Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: CMS-Based Web Design

As more of us become environmentally aware, we're hearing that green catchphrase more often. It means the best way to help the environment is to use less stuff, and to get more out of the stuff we have to use.

Well, it turns out the phrase applies not just to how you sort your kitchen garbage, but also how you run your web site. If you want to get the most out of the stuff you put on the Internet, you may need a content management system.

Many web site owners get fearful (and clutch their wallets tightly) when they hear the phrase, CMS. "I'm just running a small site, not CNN.com or NYTimes.com. Why do I need that expense?"

Even if your web site isn't one of the largest on the Net, and even if your team consists of just one or two people, a good CMS can still be a great value for your business. Many organizations start out building a small site without a CMS, hard coding their content into static HTML pages or perhaps scripting some ad banners around it with PHP. But this model quickly collapses of its own weight as the site complexity grows and the site designers want to make changes down the road. Only a year or two into a site's lifecycle it can already be too difficult to make any major changes because you would have to update all that existing content.

So how can a CMS help your site "go green"?

Reduce

The most important part of a CMS is its ability to separate the content --- the words, paragraphs, photos, and animations on your site --- from the way it actually appears on the screen. This greatly reduces the complexity of developing and maintaining your site over the years because your writers and editors can focus on developing great content while your designers and engineers can focus on developing a wonderful web experience that engages your readers.

Reuse

A CMS uses a "template" model that allows you to define how a given piece of content will appear on the site. It's very simple to take old templates and update them with new designs or capabilities. For instance, design a new template specifically for iPad browsers and suddenly all your existing site content looks great on Apple's hottest new device.

Recycle

When you have your content in a CMS, it is stored in a very flexible, "presentation neutral" format. As technology changes it's easy to recycle that data for new opportunities. For instance, you could output your content into an XML format to drive a killer iPhone app that will help extend your business's brand.

To learn more about how a CMS can help your site, please contact David Fry at dfry@frycomm.com.