The companies we meet are often upgrading or redesigning their websites, perhaps because of growth or change in the business, or the need to make the site content easier to managed, or simply to create a new look and feel.
Below we share the benefit of our experiences.
Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)
One of the first steps in website development is to select Content Management System (or CMS). This will determine the present and future capabilities of the site. This needs to be chosen carefully as it will not be easy to port to a different CMS after the website is live.
CMS’ are database-driven systems that provide an interface for mostly-non technical users to manage the site, updating text or uploading images without having to touch the website’s back-end code. Older ‘static’ sites generally required more technical knowledge to update content or access to software such as Dreamweaver. These types of sites are often costly and inconvenient to maintain.
That’s not to say that a CMS is a ‘silver bullet’ solution. Changes to templates or more complex structural changes may still need technical assistance to complete, but the everyday tasks of posting new articles, managing product lists or updating unit prices should all be able to be completed easily by non-technical staff.
Generally, the CMS is at the heart of any contemporary web development project. The only question is choosing one – when you start looking it seems like there are almost as many CMS to choose from as there are websites!
A CMS is a piece of purpose built software and like any other product the same questions of general functionality, ease of use, longevity, cost, support apply. There are specific questions that also need to be asked:
- Free, Open Source or Commercial licensing
- What language/backend is used – ASPX, PHP, MS SQL, MySQL
- Ease of development or interface with existing systems/databases
- Built-in functionality such as ecommerce, comments or forums, wiki, blogging
Developing your site
- As with any system development it helps a lot if you know up front what you want to do. And, of course, thorough testing is essential.
- There are also a number of specific issues to look out for when developing websites:
- The designer of the website should ideally be a website designer or, if not, then at least familiar with both the potential and the limitations of web based technology.A designer without this knowledge risks wasting time by providing nice-looking designs that are either not practical or too costly to convert to the online environment.What works in print doesn’t necessarily work in a web browser!
- Provide content as early and as fully as possible. While content, including graphics will change over the lifetime of the website, the style of the content will to a large extent determine the best structure for the site
- Arrange training for non-technical staff on how to use the CMS, otherwise the website developer will need to update content, thus defeating the purpose of having a CMS!
Hosting your site
There are an enormous number of hosting services available, both within Australia and overseas.
Generally, Tango does not recommend hosting the site on your own internal server. This introduces security risks and potential higher Internet costs. There are plenty of reasonable cost and good quality hosting options available.
Cost – overseas hosts are generally the cheapest, but we prefer to look to local providers who can provide convenient support services and SLAs
Backend technology – for example, all CMS’s require a database but the technology required may differ. There are additional costs depending on requirements for Microsoft SQL or the open source MySQL software, for example.
SLA – if your site is mission critical you will need to ensure that the hosting package includes an appropriate SLA
Once you have a website you obviously want people to visit it! Paid links from the likes of Google AdWords is one way. The other is from ‘organic’ search. Optimising your site for organic search is a specialised area of expertise and involves ongoing care and attention to keep your rankings high.
The basics to improving search ranking are:
- Correct use of META and H tags for your content, ie ensuring that each page to be indexed has a an appropriate, search-friendly title and correctly coded headings in your content
- Your site’s relevancy to a particular search term can be boosted by having incoming links to your site, from reputable external sources
- Regular posting of new content. One of the best ways to improve your hits for certain keywords is by providing relevant articles via a company blog