My company, Teledavis, LLC, helps faith communities and other not-for-profits with inexpensive and easy-to-edit websites. When I began this business I used web-based templates, like Google Sites, and free WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web page editors, like Mozilla’s KompoZer. I have come to realize, however, that such tools are not as useful for tending websites as are content management systems.
What’s a content management system? A CMS is a software package that helps people work as a team to maintain a website, and interact with visitors who can submit input. For small organizations with modest budgets and staff, the three biggest challenges to maintaining an effective website are:
- technical training for the people who post new content on pages
- organizing people so that fresh content (text, pictures, videos, sound files) keeps getting produced
- acquiring tools that provide for interaction between the public and the website team
Here’s why CMSes solve these three challenges better than other website editing solutions:
- A CMS facilitates cooperation among a team of editors because each user gets a certain level of access and is accountable to the administrator for his/her input.
- A CMS removes concerns about the look of the site, so that the team can concentrate on posting fresh content.
- A CMS facilitates user input in the form of comments, forums, shopping forms, applications, polls, etc.
There are a number of free CMSes. For a while I used Drupal, and found it extremely flexible. Learning how to construct a Drupal website was not the main challenge for me. Rather, maintaining the site was, because updating the components of a Drupal system demands careful, ongoing attention.
I have come to prefer WordPress, which is a lean and very user friendly free CMS. WordPress, was first used as a blogging tool to exhibit and archive ongoing posts. But WordPress can also be used to edit a traditional website with numerous static pages. All that is required is to move the blog article page off the front position and promote a static page to the home position. This is a simple adjustment.
If you choose WordPress to maintain your organization’s website, I think you’ll like it as I do, for the following reasons:
- It’s free!
- It’s control interface is nicely designed, easy to learn and speedy to use.
- It’s easy to update.
- It makes editing pages very simple, with your choice of a WYSIWYG editor, or an HTML editor.
- It has oodles of themes, many of them free, which allow you to change the look of your site in a jiffy.
- It has hundreds of free plugins which connect users automatically to social networks such as Facebook, Flickr, and LinkedIn.
- It has excellent SPAM control and control over user permissions.
I invite you to read my upcoming posts about the “front end” (public view) and the “back end” (inner control room) of a WordPress website to see whether your organization might want to use WordPress to design and maintain its website.