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There are two common ways to build websites for your clients these days. One is a standard static website and the other is a website using a content management system. For many years, we built our websites using Static Systems, such as Adobe Dreamweaver. These sites were relatively straightforward to build and content management systems ran into the six figures and were just prohibitively expensive. Now we have some wonderful open- source content management systems available to us for free download, including Joomla!, Drupal, WordPress and hundreds of others.
So we ask ourselves, "Which is better for our particular client?" and the correct answer, as always, is, "It depends." Static websites have a few positives. First of all, they are very inexpensive and quick to put together and they require no special kind of web hosting. Unfortunately, static websites are very difficult for your clients to update without knowledge of HTML, CSS, and FTP. It is true that such products as Adobe Contribute are available for updating a Dreamweaver-based website.
However, Contribute does cost money. Your client must pay some amount of money to have the software running on their computer. Static websites also do not support Web 2.0 tools very well. They are strictly designed to display text on a webpage and not be terribly interactive. Content management system sites are also very quick to build and the updates are very easy for a client. They don't need to know HTML and they don't need to know FTP and in order to update the website, all they need is a web browser and a log-in.
Web 2.0 tools are supported by all of the content management systems. It's very easy to add a blog, a photo gallery, a calendar, a shopping cart and many, many other types of technology. The content, once in a database, is very portable and you can move it around between content management systems if you know how to work with databases and there are many, many free open-source choices out there. lynda.com offers training for Joomla!, Drupal, and WordPress, available on other titles.
However, when you're working with a content management system website, you will need more specific web hosting. There are some very specific requirements for these content management systems. So, you will need to make sure that you have the right version of PHP, the right version of MySQL and the right web server running in the hosting environment. The site can cost more upfront for your client because they can be a little more complicated to configure than a static website and since you're running a content management system, these sites are hacked more often than a static website.
Now let's think about Hansel & Petal. Given the Hansel's love of Facebook and how excited he is about a blog, a static website really doesn't make a lot of sense. He really needs the ability to change that website, at least weekly, and possibly even daily. We have decided to go with Joomla! since that's the content management system that I know well. Building website with Joomla! will also give us the ability to build with the future in mind. We can easily add to this website going forward, with new social networking tools if we wish.
So once you have put together your business strategy and you understand which technologies you'll need to drive the website, making the choice between a static and a CMS driven website should be relatively easy to do.
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