What is a CMS and Why Should Your Small Business Care?

When talking about websites, a CMS (Content Management System) is a tool that should allow you to easily make changes to your website.  The reason why you should care is because without one, you may be struggling to keep your website content up to date, and you may not be adding new content because it takes you too long.

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How a CMS works:  A CMS is software that allows a relatively non-technical person to make edits to a website.  While it may take a fairly technical person to set it up initially, once it is setup, you should be able to add a page of content by simply filling out a template.  Similarly, if you want to make a change to your entire website, you should be able to simply modify the theme that has been designed for your website, and it should automatically update all of the pages.  Without a CMS, you would have to change every page of your website individually if you wanted to make even a small change to the overall look and feel of the site.

Features to look for:  There are many CMS options out there because businesses have a lot of different needs when it comes to their websites.  Not every CMS can handle every feature you might want, so it’s important to properly scope out your needs from the beginning.  Some of the most important elements to consider are:

–          Flexibility: If you need specific plug-ins, or modules for your website (like social sharing buttons or a blog), does the CMS you are considering offer those options?

–          Ability to achieve a custom look and feel: Every CMS has a form of template that drives the creation of website pages.  The template helps you get the job done, but you don’t want your website to look like a template.  Make sure the CMS allows your site to feel custom.

–          Ease of editing: Part of the goal of a CMS is to decrease the barrier to making changes to your website.  Ideally, a non-technical person should be able to make any basic changes to a site. Even if you prefer to have a web design professional make changes, it should save that professional time.

–          Level of support:  When you choose a CMS, the range of support spans from none for some free open source tools, to high-touch phone support for some of the private label services.  Be realistic about your own capabilities and make sure you have access to the right level of support.

–          Level of search engine optimization: The technical architecture of a CMS and its plug-ins can have a major impact on how well your website ranks in Google.  We’ve seen some pretty major mistakes by some of these providers that include the use of a small piece of code that tells Google that the entire site should not be indexed.  Do some research on your own or contact our marketing experts for some assistance in evaluating the level of search engine optimization.

How to find the right CMS: One of the most common ways to find a CMS is through the person or company that designs your website.  If you are working with a web designer, chances are that they will recommend a CMS to you that works for them.  Take the time to go through the features that you are looking for and make sure that the CMS works for you.  If they recommend against a CMS, you may want to consider a different web designer or at least understand what their rational is for not recommending a CMS.

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