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11 Reasons Why a Web CMS Will Make Your Life Easier and Your Wallet Fatter

Nearly every website owner or web developer has asked this question at one time or another: Why should I use a Web Content Management System (WCMS)? If you value your time, money, and sanity, then there are several reasons why using a Web CMS is superior to hand-coding a website.

Before we disclose the most evident reasons why you should be using a WCMS, let's:

  • define what a WCMS is (besides a funky acronym)
  • briefly describe a few of the best WCMS applications available today

What the heck is a Web CMS?

If you're new to the website community, then you may not have a clue as to what a WCMS is. Well, it's a few things, really. According to Wikipedia, a WCMS is:

primarily a Web-site maintenance tool for non-technical administrators. A WCMS is primarily used to maintain a large, dynamic collection of Web material (HTML documents and their associated images). A WCMS facilitates content creation, content control, editing, and many essential Web maintenance functions. Most (if not all) WCMSs use a database to store content, meta data, and/or artifacts that might be needed by the system.

In case Wikipedia's definition makes little sense to you: a Web Content Management System is a web-based tool that allows a webmaster, web developer, or blogger to easily maintain the content of a website. Unlike hand-coding a website, once a WCMS is setup, very little programming knowledge is needed to maintain that website's content.

What are a few of the best Web CMS applications available today?

Although there are several WCMS applications available today, we're going to briefly describe three of the best (and our favorites):

  1. WordPress
  2. Drupal
  3. ExpressionEngine

WordPress

WordPress.org Web CMSIf you're looking for a free, open source WCMS to manage your blog, look no further. WordPress is the premier WCMS for blog management. WordPress is hands down one of the easiest WCMSs to use. WordPress can also be used to manage basic websites; however, we strongly recommend using Drupal or ExpressionEngine to manage medium to large size websites. WordPress really shines as a blog management tool.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of WordPress Themes available for download, too. Some are free, and some (Premium Themes) cost money. CHROMATIC even has their own Professional WordPress Themes community featuring free, XHTML/CSS valid, standards-compliant, bug free, professionally designed WordPress Themes; all available to test and download at the click of a mouse.

Worried about getting stuck? Don't. WordPress has extensive documentation as well as an active support community; and if you can't find your answer there, then chances are a search through Google, Yahoo, or MSN will yield the answer you are looking for.

Drupal

Drupal.org Web CMSDrupal is a free, open source WCMS that allows practically any type of user (whether it be an individual or a community of users) to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website. Thousands upon thousands of people, organizations, and companies are using Drupal to power tons of different web sites.

In case your design abilities are lacking and you don't have the money to hire a professional web design company, just like WordPress, there are tons of free Drupal Themes available at the click of a mouse.

Drupal is a much more powerful and much more scalable WCMS than WordPress. Aside from using Drupal as a blog (although we highly recommend using WordPress as your blogging WCMS), Drupal can be used for a number of things:

  • Content Management Systems
  • Collaborative authoring environments
  • Forums
  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Newsletters
  • Pod casting
  • Picture galleries
  • File uploads and downloads

Just like WordPress, Drupal is maintained and developed by a dedicated community of thousands of users and developers. Drupal has extensive online documentation as well as very active support forum discussions.

Drupal is hands down one of the best WCMSs available today!

ExpressionEngine

ExpressionEngine Web CMSLast but not least is ExpressionEngine. ExpressionEngine (EE) is a flexible, feature-rich content management system that allows thousands of individuals, organizations, and companies around the world to easily manage and maintain their website.

For those who believe that Drupal has a high learning curve, ExpressionEngine is for you. ExpressionEngine is fairly easy to learn, and even easier to use.

Just like Drupal, EE is a very powerful, very scalable Web CMS. Anything you can do with Drupal you can do with EE.

And surprise, surprise - EE has amazing support: a huge knowledge base, extensive documentation, and a staff and user-monitored support forum. Rest assured, there will always be someone to help you.

The only downside to EE is that it costs money for the full version (which we highly recommend over the basic, Core version, due to the number of important features absent from the Core version).

ExpressionEngine is hands down one of the best WCMSs available today!

Why should I use a Web CMS?

There are several reasons why using a Web CMS (new school) is superior to hand-coding and manually maintaining a website (old school):

  1. Ease of use (requires little programming knowledge to maintain)
  2. Quick and easy dynamic page management
  3. Core functionality comes standard
  4. Security (keep the bad guys out)
  5. Cost-effective (save some serious money)
  6. Customization (CSS, plugins, modules, etc.)
  7. Scalability (WCMS upgrades)
  8. Multi-user, community capabilities
  9. Information stored in database (easy remote website management)
  10. Support community (got a question about your WCMS? - no problem)
  11. Search Engine Friendly (won't hurt your search engine rankings)

1. Ease of use

Although a WCMS must first be customized and integrated into a website (either by an individual who has knowledge of PHP, MySQL, CSS, and XHTML, or by hiring a professional web design company), once the customization and integration is complete, managing the content of that website is fairly simple and straight forward.

