This is a question we are frequently asked by prospective clients in respect to the effort involved in owning and managing a website.
The answer really depends on how much you want to be involved in the management and day-to-day running of your website and the features it offers. It also depends on whether the website is built on a content management system framework. If not, it is generally too technical, too time consuming and requires too many resources for an untrained user to manage.
Even with a website built using a content management system there is often a compromise between the time involved in managing content, the cost of having the work done by a designer or developer and the skill required to competently do the work involved.
It is worth looking at each of these in more detail.
With the proliferation of modern content management systems there are numerous options with respect to the website features available for management by users with minimal web related skills. Of course the skill level of a user will determine the complexity of the features they can successfully manage.
At the most basic level users with the following skills should be able to edit and update most information based website content.
- Computer skills – it may sound obvious but the user will need to use a keyboard (and mouse) to perform most tasks; so reasonable typing competency is a must, as is knowledge of normal computer tasks such as copying and pasting. Knowledge of techniques for determining file sizes, file types, locations for storing and saving files will also make life easier for a website editor.
- Graphic and image handling – is part and parcel of managing content on most websites so a user needs to have and be able to use basic image manipulating software. Digital cameras are normally supplied with the sort of software that is suitable for cropping, rotating and optimising images for use on the web and if this is not available a quick web search will usually find a number of free programs that can handle these tasks.
- Copywriting – will be required to actually compose the text part of any editing done so a user who can write coherent blocks of text to portray the type of professional image required for the website will be a valuable asset.
Managing website content can be a time consuming task, especially for users who are not regularly involved in the process. Allocating 2-3 hours per week for a staff member to manage website content will usually be sufficient to result in a site that is up-to-date and relevant.
This raises the issue as to whether the time staff are allocated to managing website content would be better spent performing other tasks within the business and this needs to be determined on a case by case basis. With most companies utilizing staff to obtain optimal value from their time at work it may sometimes prove more productive to out-source the site content management to a web developer.
Closely related to the decision ‘can content be managed internally with the time and resources available’ is whether it is ‘economic’ to have web content updates managed internally.
Ultimately, material to update website content needs to be generated from within the organisation or through industry channels. However, the cost of utilizing staff also needs to be considered. Where staff can be regularly allocated to work on website content without the need to neglect other (income generating) tasks then the cost of hiring a web professional can be reduced or eliminated. Where this freedom doesn’t exist, the cost of hiring someone else to do the work can be lower than the reduced productivity of a staff member performing tasks outside their skill set.
Although it is rare for a user to ‘break’ a website built on a content management system, well meaning staff members or those asked to perform work outside their level of training can sometimes inadvertently incapacitate some functionality of a website. If this occurs there is usually no option but to call in the experts which can be costly and sometimes result in lost content.
For most companies the availability and skill of staff needs to be weighed against the cost of outsourcing web content management to determine not only if the work can be done internally but should it be. In a lot of cases the answer is not clear-cut and results in a hybrid approach where a staff member performs simple routine tasks such as uploading a weekly newsletter and more time consuming or technically involved tasks are passed to the web developer. Where internal resources are limited this can provide the best compromise between cost and having a current up-to-date website to showcase the business.