I often use the analogy of building a house when describing the important aspects of creating a website. I often start at the foundation, but want to back up today and discuss:
- The web host (location of your web “house”)
- The content management system (building approach of your web “house”)
These two decisions, made at the very start of every web project are critical to success. I have recently helped clients move relatively new sites to a new host and new CMS because these decisions were not made properly for their needs.
Select a Web Host
Every website needs a home. This is called the web host. The technology and security requirements for any computer that will host public websites are complex. Therefore, it is a best practice to select a reputable host for your website.
There are many comparisons among hosts that you can review. Among the things you want to consider:
- Types of sites hosted – some hosts optimize their environment for a particular content management system
- Software maintenance – “managed” hosts take care of keeping your software updated, eliminating one worry
Small hosts with great reputations generally get gobbled by larger hosts. This is not necessarily bad, but it does mean that it is important to periodically revisit your host selection. The best choice today may not serve you best in the future. Be prepared to have to move your site over the course of the years.
Pick Your Content Management System (CMS)
Don’t let your web support team pick your CMS without your involvement. There are several good options, and the “right” CMS is about more than the technology. You will work with the CMS any time you want to update your site, so choose wisely!
A CMS facilitates the process of creating and managing content, without requiring you to know a programming language. But modern platforms enable you to do much more than that. The right CMS can help your business increase customer engagement and brand awareness and support marketing and sales.
Consider these core elements of the CMS:
- Functionality – Does it have the features that will help your organization meet its goals? List the essential features that you need (content management, SEO, WYSWIG editor, integrations, ecommerce, etc) and each option you consider on these core needs.
- Flexibility – Can you add pages? Change your template?Add functionality? You want to be sure the CMS can grow as your business grows.
- Ease of Use – What is easy for some is hard for others. Give any CMS a try before you commit. Involve everyone who will need to work with the CMS.
- Active Development – Select a CMS that is actively developed, evidenced by regular version updates. The internet is a changing place and CMS software needs to keep pace. “Old” software leaves you vulnerable to hacking and other security breaches.
- Cost – Even open source, “free” CMS options have a cost. How much time, effort, and vendor support is needed to set up a site? What is involved for routine maintenance. Be sure to evaluate short-term and long-term costs when deciding the value of any CMS.