Keeping Small Business Websites Beautiful

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Keeping Small Business Websites Beautiful: making a tough job easier with updated Content Management Systems

by| Thomas Swanson|Content-Manager & SEO Consultant at SmallBox Web Design

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I’m not sure how to tweak this old saw to make it express the import

ance of replacing outmoded Content Management Systems for small businesses with Web 2.0 solutions…but the analogy is there. To use another slightly corny metaphor: if your small business is still fiddling around with graphics and updates on a static HTML or ‘brochure-style’ site, you may be polishing the brass on the Titanic. That ship has sailed.

The economic downturn and the slow crawl to recovery has been a galvanizing and sometimes frightening time for most of the small businesses that I’ve talked to in the past few years. Sales tend to decrease as the personal incomes of your clientele takes a hit, credit is harder to come by, assets and holdings get soaked as the market jackknifes. On the other hand, downturns can concentrate talent, passion and commitment just as they tend to force innovation.

During this last downturn there has been a kind of revolution in Content Management Systems that has been especially critical for Non-Profits and small businesses. This shift in the way that websites are managed has been about putting the power to control a company’s web-presence into the hands of ‘normal’ managers and employees—not just tech-guys and web-contractors.

As envelope-stuffing and e-mail blasts become less effective as stand-alone strategies for small companies to capture business, search engine optimization as well as fluid, easy-to-use, easy-to-update websites become more important.

Updates to CMS on small business websites can also dramatically change daily operations , transforming daily struggles into smooth, almost automated side-work. One company told us that we’d shaved off half of the hours previously required to manage their registration and reduced in half the number of phone-calls and e-mails that they received about their outreach program. Nora Spitznogle, the Director of Operations at Second Helpings, confessed that at the start of the project she, “couldn’t tell the difference between a wire-frame and a wire-hanger,” but she explains that Smallbox took the time to make sure that she was comfortable with the process. By the end of the project, her ability to manage and update the Second Helpings site had definitely been ‘revolutionized.’

How does this CMS transformation work in laymen’s terms?

Try to imagine the difference between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ models of page and content organization and being like the difference between a collection of numerous Microsoft Word Documents and a single Microsoft Excel Document. If minor thematic or informational changes need to be made in your collection of Microsoft Word documents, you’ll need to change them one by one. You might have to hire a guy to do this. Either that, or you’re likely facing an organizational nightmare that’s going to suck hours out of your work week and take a toll on your psychic-energy and morale. If you change one cell in an Excel document, on the other hand, the corresponding changes that need to be made happen automatically. By rough analogy, this is kind of the way that Web 2.0 works for you.

At our web-design business we have to wake up and go to work in the community every day just like everyone else. Small business is an important part of the culture and quality of life in the community that we belong to. Part of our job as web-designers is to help you make it easier to make life a little better. A new CMS for your website is likely to be a part of that process as our century speeds up.

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