A content management system (CMS) is designed to help
organizations post, update and archive their stories and artwork on
the Web. Generally, there are multiple steps, and multiple
people involved in this process. There are authors and
editors, web designers, publishers, etc. The web designers
make templates that are the web pages themselves, without the
content. The authors write the content, which by magic
occuring within the CMS appear inside the holes in the web page once
the editors and publishers have thoroughly chewed through it.
Without a CMS, an author is stuck with modifying web pages, and
generally makes a mucky mess of something which was very pretty
The question is, when should you build, and when should
This answer is always obvious, isn't it? How can you build
when you can buy an effective solution with more features,
better support, upgrades, and
more? The answer is less obvious than you think, and it
may save you a lot of money.
First, you should consider what type of website you are
A high-end news site will require a high-end content management
system. If you are abcnews.com, you shouldn't read any
further. You need to look at companies like Vignette
and FileNET Corp.
These players are expensive. But it is worth knowing what they
give you for the 6 or 7 figure price tag you will pay:
- Workflow coordination, to get the raw material of articles,
photos and other content into the system;
- Permissions-based updating, to let users with different levels
of authority update a site to varying degrees;
- Visitor tracking, to provide feedback on how frequently and in
what order users view given pages;
- A repository of archived material;
- A search engine.
A Mid-Range Solution
Another way to go is with a company which will host a CMS system
in an Application Service Provider mode (ASP) like Atomz
Corp. It's a browser based system which starts at $20,000 per
year. It lets editors and writers with almost no HTML
expertise publish reasonable sites hosted on the vendor's machines.
The Atomz Publish Express system is a scaled back system that costs
about $4,000 per year, or a little more than $330 per month.
There are other solutions such as FatWire
which let you have your own system which costs in the neighborhood
of $100,000 depending upon how many people use it.
Roll Your Own
Finally, you can cut the monthly charges completely by rolling
your own. If your site only has a few places where content
frequently changes, and only one person is updating content you
should consider this. First, you'll have to put together a
database of your articles.
For this example, we'll use Microsoft Access, and for your
template editor use FrontPage.
First you will need to create an article table. The table
should have fields for the headline, byline, date, body, publish(yes/no),
and any other fields that you determine are needed. The good
news is that you can customize this part of the publishing process
yourself. The body field will be storing text, but that can
include HTML if you need to embolden words, or insert links.
If you become good at FrontPage, you can put all sorts of neat
formatting things in the text, and then cut and paste from the HTML
view of the page.
The next step is to create a template. This you do in
FrontPage. Layout your page just like any good
web-designer. Then use the menu item "Insert / Database /
Results...". This brings up a wizard which guides you
through linking your template to the database.
Once you have your template set, you can issue a few magic
incantations, and FrontPage will generate the HTML for you.
Now, everytime you create a new article, you can quickly go
through the same process, and generate the HTML.
You have none of the high-end features, but then again, you have
complete control over the page. And it's very cheap, and you
can do it in less than an afternoon.
A Higher-End Roll Your Own
If you have more than one person accessing the site, or you need
remote access, or you need some semblance of workflow, or some other
special considerations, you can still roll your own. However,
here I would hire a web developer. For something in the same
price range as buying just the basic FatWire package you can have a
custom site which most nearly matches the workflow of your people.