How this will make your life easier

For a client: You will be able to update the content of your website whenever you want to. No more asking your web developer to meddle with PHP, MySQL, CSS, and XHTML to update your content for you.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a client: Since you'll be able to use your WCMS and update your website's content on your own, you will save money paying someone else to update it for you.

2. Quick and easy dynamic page management

In the past, webmasters or web developers were forced to create a new document (by hand) each time they wanted to add a new page to their website. In addition, the webmaster or web developer would have to update all of the links within the website that needed to point to this new page. By using this method of "content mismanagement", it was easy to make mistakes which often resulted in dead links (misspelled hyperlinks that redirected the user to a web page that didn't exist). As I'm sure you can imagine, this was an extremely cumbersome process. Thankfully, a WCMS solves these problems (and more).

No longer does a webmaster, web developer, or user need to create a new document for each new page on their website. A WCMS uses a template system which automatically creates web pages on-the-fly. In addition, when a new page is published, the links automatically update throughout the website greatly reducing the chances that there are any dead links.

In order to understand how truly awesome dynamic page maintenance is, you need to grab a copy of WordPress, Drupal, or ExpressionEngine. When you do, you'll regret coding and editing your web pages by hand these past few years.

How this will make your life easier

For a client: Less time worrying if you "hooked everything up" correctly; more time editing old content and publishing new content.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a client: Less money wasted on hiring web developers to add or edit new pages because you're afraid of screwing something up. And because time is money, less time spent adding pages by hand and making sure pages are linked up correctly.

3. Core functionality comes standard

Another significant reason to use a WCMS is because with a WCMS, the basic "core" functionality of your website has already been constructed.

The basic install of any of the three aforementioned WCMSs (as well as other WCMSs) leaves you with a usable website to which you can begin adding content immediately. However, what you see after installation is only the core functionality of the WCMS. Each of these WCMSs offer much more. In most cases, you will want to tailor the WCMS to your particular content management needs.

A perfect example of a website built around a WCMS is the construction of an automobile. Think of the WCMS as all of the core parts required to successfully (and safely) drive an automobile: the frame, the engine, the transmission, the braking system, steering, suspension, tires, etc. Although you can certainly drive an automobile with these core parts, more than likely you're going to want some customization. The same idea applies to a website using a WCMS: you have all of the core functions and framework (parts) needed to create content (drive the car), however, you're going to want to customize the design (or have a designer customize the design for you) and also customize the functionality (or have a developer customize the functionality for you) so that your website is unique.

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: Rather than developing the core framework that nearly every website is built on, you can jump right into the customization of the design and functionality.

For a client: This means that your website will be built on a solid framework which is extremely important as it will directly impact your website's efficiency and your productivity in the future.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: You will be able to work much more efficiently and complete projects at a much faster pace since you won't need to waste time recreating the core functionality that nearly every website is built on. The quicker projects are completed, the more projects you can take on.

For a client: Since the core functionality will already be built, the developer won't need to spend as much time on the project (compared to not using a WCMS and having to spend time building the core framework); therefore, they won't need to charge you as much.

4. Security

Security has always been a big deal with websites. There is nothing worse than having your website compromised (or worse, destroyed) because of a hacker. The good news is, each of the three aforementioned WCMSs is constantly and rigorously tested by hundreds (if not thousands) of developers and users for security flaws and exploits.

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: Less time spent worrying if the website that you are building for yourself or your client is secure and safe; less time having to hire hackers to try and infiltrate the security of your or your client's website. If a client's website is compromised, less time worrying about possible legal ramifications.

For a client: Less time worrying about someone compromising or destroying the content on your website. If your website stores sensitive information about people (members), then less time worrying about their information falling into the wrong hands and as a result, having them sue you.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: Smaller chance of having to spend money on legal fees if a client decides to sue you due to their website being hacked.

For a client: Less money spent on having to hire someone to fix the security flaws in your website; less money spent on legal fees against your developer or members.

5. Cost-effective

The number one reason we package WCMSs with each of our websites is because it is cost-effective for both us (the web developer) and the client. Because a WCMS already covers some of the aforementioned points (security, core functionality), it takes the developer less time to create a website which results in the client having to pay less.

