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7 benefits of using an Open Source CMS


16. January 2010 17:19

With both large and small organisations turning to open source content management solutions (CMS) including high profile websites like Whitehouse.gov, we look at the some of the benefits of using an open source CMS.

Floppy disk dismantled

  1. No propriety license fees - More development time and money can go on creating a beautiful website than on the CMS.
  2. High quality and stable software - Many hours of development have gone into building open source software by a community of skilled and dedicated programmers.
  3. Safe and secure - Generally if security holes are discovered software patches for open source software are released very quickly.
  4. Customisable - Because the source code is accessible, there are always plenty of plug-ins contributed by the community to add functionality to open source CMS.
  5. Large communities - Generally open source projects have a large active community who can help you solve problems.
  6. Source code is freely available - Should you ever need to tinker with the core software you have access to the code.
  7. Not locked into a single vendor - Other developers can easily extend or update your website should you ever need to.

Picture used under Creative Commons from Rob Hayes

Basic Guide to Editing your Website


29. December 2009 18:33

CMS content tree

Making changes to your website when you have a Content Management System (CMS) couldn’t be easier!

When your website goes live you will be issued with a unique username and password to access to your control panel.

Once you’ve logged in you’ll see a content tree on the left-hand side that represents the pages and hierarchy of your website.

By right-clicking the Home icon with your mouse you’ll access a menu that will allow you to reorder the pages on your website navigation.

By right-clicking an individual web page underneath the home page you’ll be able to revert any changes you make to that page to a previous version just in case you make a change and then need to undo it.

 

The Web Page Editor

Selecting a page in the tree will allow you to edit that page in the main editor (see below) which is as easy as typing a letter in a word processor like Microsoft® Word.

You’ll be able to modify the text on your web pages, change the style of the text, add and change pictures, insert tables, bullet lists and links etc.

CMS editor

The Editor Toolbar

The editor toolbar is very simple to learn.  Apart from the usual bold, delete, anchor and insert image icons, the three icons on the left are worth explaining further.
The save button Save button saves your changes, but doesn’t update the live site.  The second button Save and publish button saves your changes and publishes your changes to the live website.  The third iconPreview button along previews your changes so you can check them before you publish if you wish.

CMS toolbar

The Media Section

The Media section allows you to manage the files and pictures you upload to use on your website.  You access the Media section via the pane at the bottom left of your CMS window.  These will then be available to add to your web pages via the editor.

Media tree

Why do I Need a Website for my Business?


30. May 2009 14:40

Some businesses even today don’t see the value or need for a website.  Here are a number of reasons to help make that decision easier.

Keep up with the competition

More and more businesses have websites compared to a few years ago, so the chances are most of your competition have websites too.  Having a website allows your customers or potential customers to find and browse your products or services at their own leisure, and potentially find out a lot more information than they would through other forms of communication. 

Cost effective advertising

Designing and printing professional-looking catalogues and brochures is an expensive job, and when your products or services change you need to reprint them.  The cost of building and maintaining a website has fallen over the last few years as the industry has started to mature and the competition has grown.
If you opt for a content management system, then you’ll be able to update your website yourself!

Attract new customers

Whether your business sells directly to consumers or to other businesses, the volume of business done over the web continues to climb year upon year.  Many people now use a search engine such as Google to source information, products or services. 

In order to tap into this potential market you first need to have a website from which you can start to build your online presence.

If you are still unsure whether there is money to be made, don’t believe the hype, ask your customers!

Sell your products or services to a larger audience

The web has opened up a whole new market place for many businesses that used to only offer their products and services to customers in their local vicinity.  Many companies now successfully sell their products over the internet to a national or even international audience that just wasn’t possible before.

What’s more, creating an ecommerce website isn’t as complicated or as expensive as it used to be.

Improve your competitive advantage

The web has started to level the playing field.  A well designed and optimised website will allow a small company to compete with much larger companies online.  The web has a much lower cost of entry allowing you more room to shout about your products and compete with the big guys.

Your online presence is always available 24/7

You may not answer the phone or your emails around the clock, but with a website your products or services are online 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  We all lead such busy lives that it is entirely possible that your customers might want to research or purchase your products or services outside your normal opening hours.

