs.
Top 10 Most Usable Content Management Systems
Ramon has over 19 years of experience in award-winning, market-proven, print collateral, marketing material, iphone/ipad app and website design specializing in corporate identity and branding. Ramon’s passion for entrepreneurial design was borne out of 10 years as Creative Director for Jay Walker at Walker Digital, the Stamford based idea laboratory and business incubator holding over 300 US Patents. Ramon served as Senior Art Director on the start-up launch team behind Priceline.com, a Walker company and invention. Most recently, Ramon’s logo and identity work was selected to be published in “Typography and Enclosures” the fourth book in the Master Library series by LogoLounge.
Need help with your brand identity or want to overhaul your existing brand? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Ramon on Twitter @Peralta_Design