When I first started my business, I thought projects would be clearly defined as web design or SEO. Oh was I wrong. Projects, like clients, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. What may start out as a simple SEO project may lead into a full-blown website development. And this migration isn’t because I’m pushing web design on clients, it’s because the client has significant limitations with their existing website.
Since I run into this often, I’m sure the average website owner does too. If you’re trying to decide between updating your existing website or moving towards a full website design, I’d encourage you to ask yourself five quick questions.
1. Do You Have a CMS Package?
If you’re wondering what the heck a CMS package is, it means content management system. Which really refers to a user friendly way to update your website. And when I say user friendly, I mean easy enough that the average person could update page text, write a blog post, and modify an image.
Popular flavors of CMS consist of open source WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. I am a WordPress girl and have dedicated by firm to creating WordPress websites and supporting WordPress users. That being said, Joomla and Drupal are also good packages and both have their place in the market. Each CMS package have different niches they fill and each can be an excellent solution for creating a new website.
Do people really use CMS for website design? Yep and way more than you think. WordPress powers 14.7% of the top million websites in the world. And 22 out of every 100 new active domains in the US are running WordPress.
I digressed a bit. The point I wanted to make is that CMS packages give you control over your website and your online marketing. If you’re stuck living with an HTML website that is impossible to update, then you have a problem.
2. Is Your Website SEO Friendly?
This is a huge factor if you rely on your website to generate traffic through organic search. One of the core reasons I love WordPress is because it is very user friendly. If configured properly, it will create search engine friendly URLs, alt tags, unique page descriptions and titles, XML sitemaps, and the beloved H1 tags and bolded text. All are needed for courting Google and Bing properly. WordPress makes it very easy to stay compliant with search engine rules and helps guide you along the way.
If you can’t answer that question yourself, go to WebsiteGrader.com and see how they grade your website. My website is a 99/100. Most I query are a 50/100. If you’re less than 90, you have problems.
3. Is Your Website Functionally Robust?
Complete a list of functional desires and compare it to what you currently have in place. Can your website manage your wish list without consuming your entire marketing budget in code changes? Can you add to this functionality or do you have to turn to a high priced coder each week?
Now take your requirements list and compare that list to WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. One of these CMS solutions will meet your needs and all are excellent choices. Especially if you’re currently stuck with an HTML website.
Remember the usage numbers I provided for WordPress? You’re probably wondering why it’s so popular? There are over 15,000 plugins available for WordPress and that means 15,000 opportunities to add to the core functionality WordPress offers. Many of these are free and they usually have an easy one click install right from the admin panel. Good stuff for me and the million other WordPress users.
4. Are You in Charge of Changes?
Do you control your website? That may seem like a silly question, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t know exactly who created their original website, where they are, or how to reach them. Another frequent compliant I hear is the developer has a 30 day backlog and a simple text changes cannot be made for 45 days.
That, my friends, is a major problem. Internet marketing is fast paced. Last year Google made 500 changes to their algorithm, which means we webmasters needed to also adjust. If you can’t get a hold of your webmaster or if you have no access to the website, you’ll fall behind on search engine compliance and you’ll also be a lager to your competition. The goal of CMS based websites is to keep you in control.
5. Is it Easy to Use?
Assuming you are in control of your pages and you can access the backend to make modifications, is it easy to do? Can you figure out how to update text, add a page, or create a blog post? Can you add images, products, or change your navigation structure? You should be able to if your website is built within a CMS solution.
But I caution you on picking your developer and making sure they fully understand the CMS package. Back in December I wrote a blog post about my sister’s experience with selecting a WordPress designer. The post Fifteen Questions to Ask Your Future Website Designer goes into how she had a pretty blog that didn’t quite the level she was expecting. Needless to say, my development team rebuilt the entire thing for her this month because the original designer did not code to WordPress best practices. He hardcoded a ton of functionality that should have used WordPress’ user-friendly menus and widgets. It’s been eight months since she received the original design and after months and months of frustration, she is just now capable to making changes.
My sister’s project was a worst-case scenario and this is typically not the case. Generally when you hire a reputable designer for WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal – you actually receive a very user-friendly website.
If you answered no to any of the above questions, consider moving to a CMS. And don’t forget to locate a reputable website designer. Review WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal to see which CMS package you like best. Ask around and review some website portfolios. You’ll find someone you like and the money will be well spent. You’ll end up with a SEO friendly website, that looks modern, and that you can actually update yourself. All very good things.