It’s important for clients to understand the differences between the two main types of websites. Both have advantages and disadvantages that can be weighed based on the intended client outcomes and required functionality of the site.
CMS (Content Management System) aka Dynamic
A CMS site is made up of information contained in a database that is accessible via an administrator’s panel.
- Regular content or style updates
- Online marketplace (aka ecommerce)
- Interactive gallery/portfolio
- Blogging platform
- Membership sites
- Social networking sites
- Sites that are planning future expansion (scalable)
- Sites that need to stay current, competitive, and require robust SEO (search engine optimization)
- Complex data collection (customer database, newsletter sign-up)
- Sites that require page generated automatic newsletters
- Seamless integration with social media
- Infinite possibilities for “bells and whistles” with apps, plug-ins, audio, and video
- Fast easy updates for your designer (less $ for you)
- Easy to update yourself (DIY if you’re computer savvy)
- Fast design turnaround (utilizes “ready made” templates)
- Initial cost is lower (depends on complexity of project)
- Flexible content manipulation
- Increased search engine visibility with regular content updates
- Can deliver page generated automatic newsletter
- Weekly security and plug-in updates required (pay your designer or DIY)
- Learning curve for DIY updates
- Greater overall cost because of ongoing required updates
- More prone to hackers, less secure
- Slower load time for customers with low-bandwidth
- Less design, structure, and file flexibility
Brochure aka Static
A static website is created with HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) or XHTML files hosted without the aid of a database.
- Small companies
- Placeholder sites, squeeze pages, or sales letter sites
- Brochure-type stand-alone sites
- Simple content that won’t change
- Small number of pages aka marketing microsites
- Sites that don’t require robust SEO (search engine optimization)
- Simple data collection (contact form with email notification)
- Maintenance and update free = overall cost is lower
- Initial design cost is higher (no template designs, totally custom)
- Simple hosting requirements (less data required)
- More secure, less prone to hackers
- Faster load time for customers
- Complete design, structure, and file control
- Updates require knowledge of HTML/XHTML (hire a designer)
- Updates are more time consuming = increased cost
- Slower initial turnaround (designed/coded from scratch)
- Lower search engine visibility with less content updates
- Less integration with social media
- No ready made plug-ins; “bells and whistles” must be developed and coded from scratch
- Content is not easily changed
- No possibility of page generated automatic newsletter
So what’s the bottom line?
The choice for each client should be based both on what they need now as well as careful consideration of future plans. For example, if a small company needs an online brochure now, but has future plans for an ecommerce site, interactive gallery, or blog, CMS might be the better option.
Some questions that will make your decision easy: Will you update content or style regularly? Do you need an automatic newsletter generated with each new post? Do you need integration with social media or a blog? If you answered yes to any of those questions, a CMS site is for you.
If you are computer savvy, know someone who is, and/or have time to learn a new skill, a CMS site may be for you. I even provide client training (for a fee) to help you DIY security and content updates!
If security, design originality, and file control are at the top of your list, I would recommend a static site all the way.
Another good thing to keep in mind is that even if you choose a static site now, it is always possible to expand the site with a CMS “add on” on a sub-domain. It’s basically a site related to your site but living at a different address. For example if your main site was awesome.com you could always add a blog at blog.awesome.com (or “gallery.” or “shop.”). Be aware these CMS “add ons” may not exactly match the look of your static site and will incur additional hosting and domain costs.
All web design projects incur initial costs for design or copywriting fees as outlined in your Project Agreement, but what’s the difference in overall cost?
CMS sites require less design hours up front, because they utilize templates, but are therefore somewhat limited in design control. The overall cost for a CMS site can potentially be more in the long run due to required weekly maintenance and hosting security requirements. On the other hand, the static site is generally maintenance free, but requires more design hours up front because it is completely custom. It really depends on the nature, complexity, and timeline of your project.
Changes to the site or content updates are billed separately with either type of site. CMS sites make updates easy and therefore cost is low. Making changes to a static site can sometimes require re-coding every page, which can make them very time consuming, and drives up the cost. If your plan includes big future changes to your static site, you may even hear from a designer that it’s easier and cheaper to start from scratch.
Either type of site requires a managed yearly hosting fee (that includes your domain name). If you have been billed separately for a domain name, your hosting invoice will reflect a discount. Currently for 2017, basic static sites pay about $299/year for managed hosting. With a static site, that’s it for the year!
With a CMS site, managed hosting costs about $49.99/per month (can be billed yearly at $599) and includes basic maintenance and security updates. Hosting for LMS sites are quoted on an individual basis based on the number of users. Please note: All hosting prices here are for a baseline site and can go up depending on the complexity of your project.
I hope this information helps to make your decision easier. A website is an essential first step in building a successful marketing plan. It is regularly the first impression your customers get of you or your company, I want you to make it count!
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