Is There a CMS in Your Future?

Hi everyone. My name is Don Reed and I’ve been a web producer at Radar Media since the company was formed in 2001. Needless to say, there have been a lot of changes in web design capabilities and standards since then! I want to talk about a major milestone in web development here, and how it’s influenced the path for the future on the Web–the Content Management System (CMS).

You may have heard of the major content management systems like Joomla or Drupal–large, open source projects supported by enormous networks of developers to provide a robust solution to managing online content creation. Even blogging platforms like WordPress are being used by many (myself included) as content management systems for small clients or personal websites.

Using a CMS is increasingly seen as a good choice when building a website, particularly if you know you’ll have more than just a few pages to regularly update, and you want control over this process yourself. They are a must for a blog unless you use a pre-hosted program like Blogger.

For starters, an open source CMS like Joomla is free (plenty of commercial CMSs are also on the market but we’ll save that for another day). When properly set up, the CMS gives you the capability of creating and managing content typically all in a browser without needing to build an HTML page every time you want to expand your website. In addition, there are a lot of different plugins and patches you can add to customize your site. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Unfortunately, content management systems are often advertised as a self-serve, do it yourself type of operation. This can leave many website owner hopefuls feeling discouraged. Downloading, installing and configuring an open source CMS for the first time isn’t easy for most people and there’s plenty that can go wrong in the process. A CMS shouldn’t be looked at as a way for the average ‘Consumer Joe’ to build a website, because sadly, that’s what it will end up looking like if it’s approached that way.

It’s easy to look at a CMS and say, “hey, everyone has done all of this work already to get this working. Why should we have to hire someone else to build our site for us when we can just use this?” but this is where it gets tricky. Unless you have some solid back-end web development know-how, you’ll still need someone to design, configure and test it for you. And if you want your site to look and feel unique and accurate to your brand, you’re not going to want to go with a commercial template, either. Altering or creating an aesthetic theme for a site built on a CMS is quite different from an HTML/CSS stylesheet website.

Generally speaking, it’s in your best interest to find a professional or a group of professionals to help you with branding and tying your website into your overall marketing program. Have you used a CMS on your website or are you considering using one? If so, what are your concerns or questions?