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If maintaining your website, JOHN HARRIS has discovered a great answer.


While creating a good-looking website has never been easier, maintaining it is often another matter entirely.

Websites have come a long way since the dinosaur days of the World Wide Web. Back in 1995, a five-page website with a couple of pictures was a wonder to behold.

Today, an organisation can spend millions of dollars on a website without it excelling.

However, for small businesses, producing a website is both affordable and a necessity.

If you’re not online, you’re not in mind as more people let their fingers do the walking with a keyboard to “google” the Web rather than thumb through the pages of a dead tree directory.

But the kiss of death for a curious consumer is when they discover your website is massively out of date with “news” that is several years old.

Almost as bad is a “timeless” generic website that has all the appeal of a business card laying in a gutter.

To attract customers, your website must be relevant and current.

There’s the rub. Just like owning a house, the big problem of having a website is the need to maintain it.

During the past few years, the advent of content management systems - dubbed CMS in the inevitable TLA-speak of geekdom – have helped to solve that problem.

A CMS uses software to create, edit, manage and publish text and pictures on a website in a consistent manner.

For the past 18 months, I’ve used an open source CMS system called Joomla to create and publish my website at www.impress.com.au.

After maintaining a website for the previous decade with Microsoft FrontPage, Joomla is a joy.

That’s because the layout of the website is completely separate from its content.

This has three major benefits.

Firstly, it is relatively simple to set up a Joomla website. Rather than designing it from scratch, you select your preferred design from a range of standard Joomla website templates and then customise it to your taste.

What you miss out on in originality, you gain in robustness. This means fewer bugs because Joomla templates are already “run in” before you choose one for your website.

Secondly, once set up, a Joomla website is quick and easy to maintain. You can publish a new page in minutes without any risk of fouling up the site’s appearance. Also, Joomla’s modular design makes it simple to add plug-in modules for extra features.

The third big benefit is that you don’t need a special program to edit your website: Just a web browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox.

Joomla www.joomla.org is not the only CMS solution around. Another popular open source system is called Drupal www.drupal.org. Many software developers also offer in-house developed CMS software to meet specific requirements

However, although many of its components are free or relatively inexpensive to use, there is a cost with Joomla. In order to publish a Joomla-based website, you need a web hosting company that supports this technology.

While that’s not hard to find, it does limit your options in our shop-till-you-drop world.

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