Determining whether your website will be static or content-managed is one of the first and most important decisions to be made. Mobas’ Lead Developer, Steven, outlines the advantages of both and some factors to consider before choosing.
A static website is one that can only be updated by developers, or individuals with a solid understanding of coding, since the slightest mistypes can have big implications. A content management system (CMS) is a website with varying levels of back-end functionality. Anyone can log in to edit or upload content with a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) type layout, and no HTML knowledge required.
Deciding what type of content management system to use, if at all, is a balance of four factors: source, regularity of updates, in-house skills and budget.
There are alternatives to a CMS that enable content to be pulled from another source, for example using an application programming interface (API). This could include anything from product information within an internal database to a social media feed. With a CMS, individual items would have to be copied and pasted manually, but with an API it is updated automatically from the source. An advantage of pulling content from an in-house database is that content is edited once but used twice: internally and online.
Websites can also combine the use of a CMS for some content that is less changeable, for example an ‘about us’ section, and an API for information that changes more often, such as product information.
Regularity of updates
Regularly updated websites are more SEO-friendly, since Google favours sites with fresh content. However, static sites are still appropriate if the content is always relevant and doesn’t need regularly updating. As a general guide, a simplified CMS will suffice for weekly to monthly updates, and a full CMS is advised only for daily updates and complex data linkages.
The type of content to be updated is also important as content-managed sites can be limiting in their design and functionality – depending on what the user has control over – as the CMS is generally an off-the-shelf solution. It is important to ascertain whether a CMS will in fact be more limiting than liberating.
Updating and maintaining a website requires time and skill. Mobas will train clients on how to use their CMS, but people need to be willing and able to learn, as well as having time allocated in their role. Particularly in smaller organisations, if only one person is trained and they leave the company, it will become someone else’s responsibility to learn the ropes and take over.
Clients often return to web developers to make their amends, even if a CMS is in place. Technical support is what we are here for, but we like to assess in-house skills and time capacity first. A CMS is a cost overhead and the site could have been built differently without one.
Mobas is not a template company, and when creating websites for clients we never lift existing sites and slap a new logo on the top. All our clients are unique, their audiences are unique and all sites are built bespoke to suit their specific needs.
Developing a content management system, therefore, can extend a project timescale as much as threefold, sometimes more. This will increase the cost of building a website, which is only worthwhile if it will be used as more than a nicety or back-up. By not developing a CMS, a significant portion of the budget could be saved. There will be the additional costs of coming back to the agency if any amends need making, but depending on individual needs this could be minor in comparison to the initial cost of a CMS.
Public perception appears to be that agencies keep everything technically hidden in a way that is inaccessible to the client, meaning they have to keep coming back – and paying more – to update or adjust their website. The concept here at Mobas, however, is enablement and empowerment. We’ll have discussions with you in the early stages of development to ensure that your objectives are met in a way that suits you – CMS or not.
Mobas wants to build long-term relationships, but ones that are mutually beneficial with each party getting the best value from the partnership.