Lately it seems as though most of our prospects, and some of our current clients, tell us they want to be able to “update” their website themselves. The driving force seems to be that they believe it will cost less if they maintain their website themselves. Does having a Content Management System (CMS) website save money? Well, sometimes it will, and sometimes it may, in the long run, cost you money.
Creating a custom website with CMS features allows any designated person to edit or update content on a website using a WYSIWYG editor (similar to what you have with MS Word and other word processors). The CMS will let you edit or add text, photos, and allow you to upload and link to Video, PDF files and other files. Please note a “Content” Management System, is not a “design” or “layout” system. You will be able to format text and align photos, videos, and some images, but cannot easily change the layout or design. Those types of things will, in most cases, still have to be done by your webmaster.
Making the decision whether to have a CMS website or not is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Let’s talk about some of things you should consider.
Creating a custom website with CMS features so anyone can edit the “content” takes more time to create than creating a static website using XHTML and CSS that someone with those skills and the software can easily update. Depending on the amount of content (text & photos), complexity, and features, it may cost anywhere from 20% to 40% more to create a website with CMS features, than to create one that looks identical and has the same features for the website visitors, but does not have CMS capabilities.
So, initially, your new or redesigned website will, in most cases, cost more to create with a CMS.
What else should you consider when deciding if you should have a CMS website? Updating frequency should be a factor. If you update your website weekly, then you will likely save some money if you have a website created that has CMS features. If you update monthly, whether you will save money depends on the type and number of updates, and how much time you spend making those updates. In practically every case, your webmaster will be able to make the updates for you considerably more quickly than you will. If you only update your site a couple of times a year or quarterly, there rarely is an advantage in having a CMS and doing your own updates.
How frequently you will actually update your website is a big factor in deciding. I say actually, because we have nearly 15 years of experience that shows us that people do not update their content anywhere nearly as often as they say/think they will, or should.
You may or may not know that creating a CMS system involves installing software on a web server and a database server. Your web pages are created on the fly from the content stored in a database, and “published” using templates that have been created. Why do you need to know this stuff? Well, database software and the code used to access the database is is more vulnerable to attacks by hackers than a “static” website. Fortunately, the providers of the software regularly release security and bug-fix updates that have to be applied to your CMS system. Unfortunately, that takes time and costs money.
While you won’t be paying for maintaining the content, you will have to pay for periodic security and software updates.
Are those the only additional costs for a CMS website? For most circumstances, they are the only additional out-of-pocket expenses. The indirect costs can sneak up on you later.
All of the custom websites we create, including CMS enabled websites, have many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features, coding and linking techniques built in, and the copywriting has been edited to be search engine friendly. Not everyone that creates websites does that. Many companies charge you later for SEO. When we perform updates for our clients, we use the same skills we use when we create the website including the SEO skills.
What does that mean to you if you have a CMS website? Well, if you know how to write a Google-friendly “Title,” and META Description, and you use the correct number of characters and positioning of keywords in those two critical places, then you will have a good start to updating correctly so your pages continue to get found well in Google and other search engines. Of course, you really should know about the proper usage of the “H1” tag, and the “ALT” attribute for photos or other images you may change. The same goes for putting a “Title” (which is different than the aforementioned “Title”) in the links (including keywords) that you should have on your page, which should be used to link to an internal page featuring keywords for one of your products or services. Of course, you really need to pay attention to the content to make sure it does include the keywords you hope to be found for. If the search terms are not on the page, that page won’t get found for those search terms. Actually, there is more, but you get the idea.
In other words, while it is relatively easy to make updates using a CMS, it is not as easy to do it well without spending a fair amount of time learning some copywriting and SEO skills, and then applying those skills as you update your content. Oh, and if you don’t have an eye for good typography and design, you may mix too many different fonts, type sizes, or choose text colors that don’t go well with the color scheme of your website. If the updates are done poorly, your website will not look professional. It will not only not look as good as it should, your website won’t get found as well as you would like, because you lack the SEO skills.
How much money a poorly maintained CMS website could cost you is open for conjecture.
The good news is a CMS does not have to cost you additional money after it has been launched just because you aren’t a webmaster. With some SEO training and support from us at WebWise Design & Marketing, you will be able to use your custom CMS website relatively easily and effectively.
Of course, as with a lot of issues having or not having a CMS is not a black or white issue, nor does one solution work for every situation. The fact that we create custom websites allows us to help you decide the best solution for you. For some clients we recommend a hybrid website that has blog that has CMS features allowing you to regularly write your own articles and upload photos or videos. A website with a “What’s New” area that is updated regularly would be a good example.
The bottom line is deciding to have a CMS website or not, should be made only after talking with your webmaster about your goals, objectives, and the available options. Of course, I recommend contacting WebWise Design & Marketing to have that discussion.