I Want a Website I can Update Myself

Web designers hear this a lot: “I want a website I can easily update”.

Easy, is relative. What’s easy for some isn’t easy for everyone.

Some assume this means they need to learn HTML. Some decide to get a copy of Adobe Dreamweaver. Some look for free web design software or even web-based template sites they can modify.

Some turn to solutions such as WordPress, Joomla, or other Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS does have a lot of benefits over the other options:

  • They are customizable
  • They can be made search engine friendly (SEO)
  • Once installed, they typically require little to no HTML knowledge for updates
  • They are flexible

By flexible, I mean: we can get it to do things it wasn’t originally designed to do. For example, WordPress is typically thought of as blogging software. However, with the use of 3rd party plugins, you can add features like shopping carts and forums. Joomla doesn’t come with a calendar or photo gallery, but there are 3rd party extensions you can install that will provide them.

While these are great programs to have, there are things you, as a website owner, need to be aware of. Because although these programs are designed to make it easy for you to update, they still tend to add a new layer of complexity to your site and sometimes your life.

Why?

  1. Because using them involves software and a database (or databases)
  2. Because software and databases are more complicated than static HTML pages.
  3. Because it also adds another layer of potential insecurity to your site.
  4. Because you will need an expert on hand if something goes wrong; experts that are a little more pricey than someone who only creates static (non-database-driven) websites.

So take this into consideration when asking for a site you can update yourself. Personally, I still prefer these for my clients than websites that let you pick a template (because that code is typically ugly, especially to search engines, and now your site looks like everyone else’s).

My main point is this: having a website you can update yourself, or having features like forums, shopping carts, blogging software, and more are wonderful things. Just remember that there will not always be quick and easy fixes if something goes wrong. At the very least, you will still want to keep an expert on hand who can handle the more complicated features of the site.

And like all software, always keep it up to date! Stay in the developer’s mailing list for the program you installed and for the develolpers’ of all 3rd party plugins. Otherwise, you may as well hang a sign on your website that says, “Hack me”.

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