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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Content Management: Keeping Things Fresh

So you have a bright and shiny new website, the launch went well, people have complimented you, and everyone is excited. What happens next? Do you just let it sit there for the next couple of years? In that case, you shouldn't wonder if your visitor statistics are disappointing, the search engine ranking goes from poor to non existing, and the site generally doesn't do much for you.

The importance of regular updates cannot be stressed enough. There are the obvious reasons: Information, prices, services, timetables will go out of date. It is frustrating for a client to look up information on the site, then find, when they call you or visit your store, that the model they are after has gone out of production last year, or the class or event they were coming for isn't actually taking place. Do you think it promotes trust in your business if it presents information which has not been updated for the last three years?

The other good reason is that search engines favour fresh content. The principle behind search rankings is, simply put, that the engine tries to find the content which is most likely to be relevant to the person doing the search. The four main factors which play into this are: keyword match, popularity of the page (i.e. the number of previous visitors), number (and reputation) of sites linking to the page, and how recent the content is. So updating your pages regularly already takes care of one quarter of your search engine optimization!

This is one reason for the popularity of blogs: blogging sites allow users to input text and other content themselves, with no need for any web design or programming knowledge. Blogs are, by definition, frequently updated - and it turned out that search engines really liked this! Many people even choose to only set up a blog, not an entire website with their own domain. For some businesses this makes perfect sense - especially if you're only just putting your feelers out in the online realm. Most blogging sites are free to use: some of the most well known are Blogspot (which is hosting this blog), LiveJournal, and more recently, WordPress.

Wordpress even offers the ability to sign up for your own domain name, and a few other features which allow you to set up an easy to manage site yourself. These services are available for a monthly fee. Again, this can be a good solution for a first web site - but as with all out-of-the-box solutions, there are limitations to how well you can adapt this system to your own requirements.

Easy to use online content management systems are quickly becoming the standard for personal websites. They are often built using one of the available content management packages as a backbone - Drupal is one such package, which is popular with website developers. These packages offer a wide range of advanced interactive features: blogs, forums, image galleries, shopping cart solutions, password protected areas, you name them. The capabilities and adaptability of such a system go well beyond a humble Wordpress site - but it still is limited in some ways, particularly in the ways you can lay out and structure your site.

My personal preference is to create my own content management systems for my sites. The last two sites I have built - and - are both fairly small sites, and using a massive online content management system requiring hours and hours of setup or programming, seemed like overkill. Instead, I choose to work with text files, which can be updated by the user in one of the common word processing programmes, without the need for special web authoring software, or being fluent in html. This does require a certain level of feeling comfortable with computers, and a willingness to familiarize yourself with setting up an FTP connection, folder structures, and a minimal amount of html tags. But it helps to keep the cost down - in both cases, adding an online administration area would have doubled the work, and hence the price.

The site I am currently working on is a gallery site for a photographer. Here, one of the main requirements is that the client can easily add new images, and the associated information. This site will have a full featured online content management system - fully flexible, and adapted to this specific client's needs.

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design:: ::

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