Is a CMS right for you?

Definition of a web designer

Once upon a time the web designer of your website was responsible for everything. They designed the layout, they coded the site, they updated content for you whenever you needed them to, they also made sure everything was in proper working order. Today however, the role of the web designer is changing, in my opinion. The main change that I see is that the web designer is no longer and should no longer be responsible for the content on the client’s website. I do however think that the web designer is responsible for making sure that the site looks good, is maintained, is in working condition and is backed up regularly and can provide assistance to the customer. How is this possible? How can a client with no knowledge of web design principles or coding languages know how to update the website? Its called a content management system (CMS).

So what exactly is a CMS?

I always tell people that a CMS is an online application that you can install onto your website that allows YOU to manage YOUR content and the designer can manage the look of the site and maintain the site. You login to the administration area and create your content and publish it. There is no knowledge of coding languages required. The only thing you need to know, is how to navigate the CMS.

Reasons to implement a CMS

  • Once the website is set up, you can assign a single user, multiple users or groups of users to manage the content on the website. A lot of business will have a secretary update the content on the website using the CMS. The best part about this is is that you don't have to email your designer, wait on them to update the content, wait on them to reply saying its updated. You can go ahead and make the changes yourself.
  • You can apply different permissions to each user. If you wanted to assign an author permission to a user but not allow them to publish the content, you could assign someone else the ability to publish articles.
  • Since it is simple to create and publish content, you can publish content more quickly and more often. You could update your site whenever any new news about your company is available: press releases, news items, new employees, new products, product updates, etc. This will help keep your website from feeling stagnated. You can also create a blog which will allow your customers to leave you comments. This allows you to have interaction with your customers.
  • Backing up the website is also much easier. You can quickly make a backup of the database and your website theme. In the event that something was to happen to your website or you needed to move it, it could quickly be fixed or moved.
  • Since the underlying framework of a CMS is already there for you, it is much easier and quicker to create the look and feel of the website. You could create your own CMS, but, why re-invent the wheel?
  • There are MANY CMS' out there and MANY of them are free. You can pick and choose which one you'd like to use based on the features it has, the database and scripting software that it runs on, user interface, etc. Most CMS websites will have a demonstration area for their CMS.
  • I think most CMS' do a really good job of search engine optimization (SEO). I think they do a better job at SEO than just having HTML/XHTML & CSS pages.
  • Problems with a CMS (there aren't many, fortunately)

  • Although a CMS is reasonably secure (usually), your IT department or your web design department will need to make sure that your website is secure. They will need to make sure certain files remain hidden from the public (for database security). They will need to make sure the database is backed up, regularly.
  • If you're going to create a blog on your website and allow comments, you will need to make sure comments are moderated so that you don't have SPAM or rude comments on your blogs. This can sometimes get out of hand and almost become a full-time job. You'll either need to make sure there is a way to take care of SPAM or simply not allow comments.
  • You are taking money away from your designer! Since I am a web designer myself, I thought I'd throw that one in there. 😉

Which CMS to use?

The two that I am going to recommend to you are free AND open source. They are my two favorite CMS', they have plugins/modules that you can extend your CMS with. They're very user friendly. They're not too difficult to install either. Best of all, if you can't hire a web designer, you can download ready made themes for your site. The bad part about that is that it won't be custom to your company. Both CMS' have plugins/modules for e-commerce. The two I recommend are:

Drupal
WordPress

WordPress is more centered around blogging, however, you can tweak the code to allow it to be much more like a standard website.

If you'd like to try out the CMS' above or other ones, you can check out OpenSourceCMS.com