Publish an FAQ on your site

How many hours a week do you spend answering the same customer queries by email or telephone?
If you had an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your website you could direct your customers to your FAQ page and save yourself a lot of time and effort.


If you’re coming around to the idea of getting a website built for your business, make sure you read this article to help make you aware of the cost of maintaining your website once you’ve had it built.

Determine Your Long-Term Website Total Cost of Ownership


5. May 2009 15:02

Your website is a shop window for your business, which will need to grow and change with your business and be able to inform your customers of your latest products or services, news, awards etc.

A common pitfall sometimes overlooked by new website owners is the on-going cost of ownership. There are very few website owners who will be happy leaving their website unchanged since the day it went live, but they don’t often factor in the cost of maintaining and keeping the website up-to-date. 
Likewise many people forget that a website will not magically sell itself.  Time and money will need to be invested in search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) in order to bring new customers in.  The same can be said for retaining existing customers, where keeping a database of names and addresses can be very beneficial to communicate with your existing client base.

If you are looking to get a website built or re-designed it makes a lot of sense to spend a few minutes thinking about the total cost of ownership (TCO).  How much will your website actually cost beyond the initial design and build stage?

You should consider the following: 

  • Website design & build
  • Search engine optimisation (on-page and off-page) – Off-page SEO is an on-going specialist task which will help your site in Google’s “organic” listings
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) – Pay per click advertising e.g. Google Adwords
  • Website maintenance – Updating the site text, adding new sections etc
  • Content management systems – Enabling you to update the website yourself
  • HTML newsletters design, build and broadcast costs

Some web design companies will offer all of these services, whereas some agencies will specialise in only certain areas. 
It makes sense to look at the track record of companies you hire in order to make sure not only you can work with them, but that they can work with other agencies you hire to deliver the type of service you require, in the time-frames your business demands.

Introduction to Content Management Solutions


23. April 2009 14:38

The idea behind a content management system or CMS is to enable websites to be updated easily without the need to have any knowledge of how to write and update web pages using HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Unlike HTML which is a standard as defined by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), content management systems are not, and because of this they vary a lot. Some are open-source and are free to download, install and use, whereas some are bespoke implementations created for especially for specific websites or organisations. None are created the same and all have strengths and weaknesses.

Basic Elements of a CMS

A content management system usually has a log-in area, usually a web interface where you log-in to modify the website content or upload documents/images to the website. When you save your pages they normally get saved into a database, which will store a lot, if not all, of your websites’ content.

The actual web-facing part of your site, that visitors see when they type a domain name into their web browser, “looks” at the database of content, and gets the content for each particular page when it is requested by a visitor.

Most pages on your website will probably use a common CMS template; this template features all the elements of your site that don’t change from page to page. The template also features empty slots for your page text and images etc. These slots are filled from the content in the database depending which page you request.

Content management systems are really good if you want to be able to modify your website content on your own, and you don’t have any web page authoring experience. However the amount of work required building a CMS onto your site is quite substantial and therefore expensive, and as such you should have a good think about how often you will actually make changes to your site and therefore benefit from a content managed web solution.

Downsides of CMS

Because of the complexity of CMS however, you might find that you aren’t able to change absolutely everything on your website through the content management interface. So it’s important to define your requirements prior to CMS development, as such modifications may be costly and time-consuming once the development has begun.

Content management systems can be written in different programming languages and because of this most are restricted to a specific type of web server/web hosting platform, they will probably have been built for one flavour of database too, so if you plan on using your existing web hosting you may find you need to upgrade or change hosting arrangements, or host your website with the company who is building it for you.

Search Engine Marketing and CMS

A lot of content management systems while enabling you to edit your own website weren’t designed to allow search engines to easily index your website. In a competitive market place, where most people use search to find everything, it is paramount that your website, content managed or not, doesn’t hinder search engines like Google, Yahoo and Live from indexing your web pages and getting your products and services found.

There are lots of techniques for helping a search engine to index your site, and these go far beyond meta tags, which are considered obsolete by most modern search engines, so make sure you ask the right questions before you choose a content managed solution.