Can I edit my own website with a content management system e.g. WordPress?
Understanding the limitations of dental website CMS
We are regularly asked by new dental clients if they will be able to edit their new website; the answer to which is, “it depends”. This is an important question and one which is often misunderstood by dentists when they sign up to a new site development project. So today’s blog will try to clear up any misconceptions about website content management systems (CMS), including the main advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s start by taking a look at what a content management system (CMS) actually is and how it works.
Website CMS explained
A CMS is a system which allows some or all of the layout and content of a website to be changed online via a management portal and theoretically without the need for your web designer to get involved (I’ll come back to that last point in a moment). A CMS works using a scripting language (“code”) typically PHP, used in conjunction with a database, typically MySQL. All of the website content is stored within the database and the html which makes the website appear in a web browser is rendered in real-time when a user looks at the site.
Before the invention of CMS, dynamic code and databases; websites were typically built using “static” html code i.e. not generated on-the-fly by a scripting language and without a database. These “traditional” types of websites appear exactly the same as websites using PHP/MYSQL and a CMS but what goes on behind the scenes, often called the “back-end”, is quite different. I should say at this point that there are still a lot of advantages of static html websites e.g. speed and security, over CMS driven sites, but these come along with the disadvantage of needing a web designer to makes changes to the website periodically, even relatively simple ones.
How easy is a CMS website to use and maintain?
This is the question which is so often misunderstood in that many business owners believe a CMS is simple to use and that creating professional website pages is straightforward. Unfortunately this is a long way from reality.
Whilst a dental CMS website is excellent for web users who need to make small changes to their websites, e.g. simple text updates or maybe updating a few images; constructing new pages or adding more complex features such as a gallery or adjustments to the general layout, are different issues altogether. More substantial changes of that nature will almost certainly require the services of the original designer or at least, a well-experienced hobbyist. Creating great looking website features is not trivial and should not be under-estimated. Too often we hear principal dentists say that they need a CMS driven site so that the “reception team can do the management of it” ongoing. It isn’t Powerpoint unfortunately and if you dump a sophisticated website CMS on the inexperienced, they will likely founder, or worse, break the site.
As well as maintaining a dental website using a CMS, the CMS itself needs to be maintained. With something like WordPress, the most popular system of this type, security and functionality updates come along regularly and must be completed diligently to keep the system up-to-date and secure.
In most cases this is straightforward; however sometimes updates come along which break the site and in events like this, an expert is needed to recover the system. Again its fine until something slightly more complex is required.
Website content management systems – the pros and cons
It’s very important to understand where a CMS can give advantages but also equally important to understand the potential pitfalls and limitations. Here’s a list of the main pros and cons:
Pros of CMS:
- Excellent for small updates to a website where the admin user has limited skills and experience
- No need to revert to the original web designer for small site changes
Cons of CMS:
- Need a lot of work to ensure the website is fast and user-friendly – slower than the equivalent website built with static html
- Need very regular updates to maintain security and functionality
- Need experience to make website changes that are not simple e.g. adding new interactive features, layout changes, new pages etc. These will likely require the services of a designer
To summarise, the answer to the original question “can I use CMS to maintain my dental practice website” very much depends on what you think you’ll need to do. If you only ever need to do small changes e.g. fees in a pricing table, some wording changes on a staff bio, then very likely you’ll be fine with a self-managed CMS website. If you envisage needing to do more extensive website updates periodically, then chances are you will still need the help of a trained web designer.
Remember also that the CMS itself needs to be maintained and this in itself can be problematic as the website gets older and features start to break.
Many agencies will ask you to sign up to a maintenance contract if they supply you with a CMS driven website and this can be quite expensive, particularly into the medium and longer term. Alternatively you may want to run with a static html website and let your agency complete all of the updating for you on an “as required” basis rather than a long term tie-in to a maintenance contract – indeed this is usually much more cost-effective and so well worth considering.
If you’d like help choosing the best system for your business website, the team at Dental Media will be pleased to help. We’ve built over 1000 websites for dentists over the last 20 years and we have extensive experience with all of the main web building systems – please contact us on 01332 672548 and we’ll identify the best option for you.