Did You Really Need That CMS?


“Hey, yeah, how’s it going? Listen, I was wondering if you could upload these blog posts with that CMS I had you build.”


“Thanks a lot.”

~two weeks later~


“What’s up? I was looking at your invoices and I was wondering why you charged me for uploading the blog posts I sent you a bit ago.”

“You asked me for my time, I gave it, and then charged you for it.”

“What?? This is why we had the CMS built.”

This has happened way too often during my career as a web developer. A client wants a CMS. It sounds pretty. More to the point, it sounds like something they could use. Most times, it turns out a CMS isn’t really the way to go. Because they end up paying for a web developer team to stand up or build a CMS and then from that point they pay the dev team to update their website either because they’re too busy or that they underestimated what was required of them in terms of posting.

First, let’s define it. CMS means Content Management System. This is something like Wordpress or Drupal and it’s a useful tool for regularly updating your website. Other times, you might want a site that requires a unique touch. Building a CMS in that case isn’t a bad idea.

Honestly, though? You probably don’t need one.

I get offers from clients. In our first meeting, they ask me a bizarre question: How much for a blog? I never answer. Because a blog is just a catch-all term. I’m looking for what your company’s objectives are and what you want out of your website. If those objectives line up with being a blog, then hey, we’ll talk price then. But I always try to get people to step back and see what they need.

If they do want a CMS after all that, I ask about their content. Specifically how much they have. It usually goes like “Oh, we’ve got people writing it, but we really want to stand up the CMS and THEN start drafting up content.”

So I do. I stand up the wordpress site or our own custom build...and it gathers cyber-cobwebs for weeks if not months. So let’s break it down.

“Off the shelf” CMS

Like I said, this is Wordpress or Drupal or anything else from a long list of apps and structures. These are only useful to you if you are useful with it. If you and your content crew is proficient with a particular CMS, you’ll be saving the most money by getting that dev team to stand it up and walk away. Start uploading your content and go crazy.

Think of it like a suit. You’re just waltzing into the store and grabbing whatever’s on the rack. This can be perfect if it fits. But if it doesn’t...you may want to get a custom build.

Custom Builds

There are plenty of sites that don’t fit the usual blog archetype. We can build a custom CMS to work with that. More importantly, we can build it to suit your needs. You don’t need to take any Wordpress tutorials, you can establish everything you want in a meeting with us. Once that’s rigged up, have that dev team walk away. Start uploading your content and go crazy.

Most clients cringe at the words “Custom CMS”. It sounds fancy and that makes most startups think big, fancy dollar signs; almost like it’s a whole app on top of their project. Back to the suit analogy, it’s like ordering a custom-tailored suit. We’ll take your details and a basic framework and then hem it to your specifications. Good news for web development is that those basic building blocks are cheap and fast, meaning that if you know what customization you want, it ends up less costly than expected.

Why You Don’t Need One

See what those two have in common? Crazy content. So many clients of mine have paid me to build up a CMS and start critiquing the way it looks before they’ve uploaded anything. I’m here to tell you that, when you’re working with a CMS, content is about 80% of your product. And I’m not going to pretend that writing a blog every day is easy. It’s not. And if you don’t have the content, well then you don’t need a management system for it.

Another, perhaps less likely scenario, is that you update infrequently enough that paying the dev team their shop rate to get your blog up is worth the time you save in not having to learn a CMS. Believe me, developers can work better and faster with bare-bones console commands or they can rig up a no-nonsense CMS of their own. Making us use the CMS you had us make is often more cumbersome than anything (after all, it’s a CMS designed to suit your needs, not ours) and it will end up costing you more.

So get your team ready. Get them writing. And as soon as you’ve got an idea what the gist of your content is and what your objectives are, let’s talk CMS.

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