New FITM Website

by on 16/03/2011

FITM website screenshot

Over the last few weeks, we have been developing a new FITM website, the one you are looking at now, and we wanted to share some of the philosophy and learning from the experience.

Why Did We do This?

The new website doesn’t look that different from the old one! It’s been tidied up, the structure has been changed and it’s got one or two new pages, but it’s fundamentally the same.

Behind the scenes however, it’s a whole new world.

We have frequently advised our customers about the best technical environment for their websites. We advise them to spend a reasonable amount of money up front to put in place a solution that enables them to maintain the website themselves in the future. Rather than paying a web company an ongoing fee they can then change the structure of their website, change the content, update the blog etc. themselves. Yes themselves, without any technical ability whatsoever.

Web design agencies don’t advocate this approach of course.  Why would they? But we strongly believe in paying your design company to set up the framework for your site, leaving you to populate it with content at your leisure.

So How Did We Do This?

The are many content management systems (CMS) on the market. The 3 main free solutions are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. All 3 will do what you want. They will allow your web designer to build a template for how your website will look, including branding, fonts, colours navigation etc.

An important note – WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are free. Do not be persuaded by your friendly web company into using their proprietary CMS system. Not only will it (probably) have a fraction of the facilities of the 3 systems mentioned, but it will tie you to a particular agency. With any of the 3 mentioned, you will be able to transfer your business to another agency whenever you want and there are thousands of skilled consultants out there if you want to manage changes yourself in the future.

We went with WordPress. It is the largest of the 3, powering 13% of all websites (over 25 million) from the great and the good such as the blogs at the New York Times to the tiny start-ups and personal sites. It sits behind an amazing 55% of websites that employ a CMS and it will do everything you want, and much much more.

But we didn’t stop there. In order to make the design, build and maintain processes as straight forward and non-technical as possible, we used a series of “plugins”. The key one of these is the wonderful Thesis Theme framework. This isn’t free, but $87 for the ability to control the look and feel of your website from a GUI front-end is money well spent.

Conclusion

We did a whole lot more. For a complete technical description of the environment, see the technical notes post.

But our conclusion is clear.  Use a free CMS and spend a small amount of up-front money to get your template website designed. Then add content at your leisure and maintain your website yourself for years to come.

If you would like to discuss your website infrastructure, then please feel free to contact FITM.

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