Building a University Website: Finding a Content Management Solution that Delivers on its Promises

Written by SuperUser Account on 10/6/2016
Building a University Website: Finding a Content Management Solution that Delivers on its Promises

There are a ton of reasons why universities should use a content management system for their website. But in the end, the most attractive – and useful – feature is the ability to manage and update your website whenever you want, without the need for a developer.

Even just a few years ago, the most complex and robust websites on the web weren’t handled by a CMS (content management system), because these CMS platforms couldn’t handle the job.

Boy has times changed. Technology has made it possible for any and every website to be built on a platform that makes it easy for the end-user (you) to take control of their site.

Even companies that build their names on security (Bank of America, NASA, BP) have turned to CMS platforms like DNN to meet their website needs. No matter how big, complex, or sensitive your website project is, there is a CMS platform that can handle the job.

But which one should you use for your university?

The undelivered promises syndrome

There are several competitive CMS platforms on the market right now, including:

  • WordPress
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Magento
  • DNN

Each have their own unique angle on content management, but in the end they all should have the same end goal: to make life easier for you once your site is live.

Unfortunately, while each of these platforms promises that outcome, not all of them deliver.

WordPress Woes
Wordpress is easily the most popular CMS on the planet, with some research indicating that the CMS powers as much as 26.4% of the web. It has around 60% of the CMS market share, and each day there are over 500 sites being created by WordPress. *

*Manage WP – April, 2016

We actually discuss the security concerns that come with building your university website on such a popular CMS as WordPress, which you can learn more about here.

But let’s focus on why WordPress is so popular and if it actually delivers on its promise of making content management easier.

One of the reasons why WordPress is such as popular CMS is because historically it’s been the easiest platform to install. In fact, WordPress has built its fame on the 5-minute install, and many existing hosting companies (like GoDaddy, HostGator, and Bluehost) feature one-click WordPress installs.

WordPress’s true origin is in blogging, and that blogging feel is still evident in the platform today. In fact, many people argue that WordPress is very much still just a blogging platform with webpage extensions, rather than a true CMS tool.

Thus, when you get into the WordPress backend, you’ll be inundated with countless widgets, which help turn a traditional scrolling blog into a more intuitive website.

Those familiar with the interface have no problem jumping around from widget to widget to make changes to specific pages or sections. But for the average user, this is a nightmare, which essentially negates the reason why you’re building on a CMS platform to begin with!

In fact, the WordPress dashboard has changed very little over the years, and still to this day you have to bounce back and forth between the dashboard and website as you make changes.

Other CMS platforms, like DNN, feature on-page editing, which means you can simply log into your site, look at your webpage, and make changes without having to figure out the backend.

A look at non-WordPress CMS platforms

Other CMS platforms like Joomla, Drupal, and Magento each have a place in the market, but they typically don’t live up to the hype of WordPress or the effectiveness of DNN.

Joomla, for example, seems to be on the decline, as Magento has stolen most of its thunder. Magento remains a fairly popular CMS for eCommerce platforms, but certainly isn’t ideal for a university site.

Drupal powers roughly 2% of the websites online, and is popular with personal blogs and government websites. However, most end-users find it extremely challenging to manage a Drupal site on their own once it goes live.

The power of DNN

NASA, Bank of America, Comcast, BP, Cornell, and Purdue all use DNN as their CMS platform. But why?

Security and performance are key factors, of course. But so, too, is the ability to make changes to every nook and cranny of a website.

This is particularly important for universities, where events, announcements, and activities constantly impact what’s being displayed on your website. Each month your pages might take on a different look or feel as you try to attract new students while continuously inform your existing student body of the latest happenings around campus.

Easily one of the most attractive features of the DNN platform is the ability for all administration tools to fully integrate into the website. This makes it far easier to modify just about anything, whereas with virtually all other CMSs you have to go to a separate administration area to make your changes.

The instruction-free way to manage a website

We here at 5 Stones Media have a long history developing customized websites for all types of brands and organizations, including colleges and universities.

While we primarily work with the DNN platform – for a number of reasons – we do have some clients who prefer to work with WordPress.

What we’ve noticed when we compare a WordPress project to a DNN project is that our clients need a tremendous amount of support and instructions – post launch – to manage their WordPress site. That’s because of this lack of on-page editing that’s long been the Achilles heel of the CMS giant.

In fact, depending on the client, we’ve been known to build out demo versions of a website, both in WordPress and DNN, and then handing the keys, so to speak, to the client, so they can make their own comparisons and come to their own conclusions.

Without fail, our clients flock to the DNN platform because of how easy it is for them to take over website management without relying on our expertise or meddling.

Don’t get us wrong. WordPress, as well as the other CMS platforms, has a time and a place in website development.

But for colleges and universities that need to make quick and constant changes to a typically robust and complex website, the intuitive on-page nature of DNN is second to none.

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