Hosted Website Content Management: Fast, Easy Deployment
Once you have your site coded (see Coding Your Web Site with Quality for more on that topic), you need to choose how those coded web pages are going to be delivered. The first fork in the road is to choose between:
- A static web site, which means just storing the web pages as files on a web server and delivering them directly to the browser.
- A content management system (CMS), which stores the site's contents in a database and creates pages dynamically.
Static Sites: Simple But Limited
A static site is the simplest to create and launch, and the least expensive to host. But it is a poor choice for all but the simplest sites. In the past, static sites were very common, but today they are rarely the best approach. Among their many limitations, static sites:
- Generally cannot be updated without dealing directly with the HTML code, making them hard for anyone but the coder to maintain.
- Do not support blogs or RSS feeds, cutting off one of the easiest ways to add content regularly and improve search engine optimization.
- Often require entry of the same content in multiple places, making it harder to update and often leading to inconsistencies within the site.
- Do not automatically create any pages, so every page on the site needs to be manually built.
Hosted vs. Self-Hosted CMS Choice
Assuming we've succeeded in dissuading you from putting up a static site, now you need to choose a content management system. There are literally hundreds of choices, but you can quickly narrow it down to a much smaller number.
The first big decision point is whether you are going to manage the software and its hosting yourself, or use a SaaS (software as a service) solution:
- A hosted (SaaS) CMS, such as Webvanta, LightCMS, SquareSpace, or Wordpress.com, is a self-contained solution that you manage via the web browser and is operated by a third party.
- A self-hosted CMS, such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, or Expression Engine, is a body of software that you download from the source, and then modify, upload to a server (which you typically rent from a hosted company), and manage on your own.
If you are a developer at heart, rather than a designer, like to be able to modify the back-end code, and have a budget of at least a few thousand dollars per site, then self-hosted solutions can be a good choice. They are used for millions of sites, including many well-known ones.
The Growth of Hosted CMS Options
The option to use a hosted CMS is relatively new, and we believe it better serves the needs of designers and site owners who want to focus on the design and content of the site, not on the technology.
If you use a self-hosted CMS, you are responsible for all the code that runs the site, and this can be a nightmare when hacks occur (see, for example, WordPress Sites Hacked Again; Is Hosted CMS the Answer?). Even in the absence of such nightmare scenarios, using a self-hosted CMS inevitably means spending more time dealing with back-end code, software updates, and server management. You're exposed to much more of the full technology stack, and it's easy to get buried in details. With a hosted CMS, all that is taken care of for you.
In the past, most hosted CMS offerings were very limited in terms of design flexibility. Even today, few provide the flexibility to set up custom databases, so you can organize things like business listing and news items, and have pages automatically created for each item.
This gap is what led to the creation of Webvanta. We built Webvanta to provide all the ease-of-use and peace of mind that a hosted CMS brings, while at the same time offering all the power and flexibility designers need for top-tier business and information portal sites.
For more information:
- Should You Use a Hosted CMS?
- Learn more about the Webvanta hosted CMS for designers
- Sign up for a free webinar
Picking the Right Tool for the Job
We believe in using the right solution for each problem, and no single system—not even Webvanta!—is best for all needs. For example, if you have a $20K-plus budget for site development, want complete control, and can afford technical staff to support and maintain the site on an ongoing basis, then Drupal can be a good solution.
Often, though, you can accomplish the same result with a fraction of the budget and fewer ongoing headaches using Webvanta.
Webvanta is a great hosted CMS for sites that are more than just brochure sites or simple blogs, but it is not necessarily the best answer for every job. Here are some situations in which we recommend other hosted solutions:
- If all you need is a simple blog, and you don't need a lot of design flexibility, Wordpress.com provides a free and easy-to-use solution. Google's Blogger is another similar option.
- If you want more design flexibility than WordPress.com provides but don't need any database capability, take a look at SquareSpace. It has an easy-to-use interface for customizing the appearance of your site, and is best suited for users who want design control without having to deal with CSS code. It isn't free, but the fees are reasonable.
- If your site is primarly an e-commerce store, take a look at Shopify and BigCommerce.
- If you're building a social networking oriented site, and don't need a lot of design flexibililty, explore Ning.
If all this leaves you confused, send us a note with a description of your needs, and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction.