Small and Medium sized businesses typically all have websites and many are contemplating adding Social Media and Digital Media capabilities.
The worst idea today would be to try to retro fit the circa 1999 html or 2002 custom flash based web site with a birrage of cobbled in features. This plan is sure to keep a basement full of designers and web developers in business while you wait for less than acceptable results.
The almost up to date web site sports a newsletter sign up, a few dated images and perhaps some tricky whitepaper downloads that may require a full page of customer data to access. While this sounds quite brilliant, it is so far behind what is available today with Open ID based log ins and dynamic blogs.
The flash point is here now where the previously prohibitive costs of a web site rebuild and the availability of flexible Web 2.0 platforms open up the gates to opportunity. The high costs of designers and web developers is now under control due to the open architecture of Open Source Software platforms based on the ubiquitous "LAMP" stack. LAMP is an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL and Php - all proven, scalable platforms which allow thousands of developers access to provide the market with non-proprietary tools and designs.
The cool part of the architecture is that once a Content Management System is installed, the user (business owner) has the opportunity to change the design- the look and feel of the sites pages- at will and for very little cost. The platform itself can be updated and upgraded with a super long life expectancy. This means that there are effectively no "rebuilds" of the site with those ridiculous design and development costs!
Content Managment Systems come in several varieties - namely WordPress, Joomla and Drupal (A high end CMS for publishers). The differences on the platform level (LAMP) are minimal- they are all based on the same code. The CMS dashboard or back end- considered the user "operating system" if you will is virtually the same- although they look different and require different interface steps. They do have differences in the flexibility of the presentation of your content. Some have argued that Word Press is better for blogging, but Joomla also provides commenting, rating, Disqus log ins etc. etc. so it is a moot point.
Word Press for example is a very simple platform making it easy for self publishing, good SEO tools and easy to use plug ins for more robust blogging capabilities. There are more developers coming in to add more corporate design templates over simple blog designs. So in theory, you can get away with a simple Word Press Blog as a web site replacement. We have done several and they are good for a hub for your communications strategy.
Joomla is the other CMS in the space where there are more users for corporate web sites, portals and vertical applications such as video sites etc. The platform is flexible in terms of content placement and features and there are dozens of developers creating very useful business engagement modules, plug ins and components. Some we like are a Market Research tool for collaboration, highly detailed surveys, scheduling and e commerce-and of course integration with Social Engine and Community Builder on line community platforms.
Most of our commercial sites for our businesses are done in Joomla, but we do not hold a prticular bias. It would be important to understand the options available for each platform before making a decision. Rates for set up and deployment are about the same, so there is no cost advantage of one over the other.
There are other plug ins and extensions worth considering that help the business manager decide on which CMS to go with over a plain old html or php site. Web 2.0 offers many considerations to make inroads into inbound marketing that non CMS sites just can't accomplish.
Some of the freebie plug ins for Word Press are OK, but I would suggest that the commercially available ones are typically better supported, have a upgrade and migration path and do cost some money to get started. That said, you do get what you pay for so time to market, interoperability with the CMS (without the dreaded Server Error 500 coming up to replace your web pages) so some experience in managing the entire "operational" environment is necessary.
The scenario I often see are the Word Press affiliate guys who are in the "spiff business" to get you to buy a template, host on their favourite hosting company, pump a couple of hack services (code or CSS mods) and leave you with a potential house of cards.
Simple things like regular backups before installing new plug ins may sound logical, but do you know how to do it? If you are adding new followers on Twitter, Facebook Fans and notching up the blog views you will see how important your site is to your day to day operations.
Adding strategic value to the CMS is what our clients have looked for. Offering Digital Content services is something we llike to do over hacking templates. This is where we repurpose images, videos, presentations and whitepapers with voice overs and create new videos for example. The new media is video and if we add live interactions to video we can increase engagement metrics by 500%-this is where to spend some new dollars vs. old on a web site rebuild.
Our Bizz Web 2.0 group can provide some ideas and concepts to make your CMS part of your Social Media strategy far beyond blogging. There are several Social Media models and strategies that should be considered before you jump into a CMS without a plan.
Bottom line is that you will save money and have a functional Social Media ready Web 2.0 platform for some time to come for a lot less than you have sunk into your current web site.