Do you need a Content Management System?

The issues and considerations surrounding web site content management

Many of our clients have a Content Management System (otherwise known as a CMS) attached to their website which allows them to add, edit and remove content themselves. Other clients have a Product Database that provides a more rigid method of adding and updating items on their ecommerce site or online catalogue. Sometimes the latter is better than a regular CMS because it keeps the content truly separate from the design, which is generally a good thing.

Content Managed Websites

Lots of web designers are quick to point out the advantages of a Content Management System, but we’re just as keen to explain some of the disadvantages. Not all projects benefit from a CMS, and it’s important to recognise this.

In fact, a number of our clients choose to pay us to update their content for the following reasons.

1) Reliability. Even with a good Content Management System, creating content yourself can have issues. Generally, the more you edit over time the more problems can creep in. Adding content with a WYSIWYG editor is never the same as being able to hand-code webpages from the ground up. You can also run into problems when copying and pasting content from MS Word or other sources whereby it retains strange formatting or other hidden discrepancies. This can lead to non-semantic HTML markup, unreliable pages and a slow website. This shouldn’t necessarily put you off managing content yourself, but it’s something to bear in mind.

2) Maintenance & Security. All Content Management Systems are, to an extent, complex beasts “under the bonnet” and as such they often have bugs and security weaknesses which are usually discovered and fixed over time. For this reason it’s important to stay on top of updates and patches for your chosen system in order to keep it as secure as possible. The time and cost of doing this on a regular basis should always be factored in to your project.

3) Hosting Requirements. Your hosting requirements will increase – you’ll need a database connected to the website, as well as a few other things. Whilst this isn’t likely to be a major challenge or expense, it’s worth taking note of.

4) Learning. Obviously it goes without saying that you’ll need to learn how to use the system, and spend time adding and changing the content.

5) Your Time. The cost of integrating a content management system with your website may not be worthwhile if:

  • You have a very small site.
  • Your content doesn’t change very often.
  • You’re not at all technically minded.
  • You’re short of time.
  • Your time is better spent working on something else and you’d prefer to send your web designer a rough draft of the content for them to implement.

Content managed websites are a double-edged sword. They provide long-term flexibility and can save on costs in the future – however, they’re not a magic bullet. Some clients will prefer to delegate content management to their web design company and separate themselves from the process. This way, they know that it’s done on their behalf quickly and professionally. However, if your site has content that needs to change on a regular basis, sometimes a CMS is the preferred method.

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