In the early days of the World Wide Web, to have a website or page on the Internet meant you needed to understand a special kind of document programming language called HTML.
With HTML you would type in some instructions, or tags, and in between the tags you'd type the information you wanted to have in your document. HTML tags allowed you to do special things like set the text style to bold or italic, create headings and links to other pages and even insert images into your documents.
In their simplest form, HTML tags allow people to easily create a basic website with a handful of pages with minimal effort.
With ever more complicated requirements for websites; more pages, more links and more advanced layouts, it was widely recognised that the traditional ways of creating & managing websites by individually editing every page were too time, money and labour expensive.
What large organisations have known for years, about the smart way to create and manage websites, is now available to small and medium enterprises.
The secret? ... Content Management Systems; also called CMS
A Brief History of Building Websites
As people began to get more creative with the appearance of their documents (using colour, setting up multi-column layouts or even expanding menus) the instruction part of the HTML (the tags) became more and more complicated. Software applications like Dreamweaver and Frontpage were developed to try and simplify the process of creating documents. Even Microsoft Word was enhanced to provide the option of saving a document in HTML format - ready for uploading onto a website.
Unfortunately these tools only addressed the design of the website and not the management of multiple web pages. For example, adding new menu options to navigation often meant having to change every single page and when your website is bigger than 30 pages this is a lot of work and depending on the care taken during updating the files depends on whether you end up with a broken website.
As any experienced website owner knows, making sure that you can easily grow and change your website is vital. It keeps your existing clients interested in what you're doing and helps demonstrate to potential customers that you have an active and thriving business that can be trusted.
It was the large multinational companies, libraries and universities who first realised that there was a need for better support with large and expanding websites. Recognising that the simplistic approach of "hand-coding" each web page could no longer be sustained, especially when it took more than a day or two to get a new web page in place, was unsatisfactory, so began to design and build solutions for this problem.
Initially, Content Management Systems where software applications designed only to suit the organisation or purpose that they were built specifically for. Eventually, software development companies realised that the problem of managing websites effected medium sized businesses too, so created applications that could be used by businesses in any industry and later to store and manage documents, images and multimedia files.
Reigning In Content Overload Challenges
A Content Management System handles the website content management problem in the same way that many productivity improvement techniques deal with time and task management. They set out to break down the task ahead into easily manageable chunks.
A CMS literally allows you to divide up a webpage into areas of functionality. So, you might have an area for a headline story, one for a displaying an item you sell via your website, another area for an affiliate advertisement and even another for where the menu will be displayed - the choices are almost endless.
Another important feature of a CMS is that it lets you create the overall look and feel (the design and appearance) for the entire website once and have it used by each and every web page. This means that whenever you feel like giving your website a new look, you simply change the design files in your CMS and the appearance of every page of your website are automatically changed.
The most important website question an Entrepreneur can ask is "Is there a way I can add new information to my website without having to learn specialist skills or getting a Website Designer to do it?"
The answer is YES. Have your website built so that it uses a CMS.
What to look for in a CMS
When selecting a CMS to use for your website, it can be helpful to consider how it will impact on you and your business if you take control over the maintenance of your website. It becomes another task that you or your employees will have to fit into your workday.
Look for a CMS that has -
- a simple way to edit the information in any of your existing web pages that also gives you some control over text design like adding colour and making words or paragraphs italic or bold;
- an easy way to insert images and links anywhere into any of your web pages;
- a straight forward way to add new menu options to navigation, as well as rename, delete or rearrange your navigation whenever you need to;
- a way for controlling when a new web page becomes available to view (is published) on your website and a way to schedule when you no longer want something displayed;
- the ability to create your own filing system of folders and categories for your page information;
- a way of creating URLs that are search engine and people friendly, rather than a long line of random numbers and letters;
- the capability to add on new features, such as event calendars, forums, shopping carts, blogs, etc without having to rebuild your existing website;
- a simple way to swap an old design for a new design without effecting menus or web pages;
- reliable and secure programming practices used in it's creation to protect your website and information from hackers; and
- has an easy to use back-up process which will ensure your website is fully secured.
Entrepreneurs who take full advantage of what the Web has to offer to maximise their business exposure recognise that their website needs to be constantly evolving. Whether it's to do article marketing, publish blogs or simply to announce and market services and products, you can no longer afford to wait two or three weeks for a Web Designer to become available to update your website.
It's not just people who enjoy fresh and updated content; search engines such as Google calculate your search engine ranking based on how often they see new information being put on your website. Which means that unless your website uses a CMS and you're regularly updating our web pages, it's likely that you're website is slowly but surely slipping down through the search engine rankings and off the first page.
Creating Business Value Through a CMS
In a previous article we made the bold statement - "If your website's purpose is merely to help you keep up with your competitors, then you might want to consider getting rid of it altogether." ...And it's still true! Your business must have a specific need for a website to make it worth your time, money and effort.
A CMS gives Entrepreneurs the opportunity to think about how they would like their business to run, without being constrained by what they can do on their websites. Through the addition of lead generation, blogs, payment systems, multimedia delivery and more, a CMS-backed website offers virtually infinite business capabilities and possibilities at very low prices when compared to what was previously possible.
If having fresh website content is an important aspect of you Internet strategy (and it should be), then you will absolutely benefit from having a website built with a Content Management System.
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