To CMS or not?

All too often the decision to implement a Content Management System (CMS) for a website comes down to the question “How much extra does it cost?” rather than “What benefits will it bring to my business?” Focusing on cost is always understandable when making an investment in a website, but understanding the real cost of not implementing a CMS at the start of a new project must also be given full consideration. Here are some of the common questions we at Equator are asked by clients regarding whether or not to go with a CMS.

All too often the decision to implement a Content Management System (CMS) for a website comes down to the question "How much extra does it cost?" rather than "What benefits will it bring to my business?"

Focusing on cost is always understandable when making an investment in a website, but understanding the real cost of not implementing a CMS at the start of a new project must also be given full consideration. Here are some of the common questions we at Equator are asked by clients regarding whether or not to go with a CMS.

So how much extra does it cost to buy a CMS?

The landscape has changed considerably since the early CMS frameworks and there are now many very well supported, community-developed open source products out there. If the selection of an open source product is made carefully, then straight away the licensing costs can be removed from the "How much extra does it cost?" calculation.

Isn't open source too risky though?

If the selection process is carried out carefully and the product is built on an extendable and robust underlying framework, then no, it is simply not risky anymore. Remember that a company that sells a product will only invest in that product if it is selling well. An open source project does not have the same operating restrictions and as a result will often be upgraded and or patched on a more frequent basis.

So how much longer does it take to develop?

There is no argument that the first time a CMS system is implemented it takes slightly longer to develop. The CMS framework must be understood, extended and made to fit the functional goals of the site. However, it is often forgotten that a well designed static site can and often should take just as long to plan properly to ensure re-use of common controls, functionality and overall layout and styles. When expertise is established in a chosen CMS framework, it can and often is just as fast to develop the site straight into the CMS. Particularly when creating medium and larger-sized websites. The most expensive mistake to make is to try a retro fit a CMS into a static web site!

OK, so licensing costs are zero and the extra time it takes to build is negligible, but what tangible benefits do I get over a static site implementation?

The benefits of a well implemented CMS are numerous. Consistent look and feel, content structure, content ownership, authorisation workflows, and reduced site maintenance costs to name but a few. You will get none of these benefits with a static site. Unless you have in-house developers, you will never truly own your own site content. Any extra money saved at the time of implementation will be more than likely lost due to the inflexibility of making updates to a static site.

We don't have anybody to make the content updates though, so why bother?

Even if another organisation is making the content updates on your behalf, you will be safe in the knowledge that they will have to follow some well defined styles and layouts, therefore ensuring the brand identity and message remains consistent. Even if a resource cannot be found to make the updates directly, by using the authorisation workflows, the correct resource can sign off any content changes. This enables the sharing of responsibility for the website content across the different areas of your business.

If you are considering upgrading an existing site or creating a new one, can you really choose not to CMS your site? We at Equator have substantial expertise in developing sites in the following CMS products. Umbraco, Ektron, Microsoft Content Management Server, DotNetNuke, Tridion and Sharepoint . We would love to hear from you if you are considering a CMS project.