An effective online effort is difficult at best and it’s understandable why some beginners turn to pre-packaged, out-of-the-box CMS – or content management systems.
Our July 2 post began examining the various content management systems available to content-producing – or publishing – websites. (And, frankly, all websites should be publishing websites.)
The content management system is simply the word-processing program for your website blog, the place to post your content and propagate it to your social networks. It should be the heart and soul of your online presence, which depends on your content strategy for success in building your community.
These are among the best-known out-of-the-box CMS:
Founded in Israel in 2006, Wix has been traded on NASDAQ since 2013 and reports revenues around $100 millon a year. It has about 47 million users and uses a so-called “Freemium” business model with little over 900,000 premium accounts (May 2014), as reported by Avishahi Abrahami, CEO and founder of WIX.
Also founded in 2006, privately owned and does not publish annual revenues. The Wall Street Journal reported Webbly houses 20 million sites and just received another funding round at $35 million
Founded in 2004, the company raised additional funds this spring ($40 million, as reported by TechCrunch) and is also providing easy-to-set-up and easy-to-use website services for businesses, including ecommerce and mobile components. The user and sites numbers are quite fuzzy, though.
For business owners just staring out and looking into launching a website, the combination of Google and website provider will be ideal. And it might get online some of that 45% still without a website.
A business owner or manager doesn’t really need to know all the technology used on websites. For most businesses the distinction between proprietary systems and open systems is purely academic and have no real-world application. They will never need a sophisticated online presence and any content management system will do.
Wix, Webbly and Squareplaces don’t make web developers and web designers obsolete. They actually provide a very basic educational service. They teach business owners and managers to think more concretely about their online business and how they want all the pieces to fit together. They can also teach business owners how to handle conflicting design and feature requirements on a semi-technology level.
These web services teach online newbies how to make educated decisions about what is important and what is utterly redundant. They can help business owners understand the difference between what the business owner thinks is important and what the user or online visitor might think is important.
Everyone is a web designer these days and business owners get all kinds of advice from friends, family and business acquaintances; and, of course, the contractor they hire for web development. Given the potential for a cacophony of advice, it makes some sense for some small businesses to use Wix or Webbly. Given the technological simplicity (for the user) they can help beginners strengthen expertise and creativity, help them learn how to communicate online.
Some businesses with sites on Wix and Webbly actually sustain their presence and thrive and will never need any other system. More power to them. Different people take different routes.
After setting up a website with any system, however, the biggest hurdles are still to come. And those hurdles are not something with which Webbly, Squarespaces, Wix or, even, Google can assist.
Our business is actually not web development or web design. We assess your website – what you need in a website – in terms of your business goals and how you reach your customers. We help you be effective online, whatever that that means to your business.
Tools are not what makes a business successful online. It’s how you market your business online, how you communicate with customers, what added value your site has over your competitors. Why should they come to your site and not go to the site one click away?
Your tools provider will not be able to help you write better copy, find the better images, connect with customers on the social webs or manage your online customer communication.
Online or technical tools don’t present the biggest problem for business just beginning to develop a successful online effort.
The biggest hurdle is content strategy and business process resulting from the content strategy. Businesses need technology which integrates well with other systems and provides a framework for developing solutions on top of the core application.
You will discover the biggest downside of out-of-the-box services when you want to leave or go outside the feature set they provide. (Some do provide add-ons, done by 3rd party developers.)
Once you are able to create pages and a place for your business, you will need to be able to delegate the functionality and, although some of those services provide a solution for some business problems, interactivity between customers and website can get complicated and you might not find trained staff to assist you with the upcoming challenges of supporting your business online.
The difference becomes apparent when you are searching for a nice tool to solve a particular problem. The proprietary system only can offer you one solution and you need to adopt your business process to that particular solution.
It also locks you in even more to the propriety system and limits the freedom you need if added features or changes of process require you to update your website.
If the proprietary system doesn’t have the particular feature available or it needs adoption, custom development is needed. For small business owners it might not make sense to invest in custom development. That’s why they choose an out-of-the box solution in the first place.
An open system, like WordPress is, provides a repository for multiple options and implementation for each particular problem or new features. You can select quite a few different ways to solve a problem and you can pick the one that comes closest to your vision.
You remain in charge of your business process and don’t have to give away control of your technology. In the WordPress open-environment, chances are that one of the 100,000 developers already thought about your particular business problems and published a solution that is available for download, either at WP repository or at the developers site.
It’s still quite rare to work on a website with a small business owner who doesn’t also expect his or her web developer to do their job well and also be their core business consultant. A company or organization will typically adopt whatever tool the web developer provides. Success online depends on solid communication and the trust between business owners, the web developer and digital communication company.
We have not worked with any of the out-of-the-box systems. That is by design. We are not the target audience for them and we have not done any comparative analysis as to the systems. If you’d asked us which one to pick we would say any one of them will be fine. It’s a matter of personal preference.
If you want to guarantee a seamless transition to a more elaborate system, start at WordPress.com. The export and import to the next generation site will be a breeze, compared to any closed system you might choose.
After 18 years building websites, I find it’s hard to get excited about yet another tool. Although plenty of out-of-the box systems are out there, each website – each business – is unique. The requirements are different, the layout and design needs are different; the data processing for the back-office are different. Once you get into the core of the business development and marketing processes, the system that integrates well and leaves room for growth will win.
We’ve based most of our development on WordPress and since 2010 have gotten quite good at it. Our designer, project management and system administrators have quickly adapted to the open-source platform and we have migrated hundreds of websites. There is a reason WordPress is the largest CMS platform, has the most out-of-the box system and integrates best with third party systems.
Businesses need a strategic partner with broad technology experience and state-of-the-art tools if it wants to get serious about its online presence, the ongoing conversation with customers, integration with other online touch points, target offerings and growing audiences by providing content that is valuable to the website visitors.
Online business is equally important to someone’s business success but not all businesses need to be online. But when they are, visitors know when it’s a half-hearted, underfunded and under-appreciated effort. It also mirrors the value and the passion businesses have for their online visitors.
If your site has two-year-old content you send a signal you don’t really take online visitors very seriously. Your site suggests you don’t regard as important your online audience, not important enough to invest in modern technology.