Even Small Web Sites Need a Content Management System (CMS)
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If you've already decided that you want to build a website for your business, then you should also start thinking about how you're going to manage changes and updates to keep the site relevant which will keep customers coming back.
In many cases these changes will be very small, such as changing contact information e.g. a telephone number or adding a news item. Other changes, such as new products or a new business focus, will necessitate more complex updates to the site. The good news is that you'll probably only need to change the text without modifying any of the existing graphics or page layouts. This is where a content management system shines; allowing you to change the content of a website without having to worry about the technical details. Any website with more than a handful of pages shouldn't be without a CMS.
So What Is a Content Management System?
A content management system is a software package specifically designed to manage a website. Custom systems are often developed by the same team building the website for which the CMS is being built. Off the shelf solutions are installed by the webmaster and configured to work with a particular website.
Regardless of who installs the CMS, the intended users are non-technical people who are more concerned with creating web content and aren't interested in learning the ins and outs of building web pages from scratch. Typically, users will access the content manager using a web-based interface that provides a simple editor similar to Microsoft Word.
Ideally, users of the CMS should just have to point-and-click, type in the new words, and then hit save button. The result is an updated website. Adding new pages, deleting old ones, or restructuring the site to match a new business model should also be very easy to accomplish.
In the background, the CMS is automating menial tasks, such as applying the same font style, text color, and overall page layout to every page you create. The menus generally found along the top or on the left-hand side of a website are also automatically created.
With the help of a content management system, you are able to focus on the words and your site's overall message without bothering with the underlying technology.
What are the benefits?
A content management system makes the maintenance of a website much easier in several ways:
- You are no longer dependent on the schedule and availability of web designers to make site changes.
- All the technical details are handled by the CMS, allowing anyone to manage and update the site.
- You can track who made what changes and when.
- You can ensure that each content provider can only update the sections of the site they are responsible for.
- The CMS ensures that all the pages are consistent in design, and will build all the menus and other navigation for you.
There are many other powerful features that can be included in a CMS all of which are intended to allow the site to grow at the same pace as your business.
A CMS Within Your Budget
The good news is that a lightweight CMS, suitable for a modest-sized website, is not expensive. The cost can be as low as a thousand dollars, or simply a complementary part of the website building project.
In fact, content management systems are one of those rare things where you don't necessarily get what you pay for. According to a report from Jupiter Research, "… Web-based business initiatives have led some companies to spend a hefty $25,000 per non-technical employee per year to manage simple content on a website." Furthermore, "Jupiter analysts have found that businesses with Websites that do not operate at scale (e.g., scores of users and tens of thousands of assets) are better off evaluating lower-cost solutions, sometimes even homegrown systems."
So be thorough in your search for the right content management system and don't assume that an off-the-shelf solution is going to be cheaper or more effective than a custom built solution.