By Alethea Kinsela (Director, Plainspeak Australia)
These days, setting up and managing a business involves more than simply registering a name and printing some business cards. You may also need to consider advertising online, social media marketing, and building a website. For many business owners, this can be daunting. And expensive.
One website solution is to use a content management system (CMS). This is software that allows business staff to publish, edit and modify content by logging onto their own website. CMS software sits on a computer on the internet, so the staff member only needs a web browser. An advantage of a CMS, is not having to install and update web design software on business computers in the office.
Popular Website Systems
When selecting a CMS, it’s important to choose one that plays to your strengths and matches your business profile. It’s also important to consider your personal style. You want a system that makes creating and maintaining your website practical for the type of work you do and the type of customers you have.
WordPress is a free open-source blogging tool, with a wide range of templates, themes, widgets and plugins that can be adjusted to suit individual needs.
Joomla! is a free open-source content management framework that allows users to create and build websites with web-enabled applications such as directories, social networks, intranets and shopping carts.
Adobe Business Catalyst is a hosted website management system where users can create sites as well as publish and edit content to suit a range of business and client requirements.
Fitting the Technology to Your Business
I Want it Now and Make It Easy!
WordPress is great for blogging, posting articles, adding announcements, and uploading media. It’s free, straightforward, well-designed, and has a range of themes, widgets, menus and plugins to customise your site.
Once set up, you have the option to purchase a domain name for about $18 per year, or you can just keep your free WordPress site as is. Although the majority of WordPress sites are blogs, this CMS can easily be utilised as a business website with information on your products and services. Its imaginative and excitable users tend to be hungry for immediacy, making WordPress the Gen-Y of the CMS world.
Some drawbacks to WordPress are its history of security issues (it’s experienced software problems since its release in 2003) as well as its narrow format. Despite having progressed from its humble weblog origins, WordPress still leans heavily towards the blogging layout.
If you need a quick, easy way to publish content, post photos and upload videos, then WordPress will more than suit your needs.
WordPress great for businesses where one to two people will be doing 3-12 updates a year. While some small businesses can build their own WordPress site, it may be more efficient to work with an experienced WordPress designer to get the site started. Once the basic site is setup, most business staff only require an hour of training to keep the site updated.
Unique and Sophisticated, I Don’t Fit a-Template
Joomla! on the other hand is a little more savvy and versatile, with a framework that enables you to build things like data reporting tools, integrated e-commerce systems, complex business directories and custom product catalogs. Think of Joomla! as the CMS equivalent of Gen-X: business-oriented, grounded, and having all the appearance of reliability and sophistication. But, of course, not as playful or popular as Gen-Y.
The downside of Joomla! is that, while it’s often lauded as being a more mature version of WordPress, it’s more time-consuming to set up and manage, and lacks the level of online support that you get with other CMSs. It’s also not as simple to use as WordPress.
Joomla is best used by companies that need customized interaction with their customers and may be handling large volumes of unique data. Joomla is a good tool for a seminar company that needs to track students’ progression through their own unique system including taking customized payment plans. A winery might like Joomla because they can customize their loyalty club, sell a variety of products, gift vouchers and feed data to the restaurant, resort manager and back office.
Joomla requires an experienced web developer to work in parallel with you. Expect to have an ongoing relationship with the developer as your business automates and streamlines the very robust business and data services you use. Expect to divide and concur, with different staff communicating with the Joomla experts to get what they need. Training varies and multiple training sessions for each team is recommended.
Frequent Marketeer with the Know-How to Sell
Adobe Business Catalyst is the Gen-Z or the ‘Digital Native‘ of this CMS group – a bit pricey and not always easy to use, but if you’re prepared to devote a large chunk of time to designing and maintaining a professional web business, then it will pay dividends. Business Catalyst’s marketing, analytics and metrics are slicker and more refined. The added bonus is that you are paying for solid tech support and quality hosting services backed by a large company.
After the cost, the biggest problem with Business Catalyst is its usability – or, more accurately, confusability. While this CMS appears to be straightforward, some essential functions are either hidden in places you’re least likely to look, or require a whole heap of scrolling to locate, or else are just blatantly thoughtless (putting same-coloured ‘Save’ and ‘Delete’ buttons next to one another is not a good idea). This is definitely the most professional of the three CMSs, but it is the least design-friendly.
Adobe Business Catalyst will require an Adobe partner to host your site. Usually the same partner is responsible for the web design and setup of your site. This tool is best for companies that need push marketing, such as newsletters combined with pull marketing, such as reviewing the types of visitors to modify the campaign offers and landing pages.
This system is best for marketing companies that want to take their recurring campaigns to the next level, such as a fundraising pledge campaign and a fundraising event. It can also work well for a dentist, hair salon or restaurant that wants to book appointments, make occasional discount offers, offer basic event registration and encourage referrals. When using Adobe Business Catalyst, the business must fit their campaign plan and customer data procedures to the software. Unique customizations beyond adding a few basic questions or choices can be expensive and difficult. Additionally for security reasons, connecting to outside data and e-commerce (online merchant account/credit card transaction) services is limited to the approved connections.
Usually, one to two experienced sales or marketing staff members are trained for a total of one to three hours over multiple short sessions. Businesses may occasionally want to get the Adobe Business Partner involved to set up special projects or get help to target a unique audience.
If you’re a beginner to web design, want quick access to a website and don’t need online transactions, then the simplicity of WordPress is probably your best option. If you’ve got the money and the marketing background, you may want to invest your time in Business Catalyst. Then again, Joomla! can provide a good mix of the brochure, marketing and customized online services once you partner with an experienced Joomla developer.
A confident online presence is the first step to attracting potential clients and building meaningful networks. So, whatever you choose, go with what best suits you, your customer and your business.
Screen Shots Added and Edited by Shauna McGee Kinney, Technology Writer
Alethea is an educator based in Melbourne. She is the owner of Plainspeak Australia, offering practical writing assistance services and feedback to professional and creative writers.