What is a CMS and does your business need one?

If you are a small business owner and looking to either launch a new website for the first time, or redesign an old outdated one, you have a lot of decisions to make before you even get into the actual design and development of the website.

Do you want to build it yourself using a web design platform? Or do you want to hire a professional to build it for you with your input? Do you want to be able to update content on your own if needed? Or would you prefer to have someone else maintain it for you and just keep you updated regularly on performance?

One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether or not you want (or need) a Content Management System.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A Content Management System, or CMS, allows for multiple contributors to create, manage, edit and publish digital content within one platform. A CMS is a great option for people who want to take real ownership of the content they put on their website and do so at a regular cadence. But there is also a bit of technical work that can be expected from the self-serve CMS platforms that are out there. Which might turn into a small business owner biting off more than he/she can chew.

So, let’s discuss some of the behind the scenes aspects of CMS platforms, to help you determine if a content management system is in fact, right for you and your business.

The Pros of Having a CMS

A CMS gives you the ability to log into an admin area of your website and update your content on your schedule. Will you be blogging weekly, updating content or images regularly, managing inventory, or building a user-based site? If yes, then you’ll need a custom platform that gives you that kind of access.

There are multiple CMS options available to small business owners. From custom CMS platforms, developed specifically for small business needs, to do-it-yourself products that don’t necessarily have the customer support some people need, but offer usable templates to choose from to get you started.

A custom CMS platform is a great option if you want to customize the look and feel of your website but want the ease and flexibility of an admin panel that is user-friendly to update your content, images and pages as needed. The custom CMS platforms that are done right will also include user training on the interface (or perhaps require hardly any training at all), 'user help' hours baked into your agreement and other custom features that will make it turn-key for you to take your brand to the next level, digitally.

A custom CMS done right also gives you piece of mind. With the right platform you can confidently run your business without dealing with complicated codebase updates, worrying about exploitable framework vulnerabilities, or forgetting how to change something as simple as a title of a page.

On the flip side of the CMS coin you have the do-it-yourself products. DIY options allow owners to select a template, add some content and a few other items and get up and running for a low price point, in a short amount of time. You don’t necessarily need to be a graphic designer or have in-depth knowledge of HTML code in order to launch a website on a DIY platform. If you need super simple and nothing fancy from a design or function standpoint — then this could be a good option for you and your brand. And there are plenty of brands that have benefited from these kinds of CMS products and have found success.

Important Caveats to Consider with a CMS

But there is that old saying 'you get what you pay for' — and that is absolutely true in the world of web design and development. Some of the DIY CMS platform options may lead to issues such as unsecure servers, shoddy customer support, cookie-cutter templates with limited functionality or technical issues due to regular codebase updates. If some of these issues aren’t addressed, they can make it difficult to customize your website to meet your brand requirements, negatively impact search engine optimizations (SEO) or even bring your whole online presence to a screeching halt.

Doing your research on the CMS platform that you choose is extremely important. It can take more time upfront to properly create a website in a DIY platform, and then you need to expect some management time on a regular basis just to ensure everything is running smoothly within those systems and any updates/patches are addressed properly. A custom CMS option may free up more of your time to focus on business needs, while your agency partner deals with the technical aspects of a website build.

Custom CMS platforms typically cost more than the DIY options, but not all are out of reach. While some larger digital agencies mark up their prices for custom CMS projects, leaner more, nimble digital marketing agencies are able to offer a custom CMS product for a lot less. You just need to shop around a bit and ask about starting price points and compare functions.

A Word to the Wise

Don’t choose to go with a CMS product because someone told you that you need it. We’ve found that most small businesses and startups really don’t need a CMS, and that a managed static website makes more sense. It may be a better use of time and resources for you to delegate the task of designing and managing your website to a team of experts, so you can focus on building your business.

There are thousands of options out there for website design and development. That is why it is so important for you to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before making a decision as to whether or not a CMS is right for you and your business.

A web development blog post by Krista Becker

About the author

As Humble Meteor’s Director of Digital Marketing, Krista helps connect audiences with helpful brands and their killer websites. With more than 13 years of inbound marketing and paid media experience, she never shies away from investigating a new digital marketing innovation to help bring a client’s brand to the next level. When she isn’t knee-deep in researching and writing blog articles, optimizing campaigns or conducting social media audits — she loves to bake all things yummy and hang out with her family.

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