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The Illusion of Content Management Systems

Published October 15, 2015

 

Working in software, we've become used to hearing three little letters over and over again in client meetings: CMS. Over the last few years, a CMS - or content management system - has changed from a sometimes-asked-for feature to a near-ubiquitous request. More and more clients, who come to us for complex and sophisticated software are also asking for a way to take care of the small stuff on their own. This makes sense on the surface - “Let the engineers handle whatever's difficult and let us handle what isn’t” - but in the world of code, even the seemingly easiest tasks can be challenging.

Our years of experience of developing web solutions for startups, entrepreneurs and corporations have shown us the few benefits (and more importantly, the many pitfalls) of granting non-technical users access to a CMS of their site. Here are a few misconceptions of the “value” that having a CMS provides:

1. A CMS will save me money

This is undoubtedly the number-one reason that project owners gravitate towards a content management system. As you probably already know, software isn’t cheap, especially if you're paying someone to write a custom application. It's only natural that stakeholders would seek cost-saving approaches to development in an effort to get the most bang for their buck.

Enter the CMS.

As mentioned earlier, a CMS initially seems straightforward. “While the developers spend time getting an application to work, I can just go in and update the words and pictures on my site. Why would I pay those high hourly rates for such simple work?”

But a CMS can come with high hidden costs. The most obvious is the cost of building it in the first place. This requires time in meetings between both parties to nail down the specs, and once finalized, takes time (and money) to be implemented by software engineers. This adds an additional upfront cost to the scope of a new project that would otherwise be avoided. Of course, the thought is that the payoff will take place over time as users edit content themselves instead of paying an experienced developer to do so.

But without technical expertise, working with a CMS - even a well-designed one - can be a difficult and frustrating experience. The amount of time spent will often be significantly longer than what a software engineer would need to make the same changes. And therein lays the greatest hidden cost: your time. Your business’ or startup’s success depends on the efficient use of your valuable time. Why waste it mucking around in a CMS when a competent developer can quickly and easily make any desired changes?

2. A CMS will allow me to make changes faster, rather than waiting on developers

Another concern we’ve seen from clients is how responsive (or unresponsive) their developers can be. The lure of making a change to your website and seeing the updates show up live is enticing. That way, you don’t have to wait for someone else to take care of your request. After all, you’re busy and have clients of your own that want changes, and want them quickly.

The problem with getting something done quickly is that oftentimes it will be evident in the quality, especially if the person doing the task has little to no experience. A classic example in the world of CMS is text formatting. It's common for copy to originate in a word document - these documents have formatting of their own, and simply copying/pasting into an editor can produce less-than-ideal results. The intended text formatting is often ignored by the CMS - or even worse, only partially ignored - leaving a small mess of work for the user to try to clean up.

Throwing in other tasks such as adding and placing images, new pages, or links, and the process can quickly be cumbersome to a non-technical user. This results in either a long delay in updating content or pushing updates live to your site that don’t live to the quality of your business, causing you to spend more time fixing the problems.

3. A CMS will help engage more visitors and users with brand-new content

It's true that a website that stays current, up-to-date, and has recent activity will engage more users ... but there are good ways to do this, and there are bad ways.

The reality of websites is that the content itself is not very important. What’s important is:

  • The content is there
  • The content LOOKS good

As long as these two conditions are met, how often the content changes is relatively unimportant. Most users on the web are visual. The purpose of your site’s content is to engage and educate users with as few words as possible. If you can achieve this, updating the content itself becomes less necessary, less often.

Blogs and social media accounts are simple and effective ways to provide new content to users and customers without having to constantly update your website itself. Feeds can be easily added to your site, and this can also serve as a useful tool to drive new traffic, as well.

Our solution: CRS

Business owners quickly learn that they need to seek help with legal, accounting, insurance, and other professional service issues, but often don’t make the same decision for their online presence. You trust your attorney’s recommendations regarding the law: trust us to take care of your website. Unless visitors are provided with an engaging website experience, they’re likely to leave in search of a better option. The need for websites capable of attracting and retaining customer attention has drawn more and more businesspeople to custom, dynamic designs. Our content request system (CRS) allows you to do what you do best while maintaining the ability to customize anytime you want.

The way it works is simple: email your desired content changes to our CRS email address, and they'll be flawlessly implemented on your website.

That's it.

No need to deal with oversized images covering text, or words running off the page, or random sentences formatted differently than the rest of the paragraph ... the list of potential pitfalls goes on and on, but you won't have to worry about any of them with CRS. After all, whether it's an updated graphic or a missing period, when you seek content changes, you're really asking for code changes.

A CMS wraps it all up in a pretty bow and calls it "text" or "images", but behind the curtain, it's still cold, hard code; with CRS, that code is handled by experienced, skilled programmers, allowing you to focus on what really matters.