- DIY your site – selecting CMS/platform.
You decided to DIY your site, now what?
First of all congratulations! No matter the reason leading you to this particular choice, I admire your stepping up.
Among the many questions running around in your mind, one has to be tackled now.
Which platform/CMS am I going to build on?
This is one of the hardest questions because it will impact the future of your site. You will be told it’s better to make a choice considering things like ease of use, costs, learning curve, long term stability, availability, and accessibility of the platform/CMS. To an extent I don’t disagree with that, however, I feel something should be added to this list:
In a nutshell, you’ll have to answer the following questions first (go fetch pen and paper to write down your results, they will be handy later on down the line):
will it be static or dynamic?
Static (a site where content is not going to change often) or dynamic (a site designed to be updated regularly with fresh content adding up to the old one).
And about design, think of it as a piece of clothing. Not only does it have to be aesthetically pleasing, but it also has to serve a function. Since the two are so tightly knitted together, you have first to consider functions and build the design on top of them to make them accessible and usable for the public. So in the end, design’s main purpose is to make functions usable, so it’s a function itself.
Is it personal or professional?
This question serves to understand not only the tone of the project (Is it something you will take care of in the spare time? Will the site earn you money?) but also will point you to the correct approach to it. Generally speaking, professional sites are more decision heavy, since they have a specific purpose in your strategy to earn money, nothing has to be overlooked. From security to investing in development or hiring people to help you in maintaining it. That is why knowing what this site is all about in advance will help you take the right course of actions. For example, a personal website will benefit from a personal-branding process, while a professional one may do better with a complete business plan and S.W.O.T analysis. Having this sorted well before developing the site itself will save a lot of headaches, I can assure you.
Are there separate steps in the workflow (content creation, editing, publishing, and marketing) or it’s an all-at-once process?
Here we are digging in the actual workflow the site will go through once it is live. This not only is going to add insight about complexity, but it’s also going to help in deciding the amount of automation needed, the eventual collaborative process, the various steps of usability, the integration with external services to smooth processes and so on. For example, a team (more on that later) can benefit from the use of tools like Asana or Trello to stay on top of tasks/team communication, while a single admin could benefit from complete social media marketing automation allowing him/her more time to actually publishing quality content. Also, in my opinion, the answer to this question goes hand in hand with the previous one because it serves to pinpoint the areas it’s worth spending more time on for it helps to describe what the site does (not the site’s expected result, but how it is going to achieve it, which tools will be needed and so on. This also links to the first question, because choices about functions, processes, and tools are going to shape design decisions)
Are these steps performed by one person or are they going to be divided among a team?
Generally speaking, dividing a multi-factor process into steps helps to simplify each step by removing bloat. Also, it helps when many people are involved, each with a particular set of skills. Keep in mind, however, that dividing the process can maximize the site’s complexity (where it’s true that you can divide a blog process and perform each step by means of specific tool, is also true that various platforms and CMSs are designed to serve a straightforward publishing experience from start to finish in a smooth way, think of Blogger or ClassicPress). If you have done your job with the questions above you will be in the position to understand which one is the right way for your site long term.
Did I just say “long term”? Yes, I did! This question serves to put your site in perspective, think of a simple personal project: where are you going to be five/ten years from now with it? What if it grows to an extent you need to be able to evolve your processes? Better plan ahead of time.
How much of your productive time will be appointed for site management?
This one has to do with the overall planning of the project itself, and with your consciousness about it. First of all, usually one makes a site to showcase something. Every site revolves around a “product/subject” you are producing/exposing. if you are a company this is obvious and will lead to appointing resources (money, skills, tools and/or manpower) to both site management and production. This is less obvious in case you are, let’s say, a blogger. Very often the division between writing on the blog and making the product available is very blurry (think of a crocheter, s/he can see her/his crocheting as part of the “content production”, but in fact, it’s not). Setting boundaries will help in putting each step in place and will give you an idea of the time you can dedicate to each part of the job. This will result in conscious and realistic planning. One thing every site needs is a measurable, attainable goal. Also, you will have an idea of the tools you need to make it happen with the time you can appoint for it, hence you will have a clearer idea of how it’s going to develop.
Now that you’ve completed this assignment by writing all that stuff down, put the paper in a safe place and don’t you dare misplace it! You will need to go through it when I will face the second step of the platform selection process with a dedicated post in two weeks time, stay tuned!