Yes, you can but you need to ask yourself “do I really want to?” and “will I be comfortable doing this?” Without ever having tried it, there are those that have the pre-conceived notion that anyone and everyone can work in a CMS environment. This isn’t always the case. For some people it’s not as simple a task as it is for others. It’s a matter of what the individual can handle comfortably. Your friend may be a math whiz, but you may not get along well with your checkbook. It’s as simple as that.
I’d like to discuss some important things for or you to consider about maintaining your own site. My hope is that you’ll be able to make a more informed decision when you’re finished reading.
First, look closely at what you hope to gain from updating your own web site and what tasks you wish to be able to perform. If all you want to be able to do is to edit a bit of text, add or delete a link or change a simple photo now and then, it makes sense to be able to do this on your own. If the updates you project are more involved, particularly if you’re not a computer savvy person, it may be a better idea to sign a maintenance contract with your designer and let someone experienced handle things. Be honest with yourself about your own level of expertise. If you’re not a computer person, admit it. By being honest about your own limitations, you’ll save yourself some aggravation and potential additional costs.
Discuss Options with Your Designer
Whatever your goals are it’s a good idea to discuss them fully with your designer before proceeding. Unless you want to spend some big bucks to have your site converted later because this CMS thing just isn’t working for you, your web designer needs to know ahead of time you’d like to have owner-update capability. Your designer can also explain what you will and will not be able to in a Content Management System. The two of you can decide together if this is something you should proceed with or if you should take another route.
Building a site in a CMS can be more costly initially. The the designer must set things up so that the end- user (that would be you) is able to perform the tasks. This sometimes involves some kind of database development and additional style coding in order to restrict the system to what you will be doing and not destroy the design when you do it. Database costs are usually a higher start up cost than a static site. A suitable Content Management System must be selected, installed and configured. If you find you’re not happy with it later, you either live with it or you have your designer do something else, which of course then costs you additional money.
I’ve been told by a few people that some of what I’m about to talk about makes me sound negative about a client using a CMS. It’s not intended to be negative, but instead to be educational for the benefit of the client . I like my clients to be informed ahead of time as much as possible, it kind of falls into “your rights as a client.” A little education helps alleviate the potential for problems or surprises down the road. I feel it’s part of my job to educate when I can. If I don’t, I’m not doing my job and the client gets slighted.
- How “web savvy” is the person who will be updating the site? It’s many times not just a point and click, fill in the blanks operation but it can instead be quite the time consuming and costly learning experience. If developing a quality web site really was so simple as many seem to think, professional web designers would be out of business!
- Does the user have the proper text updating, photo resizing and optimization software? If not, there are (sometimes hefty) costs involved to purchase these tools. Then you must consider the time it will take you to learn the programs in order to be able to use them and coordinate their use with the web site work you’ll be doing.
- Do they pick up instructions quickly or will you have to spend a substantial amount of money getting this person trained?
- What about the time involved in updating and maintaining your web site? Unless you change content on a short-term basis, updating your web site is not something you do on a daily basis. What may take you an hour or more to do will probably take your web designer just a few minutes to accomplish. While you are updating your site, you are spending time away from your business or your family. Can you afford to do this?
- What if you inadvertently break your site and you don’t know how to fix it? You must go back to your designer. This not only puts a bright red glow on your face but adds to the time away from your business and money out of your pocket. In many instances a site break occurs at the most inopportune time possible and fixing a broken site is quite often more costly than if you’d had your designer do it for you in the first place.
- Does the user know how to write content properly in order to obtain or retain the best search engine results? If not, are you willing to pay the costs and spend the time to learn?
- Does the user correctly understand basic web site concepts such as coding, browser issues, current standards, load time issues, screen resolution needs, site visitor needs and the list goes on. Even the best CMS has aspects about it that the not-so-techy person will not understand nor be able to use without great difficulty at best, not at all in some instances, or at substantial cost to be trained. Most Content Management Systems do not appear “out of the box” like you imagined your web site would look. That pretty picture on the box can be very deceiving! I’ll bet you didn’t know you had to make a CMS look the way you want it to. Most if not all come with templates and/or can be customized, but this can be an extremely time consuming process.
- How much hair do you have on your head and how much of it would you like to keep? No thanks to companies that provide “do it yourself web site services” the general public has been given the idea that putting together a fully functional, professional looking, well rated and respectable web site is a piece of cake and that anyone can do it. Look around, you’ll find many a site offering templates and “do it yourself” options.
- Content Management Systems are not all alike. They each have their own user editing areas and those that are not user update-able. They each offer their own way of doing things. Some are more user friendly than others but this also depends on the technical levels of the user. There really is no way to provide every user with the specific functionality they want in any one CMS. Concessions must be made. The only way to do this is to develop the site as a custom database under user specified needs and there’s still no guarantee the non-techy person will be able to manage it properly. Although developing a site specifically designed for your needs is possible, the costs involved can be extremely high.
Let’s say you’ve just broken your site. What are you going to do about that fast approaching big online sale you’ve just spent a small fortune advertising? What if your designer cannot get to the repair job immediately? Your site then emains broken until he or she can – which will cost you money in lost sales and repair bills.
Some designers charge an additional fee for fixing a broken web site or for a rush job fees if you need it done in a hurry. Are you ready to spend that extra money? If you develop a web site on your own and find it’s not working right or break it, then you have to locate a designer to do the repair. This can take up quite a bit of your time.
I can tell you from years of experience this is absolutely and totally false information. For a non-webbie person to accomplish this on their own would be a miracle in itself. Even the best of web designers deal with issues on each and every site they do. You can bet that if a designer spends eight hours trying to figure out a problem – it’s going to take one who’s not skilled in web development at least twice that amount of time to figure things out.
Not All CMSs Are Alike
Making an Informed Decision
I’m not trying to discourage you from taking on the tasks involved in minor updating and maintenance of your web site. In fact, I encourage those who do have the time, knowledge and funding to proceed with a Content Management System. I do feel it’s vital for you to have this information in order for you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you wish to go this route. No matter what CMS your site is built on, you’ll need training to administer your site. Your web designer is just that, a web designer. We’re not teachers. It took us years to learn what we know and we can’t possibly pass this along to you in a short lesson or two on working in a CMS.
These are just a few of the issues to ponder when making your decision to go with a user update-able web site. If after reading them over you feel confident you can handle it, that you’re willing to absorb the costs and spend the time to learn – by all means ask your designer to develop a CMS site for you! But, if you have any doubts about your capabilities in these areas or perhaps don’t have the funding to be able to afford the additional software, training and time involved it’s better you let your web designer handle them. After all – it’s what we do best and what we do every day so that you can handle what you do best … your business!