It’s NOT the content management system that matters… It IS the content!

If you’re sick and tired of waiting and paying a fortune for a web designer to update your website, then should you be looking for a content management system?

Here’s a scenario that was recently described by Platform Interactive (Makers of a proprietary Content Management System) boss David Barnes of : “The customer gets sick of paying and waiting each time they want to update their web content, so they ask for a content management system.”

It’s a frustrating and common scenario, and a content management system is often offered as a solution. But, we wonder:

  • Is a content management system the only way to update your website minus a web designer?
  • Does a content management system represent real value as a solution to this problem?

Is a content management system the only way?

Since a website in any form is just a bunch of HTML files, any HTML editor will do the job. There are literally hundred of them available, many of them free.

Several of our small business customers are now using Microsoft Expression Web (Kudos to Microsoft for the name change to try and shake the stigma of Frontpage). They access their site via FTP, and we built the site in a way that’s very easy for them to create new pages and menu items.

Problem solved, cost $200.

What is the value of a content management system as a solution?

Consider how often your website changes. Now divide that by the price of the content management system.

To implement a proprietary content management system will cost you anywhere from $1,000 – $20,000. For this exercise let’s say that it costs $5,000.

So, 12 changes to your website / $5,000 = $416.66 / change.

Now even if you updated your site every week, it’s still expensive.

What are the drawbacks of a content management system?

  1. Content: The best content management system in the world will not create your content, and content is far more important than the system it lives in. 
  2. Leaky Abstractions: No matter what you create your website in, it will suffer from one big limitation, HTML.  HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the language of the web and what we’re doing with it today is way beyond what it was designed for. As a result it’s sometimes tricky to do even the most basic things. Content management systems often complicate this by adding another complex layer of abstraction.  
  3. Operator: It’s likely that the person who’s delegated the job to run the website in house will be not be fluent with HTML. Just to write this post I had to delve into the HTML code to fix the formatting because I pasted in a quote from another website and the dodgy formatting came through. Lucky i’m a reformed programmer!

When a content management system really is needed

A content management makes a lot of sense in scenarios like these:

  1. An eCommerce website
  2. A blog or a forum is required
  3. A content based application with work-flow
  4. Live work-flow, proofing and auditing of content are required

For many of these scenarios, there are simple solutions freely available that would be unmatched for quality and functionality. WordPress is an awesome example of this. For others, there is a proprietary system that might suit the application.

Website Myth – You need a content management system to have control of your website – Busted!

If you were the owner of a content management system company and you were presented with the scenario above, then I guess you have 2 choices here:

  1. Sell them $10,000+ proprietary content management system with implementation, or
  2. Sell them Microsoft Expression Web (or equivalent) for a couple of hundred dollars, and teach them to manage it themselves
  3. Find a web marketing company that can take care of website changes for you on time for a reasonable price.

Which would you choose?

Our tip, save your money on a content management system and spend it on creating useful website content that is important to your customers!

About Mark Standeven

I run a boutique web design and web marketing business located in Melbourne Australia and we specialise in helping small to medium sized businesses with their online marketing. Call us to discuss your needs today on 03 9012 6600.


  1. Charles Cuninghame says:

    Well said. If companies paid more attention to good marketing than the latest technology they would get better results from their websites.

    That said, I built my website around WordPress blogging software and the whole thing – CMS included – cost less than $1,000.

  2. Thanks Charles, and great point. Isn’t WordPress the coolest thing ever? I can’t believe I forgot to mention it as an alternative here…

    We come across so many people who have paid thousands for functionality that is essentially delivered for free in WordPress.

    Thank you to all the people who support WordPress and its plugins. They make it so easy to get down to the business of creating content!

    - Brett

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