Managing Your Own Web Site Can Be Easier Than You Think.

We find the majority of our web site customers want the ability to make simple changes to web sites themselves after we have completed the design and development of their web site. The good news is that there are inexpensive and easy solutions that allow them to do just that. These solutions are called content management systems, or CMS for short.

When we use the term Content Management Systems, it can mean many things. At one extreme are expensive data-base driven systems that dynamically create the web pages as visitors are browsing the web sites. These usually have pre-built functionality for  frequently used web tasks such as event calendars, discussion boards, survey tools, etc. Although you have to pay more for this type of solution, you can save money by not having to pay software developers to develop this functionality. At the other extreme are simple and inexpensive editors that work like word processors, allowing users to make changes and upload revisions to their web sites themselves, but aren’t used for actually building the web site.

If a company needs the type of functionality that the database-driven tools permit, then that’s certainly a way to go. In many cases, however, a simple CMS editor might be a better way to go. What we have found in several instances are customers who actually found themselves locked into content management solutions that they were not happy with and that actually prevented them from making effective content changes – just the opposite to what they thought they had bought into. Ironically, these people found themselves forced again and again to go to the vendors of these products whenever they needed changes made to their web site.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of good database-driven CMS systems around, but unfortunately there are some bad ones and clients end up getting stuck with them. So we ended up developing tools and techniques to liberate such customers from these systems, and into “plain vanilla” web sites. With one client I boldly proclaimed “Once we’re through with you, you’ll be able to change your website with Notepad if you want” (Notepad being the freebie text editor that comes with Windows). And that is exactly what we did.

Of course we don’t expect customers to make changes to Web Sites using Notepad, but the point is that they are not locked into anyone’s proprietary system. What we do with most customers is install a program like Adobe Contribute and train people on how to use it. (Note that we do not sell this product nor are we paid to endorse it; it just happens to be one that does the job without breaking the bank.)

Contribute allows you to update web content in a familiar word-processing-like environment and to create new pages, links to other sites, images, tables, bulleted lists, etc. Since this program was written for web sites, it has built-in capabilities to preserve the integrity of the site, things like using fonts in a consistent manner and checking for broken links.

You make these web site changes on files in your computer, not on the live site. Once you have made the changes they can either be sent to an administrator for approval or uploaded directly to the live site.

The bottom line: What you want to do is spend your money on the things that you need an expert for: for example, graphics design and development of web sites that are attractive and easy to navigate. You don’t want to spend your money on things you can easily do yourself, like those quick changes that keep your site fresh. Better to do that yourself.

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