Using Content Management Systems vs. Static sites

Content Management Systems (CMS’s)

Negatives:

  • They used to be more work to set up in the days of when you had to manually create a database and connect to it. Those days are pretty much gone with the advent of auto-installers on most web hosts.
  • CMS’s require that all components are kept up to date to protect them against hackers. If you don’t do it you’re asking for trouble.
  • While lots of themes are available they can be considerably more work to customize if you can’t find that perfect fit. The more complicated the theme the more difficult it will be to customize
  • A heavily customized CMS site is almost always going to cost more than a static site.
  • They are more susceptible to hackers if security updates are not maintained. Regular back-ups of your site should be done just in case it is ever hacked.

Positives:

  • You can often get a full featured site up and running quickly, especially if you can find a theme that works well for your site.
  • CMS’s are often much easier to update content on, especially if the updates are primarily changes in text. There’s usually no need to learn code. The only thing that is required is to learn to navigate the administration interface. They generally use a basic word processor for updating the site.
  • CMS’s can provide functionality that would take hundreds of hours for a programmer to create. If the functionality they provide is needed on your site they are often the best and most cost effective way to go.

Static Sites (conventional)

Negatives:

  • They require someone experienced in web design languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript or someone who has learned how to use a good (and often expensive) web design program.
  • If your site requires updates you will be dependent on that person to do the updates for you, usually at an hourly rate. If the updates are frequent it can start to add up.
  • They are generally not as feature-rich as CMS based sites are. Including those features usually means custom programming which can become very costly.

Positives:

  • Conventional sites often load quicker, especially for anyone still on a slow (dial-up) connection.
  • They require minimal maintenance to keep running.
  • They are not open to the same security problems that CMS’s  are because they don’t use the technologies that blogs need to run on and therefore don’t have those vulnerabilities.
  • It’s often easier to layout out a page exactly how you want it. With CMS’s it’s often going to be a lot of work to change the layout significantly if you can’t find a theme that meets your needs.
  • You won’t need to learn to navigate a CMS’s administration interface if you send updates to your web designer and let them take care of it. Of course that does mean paying for having updates done. This is probably one of the main factors to weigh before deciding which way to go. If your site does not require frequent updates it may be easier and cheaper to go with a conventional site.

Note: This information refers to websites where the CMS software is installed on your hosting account. This is seen as more professional because you can have your own unique domain name without a hosted blog or CMS’s name included as part of it. A website/blog hosted on your account is also more customizable than one that is run on a hosted blog/CMS account.

What’s the Purpose of Your Website?

Okay, you’ve decided you need a website (or you need to re-design your current site). The next question you must ask yourself is; what is its purpose? Is to promote a personal interest? Are you an artist looking to promote your work? Are you looking to promote your business? Will you be selling goods online?

A website can help you do all of these things but determining its purpose is critical to determining how to proceed and what kind of technologies will be needed.

The following questions will help determine the course you should take:

  • What do you want your website to do for you?
  • Who are your potential visitors?
  • What are you offering your visitors?
  •  What can you offer that is different or better than similar sites?
  • What is your budget?

One of the first things you must do is determine what you want your site to do for you. What is your goal for the site? Determining this before the planning stage will help clarify your website’s needs. It will also speed the development process and determine the technologies that will be needed.

Another important factor is determining who your potential visitors are. Are they young and hip? If so, you will need a more colorful and vibrant design with more interactive features than most conventional sites.  Are they likely to be older? If so you may want to consider a larger text size. Are they likely to be technologically savvy or not? If they are they will be able to navigate a more complex design. If not, the navigation should be as simple as possible to understand (always a worthwhile goal anyway).

With so many websites out there (a 2012 Netcraft survey said there are 644 million)  you can be sure that others are offering the same things you are. So the question is: Is what you are offering better? Can you do a better job of presenting it? Can you make it easier to find the things you are offering than your competitors?  Whether or not you are able to do so will determine how successful your site is.

You need to determine what your budget is before you can do effective planning for your site. There’s no sense in putting in the time to plan a site that is going to cost four times the amount you can afford.

Fortunately this is a great time for those who need a website. The hosting business is very competitive, which means that there are a lot of hosting companies fighting to provide the best service at the lowest cost. There are free open source solutions that allow you to build highly functional websites. The downside is that they are often complicated to learn, requiring a significant investment in time to master. What this means for most people is that they will still need a web developer. The plus side is that developers can often use these solutions to create powerful features at a far lower cost than if they had to code them from scratch.

Hopefully these questions can get you started on the right path to planning your site. Be sure to check back for my next post in which I will be discussing the pros and cons of a Static site vs. one done with a CMS (Content Management System).

Do you really need a website?

It seems that almost every business has a website these days. If you don’t have one you’re seen as out of touch or behind the times. But before you have one built you need to ask yourself; will having a website provide a positive return, both to me and my customers?

There’s a local restaurant near us. They have low prices and pretty good food. Most of their customers are locals, many of them seniors, who eat there regularly. They know the hours and the menu. They’re committed customers who don’t really need any information about the restaurant. A website might not provide any positive benefits for this particular business.

There’s also an auto repair shop near us with a good reputation and no shortage of customers. You wouldn’t think they need a website would you? But having a website might provide a positive return for them. Right now the only way for them to answer customer questions is by phone. Mechanics often have to stop what they’re doing to answer it. A properly designed website could provide answers to many of those questions without anyone ever having to stop and pick up the phone. The result would be less stress and more jobs completed. That sounds like a positive return doesn’t it?

The reality is that most businesses, no matter how small, need a website nowadays. It’s a tremendously effective way to get the word out. It helps your customers find the information, services or products they need. It can make your life easier, and make you more money. Even if your business is only focused on the local area you can do some inexpensive local marketing that will direct people to your site so they can take a better look at what you have to offer. If you plan to appeal to a larger audience, there’s no question that you need a website.

Before you build a website or have one built, ask yourself these questions. Will it make my life easier and/or increase my profits? Will it help my customers? If the answer is yes then having a website means a positive return not only to you, but to your customers. That sounds like a recipe for success to me.