Occasionally, a potential client will want a site that’s entirely original, built from the ground up. Typically, their reasoning is that they want their site to be entirely unique and original looking, without any of the design characteristics that may make it identifiable as a site built in a CMS, such as Joomla! or WordPress. The motive is entirely understandable, as originality is a pretty important quality, especially for startups or businesses trying to stand out in an impacted industry.
However, this sort of originality comes at a cost: if you build your site by hand, then you’re probably going to have to update it by hand. As a result, hand-built sites tend to stagnate, with no content being updated or added. This is usually because the site owner finds it too difficult to do so, or doesn’t know how to work on their site at all. No amount of uniqueness can compensate for having a site that hasn’t been touched in years.
So, hold on. Let’s take a step back and ask a couple key questions:
What is a CMS? What is the advantage of using a CMS?
First of all, CMS stands for “content management system.” The most common CMS platforms by far are the two mentioned above, Joomla! and WordPress. Additional examples include Drupal, Magento, and Dot Net Nuke. Chances are, you’ve heard of at least a couple of these. You may know of them as applications for building websites or blogs, and they’re the most effective way to do so these days. The systems, if you set them up and manage them properly, are intuitive, secure, flexible, and the generally accepted best way to build a website. They give your site a strong base for you to built on top of.
But web development is only a piece of the puzzle. Notice that words like “web” or “website” are nowhere in the acronym. That’s because CMS platforms focus on what is the keystone in any modern online marketing campaign—not the website itself, but the content featured on the website. The majority of website content is written, in the form of product descriptions, informational pages, blog posts, and so on. A big part of the reason for this is that written content is absolutely necessary for SEO purposes—it’s a lot easier for Google’s spiders to comprehend what you’ve written, as opposed to what’s in a picture or graphic. But content also includes images, audio files, videos, and so on.
The amount of online content is exploding. This is why CMS platforms are becoming so common.
Even video media is created at a staggering rate today. According to YouTube, 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That works out to 16 ½ years of video content each and every day. It’s overwhelming.
That’s where a CMS comes into play. They’re useful because they allow you to add content to your site quickly and easily. If you want to post content that ties into a current event, or to feature a new product in a hurry, you can have a new page up and running in a matter of minutes. Literally.
CMS platforms generally make it very easy to write and format text the way you want. The page creation tool is basically a stripped down word processing app, so you create titles, format text, and insert links just like you would in something like Microsoft Word. However, this system makes it easy to do even more, like insert captioned images and embed YouTube videos. You can even save drafts and preview what the finished product will look like as you go, giving you a much better idea of what visitors to your site will see.
If you need to come back an hour later or a month later, you can just log in, select the page to edit, and make changes in the same way that you originally wrote the page. Some of our pages have been edited dozens of times, as we come up with new and better ways of conveying information, or think of topics that we overlooked.
Being able to add to and change your website is incredibly important, and it gives you power. If you don’t know how to update your site, you may end up stuck with the web designer that you originally contracted with, paying them to update your site over the long-term, even if you’re capable and willing to create content yourself.
We want our clients to be free to make their own choices. If they just want us to build them a website and then hand over the keys, that’s great, and because we built their site with a simple-to-use CMS, we know that they’ll be able to keep their site vibrant and alive by adding to what we started. If they want us to take care of their content, that’s fine too, because we’ve built their site specifically so we can focus on creating quality content, rather that spending hours just building a page for that content to go onto.
What about the lack of support and security with an open source CMS?
Open Source means ‘community developed’ – the software is free to use and free to modify any way you choose. Since there’s no central company driving the development of the system, people often believe that it’s more likely to be hacked and poorly-written. This is the exact opposite of the truth! Every mainstream open-source CMS is developed by industry professionals and tirelessly improved on a near-daily basis to cover security, usability and more. It’s actually more secure because of the community. There’s no stone un-turned on these systems, and each person working with them have a vested interest as all of their own work is built on these platforms. So, instead of a small team of developers who are developing to meet budget and time restrictions at a software company, you have thousands of developers working on the code to make their chosen platform as perfect as possible. How do they make money? By selling themes, plugins, support and making a name for themselves.
Of course, that means that whoever manages your website has to be responsible for keeping it updated. Always make sure you have a current backup, update your plugins, monitor security and more. At Creative California, we do that service for you when we build your website, so you don’t have to worry about it and can focus on running your own business.
Using a CMS is really the best way to develop a site.
If you’re looking to have a modern, professional site that is flexible and very usable, there’s no better way to develop than using a content management system. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, so feel free to consult us for a recommendation on which one would best fit your business model and needs.