Why Content Management Systems Don’t Work – A CMS is NOT the answer

A CMS is an expensive option for most businesses.
Here’s why.

Over the last ten years, we have been approached by many businesses to take over the maintenance of their Content Management System (CMS) driven websites. This is despite the fact that CMS are supposed to be easy to use!

Our industry (web development) pushes CMS as the ‘easy way’ to maintain a website. Promises such as ‘no on-going costs with DIY updates’ and ‘maintain it yourself inhouse!’ are thrown around by web developers and unfortunately taken as the gospel truth by unsuspecting clients.

In reality, when customisation and training are taken into account, Content Management Systems are expensive to develop and implement. Other than for maintaining a shopping cart or product database on a frequent basis, we do not recommend them.

Reasons why a CMS is not the answer

High development costs – tailored systems cost money!

For a CMS to provide the ability to update ALL the content of a site, it needs to be sophisticated. That means providing functionality to add, edit and delete page buttons, headings, text and importantly, images. It also needs to be tailored to suit the content requirements of the client eg. ability to publish tables of information, create bullet lists or update a Flash banner. The more functionality required, the higher the development costs.

They never quite do what you want them to.

Content Management Systems rarely allow you to do everything you want them to. Changing the design framework, updating a Flash animation or adding a nice splash graphic to promote a new product are examples of tasks that stretch the capability of CMS. For those ‘I wish I could’ tasks, you’ll need to pay a web designer expensive hourly fees – and that’s if you can get someone to do your update at all (most designers love design – not maintenance).

The more it does, the more knowledge you need

If the CMS does do everything you require, then be assured some serious time will need to be spent learning how to use the system.

Training IS required

In going with the CMS option, you’re constantly walking a tight rope. On the one hand, for the system to be easy to use, it’s functionality must be limited. On the other hand, expanding the functionality increases the need for training and expertise.

In any case, to be able to publish a professional looking web page, the user will require at least a basic knowledge of HTML and photo editing techniques.

So not only do you need to invest in the development of a CMS, you also need to budget for staff training… plus time for the staff member to master the processes taught. How much do you pay your staff per hour? Staff time (or your own) is a significant hidden cost when going down the CMS route.

Oops. Your trained staff member has left. What now?

In a tie with being too difficult to use, the other problem we hear most often is that the staff member trained to use the system has left the business. It goes something like, “Our monthly special is out of date and no-one here knows how to use the system!”. Not a good place to find yourself. Outsourcing your website maintenance for a fixed monthly fee eliminates the ‘trained employee’ risk to your business.

Need to install version updates & security patches

Regardless of which CMS you decide to use, be it an Open Source CMS (eg. WordPress) or a commercial system (eg. Kentico), you will need to download and install updates and security patches, as they become available. If you fail to do this, your site may become vulnerable to security breaches or fail to work correctly in the latest browers.

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