Should you buy an off-the-shelf content management system or do-it-yourself? CRAIG REARDON
By Craig Reardon
Readers of this blog would be familiar with my bullishness about business owners and managers adopting and utilising content management systems (CMSs).
The theory of course is that you can save a small fortune on the cost of third party designers and developers if you can alter your website’s content yourself using what are know relatively easy-to-use CMSs.
The great news is that like most technology, the cost of a professional CMS has plummeted in recent years to be within the reach of even the smallest business.
But having access to great tools isn’t the end game; just like owning paints, an easel and paintbrush doesn’t make you Picasso.
What’s critical about using a CMS and all other web tools is understanding your own capabilities and limitations.
Pretty much anyone can alter a few lines of text and maybe add an economical but high quality image.
But how many are capable of building entire websites to a truly professional level? How many can layout a page to be attractive, concise, useable and optimised for search engines? How many can ensure that the site takes every opportunity to cross-sell and upsell related products? In other words, how many know how to build a website that will not only attract traffic but turn it into qualified leads and sales?
The answer lies in having a realistic understanding of what it takes to create a professional result.
Let me give you two recent examples.
Company A was in the security business. The business owner was very skilled with computers, having used them since high school to become a qualified engineer. We provided an estimate to provide a professional website solution and our price to establish a professional 12 page website – with all the tools and training they needed to be able to maintain the website themselves as required.
While the client was happy with the website solution and CMS we recommended, he was less enamoured with our (still very affordable) price to establish the website professionally. So he agreed to purchasing the CMS solution but declined our establishment of a completed website – which is of course his prerogative. Having had the solution demonstrated, he believed he was capable of the all important content preparation, population and optimisation tasks.
So we duly provided the solution and training and left him to his own devices, as agreed.
Twelve months later said client is on the phone.
“How is your website performing?” I asked, hoping for a positive response. “Well that’s the reason I called,” he said. Fearing the worst, I prodded further expecting a tirade of dissatisfaction.
But instead, I got quite a different response.
“Look Craig we love the solution and the training was great. It’s just that I haven’t been able to find the time to set up the site the way we wanted it. Would you be good enough to create the site like we initially planned?
My response was mixed. On the one hand I was delighted to be finally able to work on the completed site for the client. But on the other, I was disappointed that the client had missed out on 12 months worth of online promotion and productivity saving the website would have provided. Naturally we did the work and the client was both happy and relieved.
Company B took a similar approach with a different result. They too opted for the DIY approach. But their phone call was different.
“Craig we’ve built the site and it seems to have all the content we need, but it’s just not generating any business for us.”
A quick look at the ensuing result immediately demonstrated why.
The very first page of the website was filled with enormous multicoloured text that scrolled on forever. Instead of a clean, concise “bullet-point” approach to describing their key services, the ugly page rambled on through paragraph after paragraph of superfluous information in what was an assault on the eyeballs.
It appears the client had read every blog on the planet about how large, bold text and repetitive keywords would act as search engine magnets and increase traffic.
The ensuing page may well have attracted search engine bots to provide a high ranking, but no ordinary human would have the stomach to stick around the site long enough to take any meaningful or profitable action, save providing feedback of how to lose traffic nearly as quickly as gaining it.
The bottom line is that both businesses lost business due to false economising. Because Company A didn’t publish their website at all for 12 months, they also lost 12 months of qualified leads and search engine “momentum” – what could have amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost business.
While Company B did get their website online, it was a waste of time because the ensuing site was simply not professional enough to retain any traffic, again resulting in lost business opportunities.
The answer to both these scenarios is nothing to do with the recommended CMS solutions. It is entirely with the understanding of their own capabilities to produce a professional result.
In both cases the wiser and ultimately more profitable action would have been to have the resultant websites prepared by a professional. This would mean that the websites would have been operating smoothly from day one but still have the tools to make day-to-day amendments to the website – particularly as the professional would have laid out the pages in way that was easy to copy or at least model further pages on.
So before getting too excited about the tools your new website solution provides, consider both the time and opportunity cost of not having it established professionally from the outset.
Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au