I was recently approached by a small business owner who wanted to find ways to maintain his website but felt the cost of a content management system, even a small scale solution, was too high to justify. He recognized that his website is an important part of his business and also recognized that he and his small group of non-technical employees didn't have the expertise to manage their website themselves. I suggested he look at the cost of maintaining his site with and without a content management system. The aspects of the comparison are based on the following criteria:
1. How large is the site now and how large do you anticipate your website to become? The business owner's current site was between ten and fifteen pages of content. Normally, a static website of this size would be relatively inexpensive, so why would he pay almost ten times more for a content managed website. I suggested that he look at what he wanted his website to do in a year or two year's from now. How many pages of content and what functionality would the site have in the future. Sometimes it can be difficult for a business owner to see the big picture when it comes to their website strategy. In order for the content managed website to be effective, efficient, and provide a return on investment, it has to be part of the overall strategy for the website. This strategy will also determine the answers to the next questions.
2. How often will the site content be updated? When asked how often the business owner expected to update his website, his answer was that he didn't know because until now, he couldn't update his site without paying someone else to do it. Every time he had to make a change to the content or add a new page, he had to pay a web designer forty to eighty dollars. Associating a price to every piece of content or every page on your site becomes discouraging and soon, the business owner didn't want to update his site because it means spending money for little return. I suggested that he look into the future and identify how often he would like to update his site. What kind of news would be posted, changes to services, new products, customer service information, schedules, etc. Combine the updates with the ability to distribute those updates through an email newsletter or through press release services and all of a sudden, the business owner could see himself or his staff making small incremental changes to the website on a daily basis.
3. How often will the site design be updated? Most business owners will look at the design of their website as part of the costs of having a website updated. The design is only one component of the website, it is not the entire website. The challenge is to look at your website as many distinct pieces, design, content, and functionality. In a content managed website, your site content is stored in a database separate from the design templates that govern how the site looks and separate also from the functionality that is controlled by the Content Management System. By separating your content into chunks and storing the chunks in a database you break the dependency of content and design. By breaking this dependency, you give yourself the ability to create content without having to worry about managing site navigation, structure, or display. You can, in essence, deliver your content through multiple channels; the website, through a wireless site, through email newsletters or as news releases. The investment the business owner makes in the Content Management System now, will pay off the next time he chooses to make a website design change and finds that all he has to do is pay for the design itself and the creation of one or two layout templates. This is a much cheaper proposition then paying for a fifty or sixty page static website.
When the business owner looked at what the site had done for his company in the last year, what he expected from his website in the coming year, and how he wanted his business represented on the Internet, he decided to make the one time investment in a Content Management System. Once he had put it into perspective and figured out how much he would have to spend hiring an internal staff person to manage the site for him without a CMS, he calculated that he would be able to justify the one time software expense in less than three months after launching the new site.
Regardless of the size of your organization, if you expect your website to be an important part of your business and marketing strategy, you should seriously consider the cost benefits of a content management system. When you compare the costs of maintaining a static site versus a content managed site, you may be surprised at the cost effectiveness of a content managed solution.
Stephen Joyce is President of Sentias Software Corp, a software development company based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Sentias develops multi-lingual web-based business software including Content Management, E-commerce solutions, Tour Operator Software Solutions, and solutions for the Art Publishing industry. For more information regarding Sentias, please visit http://www.sentias.com .