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construction-worker-with-planIn today’s world of readily available, fully-featured, open source content management systems, it can be argued that every website should be built using a CMS (content management system). Many of our counterparts in the web development industry use Drupal, Joomla, or WordPress for their website builds. This is a formula that works well in many situations, and for many clients, but is WordPress the answer to every project?

We find that it is best to ask some key questions before planning a site build around a CMS software package:

  • Will a large portion of pages on the website be updated regularly?
  • Is the client comfortable making their own updates?
  • Will the client maintain the SEO work that has been implemented when they later edit the website?
  • Will sections of the site require customization and features that require special edits in the CMS back-end code?
  • Will the website benefit from options like a built in blog or widgets, or would they remain unutilized and end up being dead weight?

We have found that in a majority of situations, a full CMS package is overwhelming, and unnecessary for the project requirements. Often the client only wishes to regularly update one page out of 15 (e.g. a news page), and doesn’t need the extra overhead that a package like WordPress imposes. For example, if one page on a site is being updated every two weeks, should the client pay for the extra time it takes to install, setup, search optimize, and customize a CMS installation, just for this functionality? Additionally, using a CMS package requires occasional software updates, and can expose a website to security holes that wouldn’t otherwise be an issue.

As an alternative, we have had great success using a custom-coded “mini-CMS” implementation for many of our clients. Not only does a custom-coded CMS keep things simple, it eliminates exposure to widely known security exploits, keeps costs down, allows for easy implementation of special features, and allows for direct control of all search optimization efforts.

Often a mini-CMS is as easy as a MySQL database connected to a password-protected WYSIWYG editor, allowing the customer to edit a desired page without having to learn and navigate a CMS backend. We have also used other creative mini-CMS solutions quite regularly, for example, allowing the client to add images to an SEO-optimized image gallery or add entries to a company news page, etc.

Using these customized CMS solutions, we are able to implement functionality requests without having to rely on plugins and widgets that may only accomplish part of the desired result; instead we are custom coding features exactly as required.

Sometimes it is easier to keep web development projects simple and custom – and we often find that customers are happily surprised by how easy it is to add to and edit their content with a custom mini-CMS solution.

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