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Hands Tied Updating Your Website? Consider a Content Management System

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Chances are that you’ve looked at your website and thought “It's not working; it's so out of date", but you’re not sure how it happened. The truth is many businesses look at their site as a big project that is checked off their to-do list and not looked at again for years. A website can be one of your most powerful marketing tools, but like all marketing requires ongoing effort.

A Tale of Two Employees

Imagine your site as one of your employees. Let’s call her Jane. You'd probably want an important lead talking to someone like Jane. She's engaged with the industry, constantly updating her knowledge about products and seamlessly linking that information to the customer’s needs. Always appearing professional, she takes pride in herself and the work she does.  Buying something from Jane is just the start, she knows that good ongoing customer service will increase the odds that you'll tell a friend and return as a repeat customer. It's a lot of work for Jane to keep up, but she knows that it allows her to do a much better job and her contribution helps the company succeed. 

Unfortunately, Jane is off sick today. So the important lead goes to Fred. Fred's been with the company for a long time, so long that he's got the old company logo and colors on his shirt. When asked questions about a new product, he doesn't know the answer and can't explain why you should buy one product over the other. He doesn't know that there's a sale going on, and has no knowledge of a new trend in the industry.  As a customer, you feel like a burden talking to Fred and get the feeling that he's just collecting a paycheck.

Which employee do you want your website to emulate?

It's Important to Keep Improving But My Hands Are Tied

You can probably encourage all of your employees to become better performers like Jane. Perhaps they need a new uniform, more training, or just a daily conversation to keep them aware of new products, sales and industry trends. But how do you make your website effective like Jane? Even if you know what content needs improving and have it prepared, your hands might be tied in making those changes. 

Business owners and marketing managers often rely upon a web team (either internal or external) to make even the most minor content additions. Getting changes done quickly and cost effectively can be major barriers. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to update your site with less cost and reliance on others?

Content Management is a Key Part of the Solution

Luckily Content Management Systems or CMS allow you to do just that. You've probably heard technical jargon like HTML, JavaScript and back-end databases, but really all you need to know is that a CMS is software that allows you to easily manage content on a website.
When we say content, we mean all of the things you might want to update including:

  • pages that include text and images such as an About Us or Service Overview page.
  • product pages with marketing copy, detailed specs, galleries, charts, photos & videos.
  • blog posts with reader comments.
  • galleries and interactive slide shows.
  • customer login areas with private content including sales or training information.
  • retailer or store location searches.
  • email newsletters and social media posts.  

How Does Content Management Work?

Content management systems are similar to traditional sites but they have more layers below the surface. On the front-end (what the visitor sees on a site) a combination of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, text, graphics, videos are glued together to create the branded, readable, click-able experience that we all know.

Cms Source Code
The code behind web pages can look like a foreign language.

In a traditional site, each of these pages are assembled manually by a developer that knows how to program.
In a CMS driven site, the developer creates reusable design templates that are linked to a CMS or backend technology that store and display your content as pages to site visitors. Behind the scenes, a protected login area allows you to refresh this content without much technical knowledge. 

Is it Hard to Edit Content?

If you're capable of working in a program like Word or filling out forms on a website, you'll generally feel right at home. All CMS require you to enter content in form fields. These fields can include everything from simple text, to rich text editors similar to Word, Excel type grids that hold multiple rows and columns of data, image and file uploads, video fields that link to YouTube, geo location and more.

Cms Editor

Public facing web page on the left, CMS editing interface on the right.  The CMS probably looks more friendly to edit than the source code shown above. 

For the most part editing is easy; however it’s hard to guarantee that everything will become second nature right away. Some sites have complex features and diverse content, which lead to a more complex system. The time your developer puts into customizing and making the management interface easy to use is key. If they've done a good job, the CMS should be as easy for you to manage as your public website is for your end customers to use. Outside of an intuitive system, a good training session, reference documentation or videos demonstrating how to do key tasks can ensure you are able to manage your site for years to come.

CMS Pros and Cons

So how do you decide what's right for you? Take a look at some pros and cons:

Pros

  1. Lower cost of regular website updates.
  2. Better content for site visitors: You're more likely to keep your site up-to-date and an updated site is better for visitors and search engine rankings.
  3. Content is more flexible as it can be pulled and displayed in different ways. Take a product catalogue for example that lets you filter products by a quality. Without a CMS, a page would need to be created for each option.
  4. You can save time during initial site development if there's lots of similar data. For example, data entry of products in a CMS can be considerably faster than manually creating pages for all products.
  5. More power means more options. A CMS runs on top of application programming languages; the same languages that business programs are created in. This means you have a flexible layer to add features to your website that manage more than just content.

Cons

  1. Can be a more expensive initial investment, but there are affordable options for basic needs.
  2. Will require you to learn something new. But a good web company will be there to help you learn.
  3. Your site relies on more than just static files, underneath there's a complex system that requires specific technology to run. You'll still need to rely on your web developer on occasion.
  4. Even though you can update your site, a web or content professional may be better qualified to do so as they take into account writing for web, usability, SEO, optimization of graphics and other factors. 
  5. A CMS is not the solution to bad habits, you have to plan to make regular updates and carry through.  

Take Control and Make Your Website Work Harder

Ensuring that your site is current with relevant content is one of the easiest ways to make it work harder for your business. If your hands have been tied making updates, you may need a CMS. If you already have a system in place you should plan regular updates and examine what could be improved. All marketing requires ongoing effort and you can control how much effort goes into yours. Your website can either emulate your most knowledgeable star employee or the less than stellar person that's just there getting by.

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