Thinking about building a new website? If so, don’t build it from scratch. The number one reason companies call in DMZ Interactive is because their IT department has already built a website that isn’t good enough. In fact, most inhouse sites can be far inferior to what’s available to everyone as free open source content management system (CMS) software. Why? Most homegrown websites are hard to update by marketers, are not optimized properly for SEO, and are not correctly integrated with marketing systems. Today there is absolutely no reason to build a corporate website on anything but an open source CMS. Choose one, and you address these issues right out of the box. It gets better: CMS software is FREE. That’s 100,000+ lines of tested and debugged code that you won’t have to pay your IT team to write from scratch, which is another bonus.
Even so, there are many CTOs and IT directors who still plunge forward and reinvent the wheel, wasting time and money while their inside team builds what every open source CMS delivers out of the box. Maybe it’s ego, boredom, or just complete ignorance of what’s available in open source CMS software. Don’t let your company be a victim of the “we’re engineers and we build everything internally” mindset. If you’re a marketer who is engaged in battle with the CTO or IT director over control of the website, here are 10 facts you can use to make your case, and end up with a better, more productive website that the CTO will thank you for later. Really.
- Internally built websites have less functionality than any open source CMS. As a marketer you need the latest and greatest functionality when it comes to the company’s website, and you need it yesterday. Most open source CMSs have thousands of free add-on modules that make extending the functionality of the website as easy as downloading a file and copying it to the web server. For example, the popular Drupal CMS has over 10,000 free add-on modules that you can add to your website by clicking on a link. Modules range from Google Analytics integration, to on-page SEO metatag management, Google maps displays, and full ecommerce packages. In a matter of minutes you can add new functionality to your website without writing a line of code.
- The content on homegrown websites is more difficult to maintain and update that an open source CMS. A corporate website should be dynamic and responsive to the needs of the marketing team quickly and easily. Anyone on the marketing team should be able to update content on the website without any coding skills. All open source CMS systems today offer WYSIWYG editors so non-techies can update content on the site just by typing in a web form.
- IT-built websites are much more expensive in the long run. For most companies, cost is a major consideration when deciding how to build the corporate website. However, few companies actually take the time to calculate the real cost of building the corporate site internally. They fail to track the number of hours the engineers put in creating functionality that could easily be acquired for free from open source. They also fail to track the amount of time wasted testing and debugging the home-grown code, and don’t recognize the damage done to the corporate brand by a website that has a lackluster feature set for users and visitors.
- Most internally built websites lack key search engine optimization features. From search-friendly URLs to SEO optimized page title tags, homegrown sites often lack these basic SEO features.
- Internally built websites lack strong entitlements and permissions systems. Most corporate websites have several people from the marketing team working on the site. The writing and technical skills and roles of these individuals can vary widely. Consequently, companies need to restrict who can edit what on the website. Often, a content-approval workflow is needed; for example, the CMO may want to review blog posts before they are published to the website. This type of permissions capability is baked in with the Drupal open source CMS.
- Internally built websites often have scalability issues. Few homegrown websites are built to scale from the ground up. Scaling a website means leveraging caching, content delivery networks, and a variety of other techniques to handle thousands of concurrent visitors to the website. Many open source CMSs leverage these techniques from the ground up.
- IT-built websites often have serious security flaws that are not updated or patched. Security is something IT teams often take for granted until their site gets hacked. To maintain security, a website must be constantly updated and patched. Fortunately many of the open source CMSs post security updates and notifications frequently. With the Drupal CMS you are notified of security updates every time you log in.
- The latest framework fad (Ruby on Rails, Grails, Django, .Net, Beans, POJO, etc) will not deliver the same level of functionality at the same cost and time frame as an open source CMS out of the box. Why? To build a corporate website using these frameworks will require an extensive amount of code, testing, and debugging to deliver the functionality included in most open source CMSs for free.
- Internal technology people are not marketers and often lack critical web design skills. In most cases, sites built by engineers look like sites built by engineers. For most marketers, having an aesthetically appealing website is critical to the company’s brand and positioning in the marketplace. Fortunately, if you built your site on a modern open source CMS, the presentation layer is clearly separated from the content and changing the look and feel is as easy as changing the website’s theme with the click of a mouse.