Most clients ask the same questions. For many, the first is “what will it cost?” (even though you have not discussed their requirements). The next will be “can you get me to number 1 in Google for <term X>?” (where X is normally a common word such as ‘shop’). Finally, they’ll ask “can I add pages and change the content?”
This last question is probably the easiest to answer. There is a bewildering array of Content Management Systems including WordPress, Joomla, MODx, Drupal, TextPattern, and Frog. A CMS can be useful for any website that exceeds a few pages and you can certainly find appropriate software that matches the client’s requirements and IT literacy. I suspect many developers provide a system they know but customize it according to the client’s wishes.
It’s the usual story. You install the CMS, integrate plugins, create a custom theme, and add the client’s initial content. You then provide several hours training and give the client useful advice about keywords and the problems they’ll inevitably encounter when pasting from Microsoft Word. Following the last payment check, you wish them well on their web journey.
A week later, you notice the client has made one or two changes, but trashed the formatting or removed vital information. Being conscientious, you contact them, fix the issues, and offer a little free advice.
Then … nothing. The weeks and months pass by but the site is never updated again.
There are several contributing factors:
- Clients are busy running their own business. If they’re not actively trading online, they have few compelling reasons to update their site on a regular basis.
- The majority of people have modest IT skills. Unless they use a system regularly, they will forget their training and be wary about breaking something.
- Many CMSs have glorious interfaces, but they can be daunting, appear technical, use jargon, and offer too many options.
I’m sure many people believe they will regularly add content but discover it involves more work than they initially suspected.
But does it matter if your client avoids their CMS? Absolutely: you have sold them a system that does not meet their requirements. Few clients understand their requirements, but a good web development agency will guide them through the options and recommend the most cost-effective solution.
There are web agencies who provide 1,001 features and inevitably make more initial profit. However, a short-term gain can become a long-term loss if a client does not understand what they are buying. How can they recommend the agency’s services?
The next time you’re assessing a client’s requirements, ask them if they’re genuinely willing to commit several hours every week writing and updating their content. If they’re not, perhaps you should sell them content reviews and ongoing maintenance rather than a CMS and associated training.
Do the majority your clients use their CMS or do you do the work for them?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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