Hello everyone who may or not be paying attention.
I know it’s been a while but I was a bit distracted by some very consuming system issues with my workstation. But that cautionary tale is a subject for another post. Seriously. Cautionary. Tale. But not now.
One of the requests that I often get from clients is that they want to know how to do simple revisions and update their web site content for themselves. Of course they are concerned in this difficult economy about paying my fair, but non-trivial designer’s rate for what might be a trivial update or minor correction. I do have a minimum quarter hour charge. Which is seriously, just about how long it takes to read the email, take the call, jot a note or two, fire up Dreamweaver or a text editor, an FTP client, log into the hosting provider’s Control Panel, upload the fix, revision or update and then log it on the timesheet. So I do see their point. Or you might just want more control of your own content.
Let me diverge for a moment, and mention that there are do-it-yourself options out there if your needs and design requirements are relatively straightforward. Many of the Hosting providers out there have relatively simple, template based, drop-in-your-content web site plans, such as GoDaddy’s “Web Site Tonight” feature. There are also services like Microsoft’s FrontPage, Apple’s iWeb, and Yahoo’s Small Business Web Sites… etc. But these ARE template based sites and they can be perfectly adequate, but they’ll look like a LOT of other sites out there without a lot of distinction.
Another approach is to construct a web presence around a blog, either through your hosting provider and your own domain, or use one of the well rounded services such as WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Live Journal and the like.
But if you’re working with someone like me, you’re probably wanting something more custom designed and distinctive in the first place; really marrying your branding and message to the site design. You might want to have more complex functionality or technology on your site. Perfectly fair, and how I make a respectable chunk of my livelihood. But you might not want to bug me about changing one paragraph in your Mission Statement, or correcting a misspelling in your bio. Or you’d like to toss up a news item, and I am off in a tent in the woods that week, or buried with other client’s projects at that moment. Hey, it could happen.
Anyway, there are three general approaches to getting into the guts of your site.
Learn Web Coding
The first is the cheapest, since it can be done with any text editor and an FTP client. That would be litreally learning enough HTML and web tech to actually edit the underlying code of your web pages and upload the changed pages back to the hosting server. As you can imagine, this does imply the heaviest learning curve. And of course, depending on just how intricate the site’s design is, getting into the designer’s code could be problematical. If you’re not careful and meticulous, its real easy to break stuff. And then you’ll be calling your Webmaster or Designer and tossing a bit more than a quarter hour for cleanups. Of course with more modern coding techniques, particularly CSS, and XML, sites can be much more modular and the site’s content and its design can be separated. This makes updates and revisions much less tedious.
Use Web Access Software
Another approach is to use an end-client piece of software that allows users to access the site from their own computers, and make their edits in a more understandable format. One example is Adobe Contribute. This application allows access to a web site, but also lets the Designer/Webmaster restrict access to parts of the site that ought to not be messed with. The application even allows users to generate new pages and links, upload images and documents, while maintaining the site design and structure. Different users can be assigned different roles and levels of access. The interface is similar to Microsoft Word, so it’s a familiar way to work and training is much simpler.
This approach is a bit more costly, as you have to buy specialty software, and it requires the Site Designer to set up the site for access. There is also some training time involved, but not as much as learning full blown web coding. A mid-line solution for moderately complex sites, and reasonably tech-comfortable users.
Use a Content Management System
For more sophisticated sites, or for dead simple access, or both, is the use of a Content Management System. Using a CMS, the end user typically has a web based interface to add or modify content on their site. The software keeps the design elements and the content separated, and the user content is stored in a database on the server. This is the most costly up-front approach, as the site has to be configured from the ground up to use the technology, and set-up is more involved than a basic HTML, XHTML and CSS, site. All the back end software is stored on the hosting server, and all the user needs is a web browser and the access credentials. This can be a very attractive solution where there is a lot of time sensitive or dynamic content, and the site gets frequent updates.
More and more, business sites are using CMS technology and more hosting providers are offering open source Web Application Software to Web Developers and Webmasters as part of their hosting packages. It does take more than a bit of specialty skill to set up, but once in place, can be very effective and easy to maintain. The initial cost may be a bit more than a basic HTML or CSS based site, but maintenance and updates can be cheaper over time. If you have a shopping cart or an e-commerce site, this is a form of Content Management, with software running on the web server tracking buyers, products, transactions.
However, none of the above typically allow the end user to significantly revise or alter the site design or graphic style. That type of work would require the re-involvement of the Web Designer and Developers. Of course, if you had that skill set, you would BE the web Designer or Developer, and you would already know this.
Still the whole point of hiring graphic or technical professionals is to free up your time to focus on your own particular vocation or specialty, and let us do our thing for you.
Next time, losing the works. I hope I don’t keep you waiting so long for that one, its frakkin’ crazed…
GoDaddy Web Site Tonight:
Apple iWeb: http://www.apple.com/ilife/iweb/
Yahoo Small Business Web Sites:
Blogger/Blogspot : https://www.blogger.com/start
Live Journal: http://www.livejournal.com/
Adobe Contribute: http://www.adobe.com/products/contribute/
Wikipedia: Web Content Management System:
Open Source Applications at Godaddy:
(Crikey! I’m not even sure what all this stuff does… )