Everyone knows what a web page is. Most people have at least an idea of what HTML is. But many people have never even heard of a CMS. CMS stands for Content Management System and they are quickly becoming the way all business websites are made. Take a look at what the top sites are using: http://trends.builtwith.com/cms
Choosing the right CMS for your business can be a difficult task if you are unaware of all their features and limitations. And while there are countless CMS out there, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Until recently, I was strictly a free (also known as 'open-source') CMS programmer. I built websites on all of the popular free CMS including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. My favorite was Get-Simple because it was small and fast but still had as many features as the more widely used systems, like Wordpress. For the past six months however, I have been apart of the Final Code programming team where we have developing our own CMS, "Total Control". Total Control is not a new CMS, but until recently, it was not available to the public. Over the next few months, I will be publishing a weekly blog focusing on Content Management Systems & E-Commerce Systems, since Total Control is actually both.
Today I want to talk about 3 common concerns expressed to a web developer from potential clients and business owners:
- "Do we have to install anything?"
- "Do we have to maintain it?"
- "How much does it cost?"
With most of the free or open-source CMS, you do have to install some software. And you aren't installing a simple program with a single click like your average PC or Mac program. A business or its web development company must purchase a server in order for their websites to be visible to the world on the Internet. A server is basically another computer in a big building with a whole bunch of other computers that are set up to allow the public to view certain files on the Internet. When your business purchases a server, it becomes the responsibility of that business to properly operate the server, or hire someone who can. Do you know what a LAMP stack is? Do you think .NET is the end of a website link? Does the acronym DNS make you think you shouldn't be reading this at work? If so, you probably aren't qualified to make that kind of decision. Even most of the local web development companies are understaffed in their server management departments. Instead, they buy pre-configured servers and spend hours a day on the phone with technical support.
The Final Code's l approach is a little bit different. Total Control is a hosted CMS. That means, we operate your servers. We monitor their uptime and performance 24 hours a day. You never have to install anything, and upgrades happen automagically. Our server started out as a blank system and has been modified over 15 years to be completely optimized to run our clients applications and websites, and nothing else. Most small web development companies simply can't afford to spend that much time structuring their web servers. Finding the kind of person needed to analyze your systems and then diagnose a solution and implement it in a timely manner is not an easy, or cheap, task for any company, IT or not.
The beauty of any CMS is its ability to allow almost anyone to add new content to a website. Content is pretty much anything and everything in a website. Pages, text, images, and links basically make up the bulk of what goes into a website. For years, it was an expensive and laborious undertaking to add a new page of content and it was always displayed in very basic layout. The modern CMS provides easy to use text boxes and common web page form elements, such as check boxes and buttons, to quickly add anything you feel your business website needs to convey to its visitors. Todays website visitors expect more than just basic text and a few pictures. Sideshows, extravagant galleries, textured buttons with lights and sounds, and giant event calendars are "keeping the web beautiful".
Custom features like those can take a long time to develop from scratch so web programmers around the world have united to create a plethora of open source (free) website add-on features. Some call them plug-ins, some call them modules or extensions, widgets and features. Whatever you call them, they all serve the same purpose: making your website provide as much relevant information as possible in an engaging way. Doing a simple search for Wordpress plug-ins will bring up a staggering number of results. There are litterally thousands of plug-ins. Many of them provide the same exact features as others. With that many possibilities and such small differences, no one, outside of a Wordpress (or Magento or Drupal or Joomla, etc.) expert can pick the perfect plug-in for your specific system. These plug-ins were not made to work with each other. They are all made to work with a CMS, but the developer of one plug-in living in California, will have no idea what the developer of another plugin living in Austrailia is doing. The plugins might be using different versions of Jquery, they might name a table the same, they could override the value of a constant. If that last sentence made no sense to you, and you are unwilling to learn what it means, you will not be able to make an informed decision on what types of plug-ins you need.
Total Control is not open source. No one is allowed to develop plug-ins or features for our CMS unless they are employed by The Final Code to do so. We have a single point of entry for all of our new code using an advanced repository architecture. That means, nothing goes onto our clients websites without the creator of Final Code's CMS approving the new feature himself and merging into all of our live websites. As I mentioned earlier, The Final Code automatically updates Total Control whenever there is a new version. Our customers would never know we upgraded if it weren't for the new features they get for free, and forever. We are constantly trying to add new features because we want every serious website owner to use it for their website. I worked in the open source market for a long time. I used at least fifteen different open source CMS or E-Commerce applications. Those systems are not built like Total Control. They are for hobbyists, amateurs, and students learning to program. Stay tuned for the next blog where we will discuss probably the biggest reason to avoid open source programming for your business website: SECURITY....