One of the biggest issues I have with some web and graphic designers is that they still do not provide website content management systems (CMS) for clients and are still developing static websites in plain HTML. That means separate files for each webpage with the design and content embedded into each file (shivers run down spine). Not at all good for updating design or maintaining content.
Not all website owners are at fault… very often when networking and meeting website owners I explain what a CMS is and the advantages of using one and some of them have either not heard of a CMS or don’t know the advantages of using one. So many of these website owners have static websites and complain “I can’t update my website“, “the developer charges a lot to do so“, or “I cant get hold of the developer“. I get so frustrated hearing their woes because I know it does not have to be like this.
In my opinion it is vital, maybe even necessary, for a successful website to have a content management system. Without it the website will be left outdated or costly to keep updated. There are also other reasons that content management should be considered a requirement.
It should not cost more for a web developer to provide a content manager compared to a static website. In fact, it should even cost less due to the nature of design being separated from content if the developer is familiar with their CMS of choice. Only a few files need to be created to provide the design for every page.
So how do static and CMS websites compare?
Traditional Static Websites
Before the advent of server side scripting (e.g. ASP/PHP) websites were built in plain HTML. A separate file for each website page is required. This file will contain the entire website code including design, images, content, navigation etc. If you have 100 pages you will have 100 files. This is extremely disadvantageous:-
- Changing design or adding a menu items will take longer than using a CMS due to updating many files
- The website owner cannot update content without HTML and/or HTML software knowledge, including FTP
- Requesting the designer update content can turn out to be costly in the long run
- No functionality like shopping carts, database systems, member registration and login etc.
So what happens is the website is not updated, and could remain a static website with the same content for years. This is bad for users visiting the site (is the business still active? what has the business been up to? what’s their latest work and clients? etc.) and bad for search engines (search engines like to see fresh and updated content).
Another disadvantage is the website does not usually do anything. It wont offer any user interaction such as a being able to sell products, collect potential customer information into a database etc.
The above disadvantages are eliminated with a website content manager.
Website Content Management Systems
Design and Content Separated
A content manager basically works as follows:-
- The design is generally made up of only a few files for the entire website.
- The content is traditionally stored in a database and not the file system.
- Based on the page name in website URL, the server side scripting (e.g. ASP/PHP) will feed the database content for that page into the design.
What this means is the design files are separate from the content. Therefore updating the design, or adding new menu items, can be done in one file and not every single page. This ensures updating design is quick and easy. In fact the entire website can have a new, fresh design without having to rebuild the entire website, i.e. all content and menu pages stay the same and the design is change, thus saving more money and quick to publish.
Website Owner Can Update Own Content
The content manager then provides an administration interface for the website owner to login and use the easy to use editor to edit and add content into each page, and add new pages into the menu.
I always recommend a website is designed with a dynamic page listing for new content, i.e. a Latest News listing, a Testimonial listing, a Case Study or Portfolio listing. Using the editor the website owner can add a new page to the Latest News for example, and it will automatically be added to the Latest News listing and to the site. This not only shows a visitor that the business still there, changing, growing, dynamic etc. and keeps them up to date with the business news, but because search engines love new and changing content on websites, the website owner should see an improvement in rankings.
In addition to the above many CMS’s allow for additional functionality to be added on easily thus turning the website into something far more business orientated and actually interacting with users rather than be a static magazine. Here are some examples of common functionality that can be added:-
- Members Registration and Login with Member Only Pages
- Forums/Discussion Boards
- Document Managers
- Dynamic Content for Latest News/Portfolio/Products/Case Studies/Testimonials
- Many more
Search Engine Optimisation
Using the editor important aspects of the website such as the browser title can be edited to ensure important keywords for your business and services are added. So many sites are just called something like “Home” which is extremely bad for search engines. So having the ability to update this and the Site Description is important.
Adding new content as stated above will also help improve rankings in search engines.
What Next For You?
If you have not got a website content manager or are looking for a new website then make sure you request your web designer or developer provide you one! If they do not know how then I would question their web development ability and should they really be developing a website for you? If thy quote a lot higher than making a static HTML site then I would also question their experience and knowledge of the CMS they would provide because it show not take any longer to develop a site using one than without.