IT Helpdesk: Updating Websites

If you need to update an exisiting website, it doesn't have to be expensive, says Anne Stafford of iT4Communities

Anne Stafford, programme manager, iT4Communities
Anne Stafford, programme manager, iT4Communities
Q: Our website was designed about five years ago and is well out of date. The developer is prepared to update it, but the hourly rate is prohibitive for a small charity. Can we do it ourselves?"

A: Websites are becoming easier to manage, thanks to Content Management Systems, or CMSs. You simply log in with a password to a private area of your website and make the necessary changes using simple online forms. There's no software required, just a broadband internet connection.

Using a CMS you can create new pages and edit existing ones. You can write text and insert photos, publish news items that get automatically archived by year and month and even group them to reflect the interests of your website's visitors.

You may need help initially from a website designer to install the CMS on your web-hosting account, but afterwards you can download ready-made ‘themes’ when you wish to give your site a new look. If you are especially concerned about branding and image consistency, though, you might want to commission a customised theme that reflects your identity.

Once installed, a CMS means you are no longer reliant on a webmaster to control your content and thus you will save money in the long run.

Unfortunately, a CMS cannot be installed on an existing website, so you might need to rebuild your site from scratch. 

The best known free CMSs are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. You can download a report comparing their features. Which one you choose will depend upon the complexity of your needs, the features you require and whether flexibility or ease of use is more important.

Most modern CMSs should be flexible enough to meet the needs of most small to medium-sized charities, so provided your web designer is well acquainted with a particular CMS, it might not matter greatly which you choose. Having said that, do get advice before making a decision and consider asking iT4Communities for a volunteer to help you.

- Anne Stafford is programme manager at iT4Communities

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