I received the following ‘love note’ from Scott Christensen, webmaster at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Madison, WI where he asks:
BODY:I have been reading your blog for awhile now and have seen you touting CMS solutions as the best thing since sliced bread, so I thought, “Hey, what the heck. I’ll look into them for our church’s website.” So, for the past couple of months I have been digging left and right comparing different CMS apps and have basically come to the conclusion that I don’t get it. It seems that most of the stuff a CMS does, I could do with FrontPage or DreamWeaver and an FTP client. There are a few useful things that I have seen such as calendar plugins or to a somewhat lesser extent, polls, but it seems that in general there’s less to a CMS than meets the eye. Can you shed some light on this? I mean, what’s the big deal?
Straight-up and to-the-point, just the way I like it. Thanks Scott! But I do need to make a minor clarification. While I am in favor of using Content Manglement Systems (CMS) to create and maintain church websites, it’s not because I think they’re “the best thing since sliced bread” but because having worked with a variety of church staff and laypersons, I can tell you that an online, form-based approach that handles most if not all of the formatting, image uploads, etc… is easier for the user than teaching one of these persons the finer points about DreamWeaver, FTP, HTML and a host of other nicke-n-dime tasks.
That said, Scott has a great point. If you are a church-going code-monkey, why enslave yourself with more software than you need? A sentiment expressed in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Perls of wisdom in a sea of site mismanagement.” Here, David Walker, the author expresses a real concern any webmaster should consider when implementing a content mangement system when he writes:
… The great surprise of the past five years of content management is that, despite all the hundreds of systems, no clear winners have emerged. Instead, there’s a growing dissatisfaction with the ongoing technical burden that such systems impose.
Some influential voices are starting to argue that many sites should, in effect, wait out this immature phase of website management. For the moment, they should content themselves with limited automation.
Let me translate that into plain English. This article describes exactly what happens with small organizations, such as a church and charity where one becomes an employee of the CMS, as opposed to the latter being employed by the former.
In fact, it is very this very same reason I strongly urge those using FrontPage to buy a template. It’s a learning curve thing. If a user can enter an order at Amazon or eBay, then they can certainly use a blogging tool that has been smithed into a CMS such as pMachine. This is why some others of you have left comments to consider developing a site with DreamWeaver and maintain it with Contribute.
And this is the reason I’ve opted to go “Beyond the Blog” and take a relatively simple but extensible publishing tool such as MovableType, and smith it into a CMS backend, then given my users a client tool such as w.Bloggar to quickly post and/or edit entries on my church’s website.
All of which leads me to my answer to Scott with a quote from an article I wrote this past August entitled ‘Content Manglement, Open and Shut Cases:’ “… you should NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER select a software application until you have at least performed some form of needs analysis.”
In other words, while I say nice things about blogging and CMS applictions, please don’t get the impression that one size fits all. It doesn’t.