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: Since you won't need to spend as much time developing a website due to the WCMS, you can charge your clients less which (assuming you deliver what is promised) should result in happier clients and more referrals.

For a client: The more money you save on a website because of a WCMS, the more money you can spend on other important things.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: Since a WCMS increases the efficiency of website development, you should be able to complete websites at a faster pace; this means that you can take on more projects and net a higher profit.

For a client: Not only should the developer charge you less with a WCMS than without one, but you won't have to worry about those ridiculous "maintenance fees" that many developers charge to make content updates to their clients' websites. Before WCMSs, these fees were justifiable. However, now that clients can manage the content of their website with a WCMS, maintenance fees are...well, ridiculous. The client will save a lot of money in the long run with a WCMS.

6. Customization

As mentioned earlier in this article, WordPress, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine are all content-publishing ready. However, if you just begin to publish content with your WCMS without any customization, it's going to be very difficult for people to take you seriously.

Let's face it: unless your website is the Druge Report, custom website design and functionality are extremely important. In an age when more and more people are accustomed to eye-popping visuals and interactive functionality, it's tough to get by with a plain Jane template website. Whether you hire a company to design and develop your website or you do it yourself, you're going to want some customization.

Most (if not all) WCMSs are styled with external Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Although there is a learning curve to CSS, the results are far superior than trying to design a website with tables. For more information on CSS vs table-based design, read our article, "13 Reasons Why CSS Is Superior to Tables in Website Design".

In addition, many WCMSs come with plugins or modules which allow you (or your developer) to add custom functionality to your website. These plugins or modules usually need to be tweaked in order to obtain the desired look or behavior, however, plugins and modules are a great stepping stone to obtaining custom functionality within a website.

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: Styling a website with CSS is much easier than styling a website with tables; a great deal of time can be saved by using pre built plugins or modules (customization and configuration is usually required, though). Even better, most plugins and modules come with documentation and oftentimes a support community.

For a client: With a CSS stylesheet(s), making universal updates to your website's design has never been easier. Instead of having to open up and edit several different pages which contain the element to be modified, simply open up the stylesheet containing the element's attributes, make your changes, save and upload, and voila, the appearance of that element will be changed throughout the website. Most WCMSs will allow you to make these changes within their interfaces, too, so you won't need to go meddling around with files on the FTP server. That could be dangerous!

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: Without the desire for visual and functional customization, web developers would be out of work. Thankfully, most people recognize the value in having a custom built website; therefore, WCMS customization is very lucrative for web developers.

For a client: Because of CSS and WCMSs, you won't have to hire your web developer every time you need to make a small cosmetic change to your website.

7. Scalability

With most websites, scalability is important. Luckily, many modern WCMSs (specifically, WordPress, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine) are very scalable. As a matter of fact, the only limit to a website's functionality is the creativity of the client and/or developer (server capacity certainly can be a limit, too; however, one can always implement load-balanced servers, etc. to fix this issue).

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: If you or your client requires more powerful functionality within a website using a WCMS, scalability is not a problem and is oftentimes easier than trying to hand code the upgraded functionality. WCMSs can also be upgraded when new versions are released which will almost always introduce new functional possibilities.

For a client: Although your design may need to be updated in the future, you should almost always be able to upgrade your website's WCMS. This means that you probably won't need to "throw your website away" in a few years since your website will still be running on the latest and greatest WCMS build. Oh, if only we were able to upgrade our cars, computers, TVs, and toasters so easily.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: As long as you do a good job on your client's website, chances are that they will hire you again in the future to upgrade their WCMS and possibly add new functionality to their website.

For a client: Aside from refreshing your website's design and paying to have your WCMS upgraded (you probably shouldn't attempt to do this on your own if you have little experience with programming), you won't need to spend money on a brand new website in the future. Since your WCMS will be up-to-date, you can (more than likely) build off of what you have.

8. Multi-user, community capabilities

Another significant reason to use a WCMS is because their framework gives multiple users and authors the ability to add and edit content on your website. Even better, different users can have different permissions. For example, say you want to hire several writers to publish a weekly article in their individual column; however, you don't want to give them permission to edit the information which you (or other people) have published. With WordPress, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine, this is as easy as creating the user and assigning their permissions.

With most WCMSs (and with some customization), your website can power the content creation and content organization for large communities!

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: WCMSs are packaged with the core functions needed to develop a multi-user, community-driven website; this will save you a significant amount of time since community-driven websites are oftentimes complicated to develop.

