If it’s been a while since you’ve made a website, you probably have some vague recollection about learning HTML to create your own personal webpage. If you were a little more advanced, maybe you learned about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which simplified the process a little bit. Maybe you even recall using Dreamweaver or Adobe Flash to create a killer website in 2005. While you may have installed an early version of WordPress or one of its erstwhile competitors—remember Movable Type?—you only used it for blogging.
For today’s web users, however, content management systems, such as WordPress, rule the roost, as users and developers alike have realized that content management systems are robust and flexible enough to manage almost everything you see online, not just blog posts. From online stores to corporate websites, CMS’s make it easy to modify and update your web site. Here is our guide to CMS’s for web sites of any budget. As always, these figures are for your total web site costs, not just the CMS.
If you’re spending less than 500 clams on your website, you’ll probably want to spend your money on something other than a CMS. After all, WordPress and its major competitors, such as Drupal and Joomla!, are free. In addition, you can find free themes and plug-ins that will accomplish almost anything you need.
As you’ve already learned, you can spend money on almost any aspect of creating a website. If you’re on a tight budget, use a free CMS and spend your money on web design, e-commerce, or something else that will set your site apart from the others.
Even though you’ve quintupled your web site budget, you’re still probably not in the market for a custom CMS. Instead, you can spend your money on plug-ins to make your CMS more effective. While every platform offers plug plug-ins, WordPress is the most popular. For example, Gravity Forms allows you easily create forms that your customers can use to give you their contact information, send comments, or enter contests. Or, if you need a high-quality map, MapPress can produce brand-free and mashed-up maps that give your users great directions to your business. We also like Slidedeck, which allows you to create image, video, or text dynamic slideshows or sliders for use in your WordPress site.
By adding paid plug-ins to your free CMS, you’ll make your site easier to use and more powerful without spending thousands of dollars.
Even the biggest websites rely on free, open source content management systems. The White House’s web site, for example, uses Drupal, and Ford Motor Company recently launched a WordPress site. But these high-end users still employ web developers to customize their website. While ten thousand dollars may seem like a lot to spend on a new site, it’s a drop in the bucket for a fully customized site, so if you’re in this price range you’ll likely want your web developer to focus on customizing an existing CMS to meet your needs.
When you’re starting a website, the content management system—which makes everything work—should be among the least of your concerns. There are good free solutions out there, and paid plug-ins and custom solutions can allow you to scale your site to almost any size.
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Photo by Steve Jurvetson