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Real Time Web Presence
2/12/2004

After nearly a year, your website overhaul is complete and all agree the new site projects exactly the right image and message desired.  It took a lot of time and money to get there, not to mention complicated company coordination, but all are pleased.

Then, things change, as they inevitably do…

Within the first month, two executives whose pictures and bios are posted on the site resign and start their own company.  By the sixth week, a hot new product with a healthy margin contribution is added that is not yet featured on the website.  Then, a competitor comes out with a competitively priced me-too imitation, which they feature prominently on their website with other advertising.  After two months, there is a pricing change such that your customer service reps must fax revised price lists in response to all sales inquiries-whether by phone, web, or mail.

It’s clear you MUST change the site.

Then, your talented web designer quits and decides to devote his life to making sculpture.  Your IT staff has sufficient HTML programming expertise to make changes to the site, but everyone is tied up in implementing new ERP software across the enterprise.  Three months later, when IT finally makes the changes, the VP of Marketing complains that the site design was ruined when edits were made and a new web site design is needed…

Sound like a nightmare you have already lived through?  Indeed, any company website that isn’t powered by a full-featured content management system (CMS) is doomed to live out some version of this nightmare—sometimes again and again.  On the other hand, those who make wise CMS investment decisions are reaping the considerable benefits of a real time web presence that give an organization optimum ability to use its website to communicate to customers, prospects, shareholder, the press, etc.

What is CMS?  CMS products allow you to separate web design from web content.  This means you can make changes to the website’s content without compromising the basic design.  However, there are innumerable content management systems (CMS) products available in the marketplace and they vary widely in terms of just how well they make this separation and the flexibility that they provide.  Price tags vary widely too.  The cheapest systems do little more than allow users to change some unlimited amounts of verbiage within tight restrictions.  A budget CMS might only let you post additional press releases, for example.  On the other end of the spectrum are the so-called framework products that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and literally take years to implement fully.

CMS also has the potential to make IT bottlenecks a thing of the past because the better systems eliminate the need for much IT involvement, and can eliminate IT involvement altogether after some very initial decisions are made and implemented regarding CMS initial installations.  Those responsible for website maintenance can be entirely non-technical, because a good CMS has all the features needed to truly keep websites dynamic and fresh without any need for additional programming.  This means that with a good CMS, entirely non-technical users are able to do things like quickly add new blocks of content to pages, move and reorder pages within an existing site and add entirely new pages.  Unlimited website changes are made possible without violating the integrity of web design.  A good CMS will drive every inch of every page of a website, such that there are no inherent obstacles to web site revision.

The best CMS products are not only full-featured but can allow one to begin implementing site changes in-house and to transform a multi-tiered website fully in days, not weeks, and certainly not months.  The most flexible systems will allow unlimited numbers of content contributors to unlimited numbers for related sites, give straightforward pricing, and have no hidden costs.

Once good full-featured CMS is in place, the nature of website management changes.  Before implementing a CMS, web designers have more or less complete control over a static environment.  In this static world, every change to a website, even a word, typically entails some involvement by the web designer and a technical person adept at HTML and possibly other programming languages used in website development.  With CMS, web designers are required to think through initial designs to ensure they are elastic enough to accommodate the changes that the CMS is geared to include. 

The flip sire of this is that the better CMS products are steeped in the realities of website creation from a designer’s perspective.  Aquifer, for example, the CMS solution chosen by the Association of Professional Design Firms to power their public website, had a long development process that volleyed proposed CMS methods back and forth between teams of software developers and designers to come up with the best solution from both perspectives.  The upshot is that designers appreciate how Aquifer prevents sites from getting ugly, facilitates facelifts within hours and without IT involvement, and builds in effective content approval protocols to maintain site integrity.  IT /technical users, on the other hand, tend to appreciate its differentiation from other CMS solutions in how Aquifer dynamically generates every inch of every page of entire web sites, nonetheless using standard, readily available Microsoft technology. 

If your company has an Intranet, CMS products that enable one to revise Intranet, Extranet, and public sites simultaneously provide efficiencies that pay off in short order.  For example, a rigid CMS might let you get into each page that has price listings and make changes page by page. The more flexible CMS will let you in input such changes once and automatically update every page where this changed information is relevant.  Just as with any Windows-based software, the best CMS solutions let you get to where you want to go with the fewest clicks. 

If it takes months to master a CMS, it is probably of little value to the organization seeking a real time web presence.  Real Time’ updates to websites are easy for organizations that use a CMS to decentralize content contributions within pre-determined content approval protocols.  Few, if any, companies can muster multi-week CMS training across an enterprise.  While every software company claims to be “user-friendly,” with CMS solutions it is THE defining quality.

For more information contact info@aquifercms.com or 877.806.1274

Duane Franklet
Data Tracking Associates
duane@dtahou.com
713-630-0079
 

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