For a client: Easy management of users through the use of assignable permissions; the more users on a website, the more content that can be published; ability to power large community-driven websites.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: If you've got the skills, multi-user and community-driven websites tend to cost more due to their complexity.

For a client: A WCMS will reduce the cost of developing a powerful multi-user, community-driven website.

9. Information stored in database

Although every WCMS comes packaged with template files, all data is stored in a MySQL database(s). This makes it possible to edit your website's information from within a web browser (instead of a bulky application such as DreamWeaver). It also allows you to edit your website's information from anywhere that has an Internet connection and a web browser.

That being said: It is extremely important that you (or your developer) backup your WCMS's MySQL database(s) on a regular basis. To do this, either: create a cron job; if your hosting company allows it, have them schedule a service to backup your database once or twice per day; finally (our favorite), use an application such as Navicat to backup your databases locally (on your computer) and back those up on another hard drive once per day. We use Mac OS X's Time Machine feature to automate the backup of our local backups for us. You can never be too careful!

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: Aside from the CSS files (and perhaps some template, plugin, and module files), you won't have to mess around with too many files. A lot of the development can be done within the WCMS interface itself (depending on the website/application).

For a client: As mentioned above, you will be able to access and operate your website from anywhere in the world as long as there is an Internet connection and a web browser.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a client: Since you can access the back end of your website from any Internet-capable location in the world, you won't need to spend money on a laptop or an external hard drive to lug your files around.

10. Support community

With a non-WCMS integrated website, there is oftentimes no documentation nor support community to help if you encounter a problem (developer or client). Thankfully, most modern WCMSs have excellent documentation as well as an extremely dedicated and passionate support community. However, in the rare instance when you can't find an answer in the documentation or support community, Google, Yahoo, and MSN will more than likely have the answer you are looking for.

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: In case you get stumped with the WCMS, you can read its documentation or use its support community to help you solve your problem. If you're going to post a question in a forum: First search within the forum to make sure that your question hasn't already been asked (it probably has); If it hasn't been asked, then be as descriptive as possible with your question. Developers usually love to help other developers, however, it can be frustrating when someone asks a question without doing their own due diligence first (especially if the question is a common one).

For a client: Sometimes developers are busy and can't get to your problem right away - this is why documentation and support communities can prove to be an invaluable asset for clients as well.

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: What if a problem proves to be too complex for you to fix? You aren't going to get paid until you deliver what was promised to your client. Documentation and support communities should instill confidence that you will be able to complete your projects and get paid even if you get stuck on something.

For a client: You won't need to pay your developer every time you run into a problem. Even with little programming knowledge, there are some things that you can fix with just a little guidance from someone within your WCMS's support community.

11. Search Engine Friendly

Last but not least, most modern WCMSs can be configured to be Search Engine Friendly (SEO Friendly). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is extremely important in the websites of today. Many small businesses and startups rely on search engines to direct targeted traffic to their website. Without a SEO Friendly website/WCMS, it's going to be very difficult for your target audience to find you in the search engines.

If you don't know a lot about SEO Friendly website design, then take a look at our article, "Essential Guide to Creating SEO Friendly Website Design". Also, visit SEOBook.com (which, in our opinion, is one of the best Search Engine Optimization resources on the web).

WordPress, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine are all SEO Friendly WCMSs.

How this will make your life easier

For a developer: WCMSs usually come with plugins or modules which assist in making a website SEO Friendly (WordPress, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine do this); this will save you a considerable amount of time and will also make it easier to sell a WCMS to a prospective client. More and more people are demanding SEO Friendly websites, so it's very important that your websites are SEO Friendly.

For a client: WordPress, Drupal, and ExpressionEngine can be configured with SEO plugins which will allow you to do things such as add and edit unique meta information on each page. In the past, you had to manually edit each file's meta information. However, with a modern WCMS, you can edit the meta information within the WCMS's interface. No more file editing!

How this will make your wallet fatter

For a developer: As mentioned above, more and more people are looking for SEO Friendly websites. By marketing your websites as WCMS-ready and SEO Friendly, you're staying ahead of the curve.

For a client: By having a website with a SEO Friendly WCMS, you're already increasing the chances of possessing better rankings in the search engines. Of course, there is a lot more to SEO than having a SEO Friendly website; however, having a SEO Friendly website is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign.

Got a WCMS-ready website? Get one.

Whether you're a freelance web developer or a web development company searching for a more efficient workflow, or an individual, company, or corporation interested in a new website, having a website with a modern WCMS will make your life easier and your wallet fatter.

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  • "46% of shoppers reported they exclusively use their mobile device to conduct pre-purchase research for local products and services." - Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study
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