If you’ve shopped web services at all, you’ve probably come across WordPress. It is the most popular software to power websites. While WordPress began as a blogging platform, it grew into a fully-functional Content Management System (CMS).
When I started using WordPress in 2005, it was a godsend. I recommended it often and loudly to friends and clients. It allowed clients to update content on their own sites and blog easily.
And this is why my present advice is unconventional. Shouldn’t you want a database-driven WordPress system that helps you update content on your site? Sure. Sounds like a great idea.
But what I’ve watched happen over the years is that while clients labor over ideas for the launch of their website, once it is built, the clients themselves rarely make changes.
I’ve built dozens of sites for clients and friends alike and taken the extra time to set up WordPress so that they could edit the site themselves. Yet still, I ended up doing all the edits myself.
The problem is easy to understand: those clients were already busy with their own business. They didn’t have time to learn a new system and because they didn’t need a lot of changes nor create a lot of content, they didn’t log in frequently enough to learn the system. It was just faster to ask me, their webmaster, to make the changes.
We’ve added to that problem exponentially because as WordPress has become more sophisticated, we’ve begun building more complex sites with it. I often build sites on which the content for different pages is updated different ways. So not only would my clients need to learn a new system that they’ll rarely use, they’d have to learn how different pages of their site are edited differently.
Often this helps me update content for my clients, but rarely do my clients spend much time in WordPress.
Time is the key concern here.
As WordPress has become the most popular CMS in the world, it has become target of attacks and victim of its own vulnerabilities. When I was proselytizing for WordPress like crazy, it was a small flexible system that helped me empower my clients. But since then (while I still believe it to be simple at heart), it has become a complex system that requires a manager to check in regularly to run updates, clear spam, secure it, and run speed tests. If you don’t log in weekly to run all these updates, then any “simple” content update you have will require much more time to execute and often needs a developer to fix problems that have arisen.
I know my clients don’t have time to do all that because when I login to their sites, I see the updates to run and the spam queue to clear. So while I push my current clients to hire me to run all their updates, I urge new clients to consider what their actual needs are. Let me walk you through that decision tree.
Do you even need a CMS?
To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. WordPress has become a hammer of the web.
We all have toolkits. Though we work from your requirements, we don’t necessarily change our toolkit. On one hand, that’s great. It’s better to do business with a WordPress specialist than someone who says they’ll build a site in whatever platform you want. (I worked with one of those non-specialists. It was a mess.)
The first thing to establish before they swing their hammer at your screw is: do you even need a CMS? Do you need WordPress?
Culturally, we love throwing features at people to make a sale, but I’m sensitive the amount of details that small businesses can handle. I want to keep my clients focused on what they need absolutely. Features are options. Features are details. What are your requirements? This is why during the Kick-Off stage of your website project, I ask you: what is the purpose of your website?
Here are the follow-up questions: Do you need to update content on it? Will you have time?
If your business is a venue with an event calendar, yes, you need to update your website, so you need a CMS. If you need an active blog, you need a CMS. Or even if you just know you’re going to have a lot of updates to your site, you need a CMS. But in many of these cases, you’re not going to be the one using it. Your agency or webmaster is.
And in most cases, your website probably won’t need to be updated (at least not for a while after launch). If that’s the case, then you don’t need the extra overhead that comes with a CMS.
The decision tree:
If you have a requirement to change content on your site and can afford to pay an agency or freelancer to log in to your site every week (for security updates and spam cleaning) and to make all the changes (all the changes, every blog post, every comma, every line of code), then WordPress is a great choice.
If you have a requirement to change content on your site and can’t afford to pay someone else to login every week and make all of your changes, use Squarespace.
If you have no requirement to edit content on your site right away, consider a single page, flat HTML site.
“Seriously, do not start down to the path to a website for your small business until you read Todd A’s book.” — Amazon review
Check out good.simple.open for more ideas about doing better work.