How many pages does your website have? Five? 10? 40? The truth is, the more pages that you have, the more expensive and time consuming your website updates will get if your site isn’t properly setup for content management. For example, if you wish to change the phone number on your website which appears on the bottom of over 40 pages, your webmaster will have to open up 40 files and manually change out your phone number. This will cost you quite a bit for such a small change.
What is Content Management?
Content management is the process of separating website content with its design elements. To better grasp this concept, let’s dissect a typical webpage:
1. Header – This is typically where your logo and your navigation will appear.
2. Content – This is where your text and images will appear.
3. Footer – This is where your contact and copyright information typically appears.
To keep the website consistent, we are going to separate these three elements by making them separate files or putting them separately into a database. For this example, we are going to put them into separate files (header.inc, mycontent.inc, footer.inc). Now let’s put it all together with the help of server-side programming:
Within this page’s code, it calls to “include” header.inc, mycontent.inc and footer.inc. So now going back to our first example regarding the phone number change, let’s say that we have setup our 40 page website with content management in mind. Instead of your webmaster having to manually open up 40 files, they will only have to open up one file to make this change (footer.inc). Once saved and uploaded back onto the server, the change will appear throughout the entire site, which will save lots of time and money on website maintenance.
Planning Ahead For The Future.
A majority of the time pages may look inconsistent on sites not setup for content management. This in turn looks unprofessional to your site’s visitors and may not give them the confidence to make a purchase. If you get a different designer to add a new page, this can also add to the inconsistency and lead to a website maintenance nightmare.
With a content managed website, expanding your website gets easier down the road if you want to add new pages. A site setup with content management in mind allows all new pages to be consistent with the rest of the website. Not to mention that it saves a lot of time for your web designer as well.
Now let’s say that your site is looking a bit outdated. No problem if your site is setup for content management. Since you have separated your content from your design, all you will have to modify are your design elements (header and footer). This also relieves the headache from your web designer since they won’t have to spend too much time retrieving the content from your old website.
Database-Driven Content Management Systems
In the above example, we separated the content and the design elements into files. Unfortunately, this can get kind of hard to manage, when you have numerous files on your server. Therefore, it is a good practice to put your content into a database so that it can be easily managed without the clutter. There are a lot of content management systems or CMSs out there that provide certain functionality. Among the vast selection, there are three that are widely supported, constantly improving and the best part is, they’re free!
Drupal is a feature-rich open source content management system. Among its features, it provides search engine friendly urls, blogging functionality, discussion forum support and tracking and statistics reports. This CMS is not platform dependent, so you can install it on just about any server operating system. It is also database independent, meaning that you can install it on MySQL, PostgreSQL or any other SQL database.
Joomla is another great open source content management system that is setup best for community-based functionality. It features search engine friendly urls, a simple installer, document management and a wide range of community support. Out of the box, Joomla is not setup for blogging, but that feature can be added with their extensive extension directory full of great add-ons.
Wordpress is another open source CMS built originally as a blogging platform, but evolved to be a great content management system. Out of the box, blogging functionality is setup by default and its interface makes it relatively easy to get started. It provides the ability to setup search engine friendly urls and provides a file structure that is easy on the developer. With a wide-range of supported plugins, this CMS can provide just about any type of functionality.
Content management should be an essential step when you design your website. When it comes to growth and page consistency, you will be ready. Not only is it a good practice, it will save you a lot of time and money down the road.