Tech maven Leo LaPorte has been saying on his radio show that you should use a Code Management System (CMS) for your website and not have a designer create a site for you.

I like to think my disagreement with Leo comes from a valid intellectual position and not my desire to protect my business position… just as I trust that his touting of CMS is impartial and does not stem from his desire to accommodate a sponsor of his program.

Actually, I do believe that Leo comes by his opinion honestly, but I honestly think he’s wrong.  Leo is a techy, geeky person.  Most people who hire me are looking to offload a task and they’re not looking to learn new tech skills.  They don’t want to take responsibility for building and maintaining their web site, even with user-friendly interfaces.  They want someone to do the web work for them.

A good CMS lets non-technical people create, update, and delete web pages.  And for fast moving businesses with staff dedicated to creating and changing web content, CMS is a good fit.

But, most of my clients don’t match this profile.  They don’t have scads of information to publish and change and republish on the Internet.  In fact, my biggest challenge with 90% of my clients is to get them to give me ANY content that I can publish.

I know what questions to ask and what hard copy materials to get copies of so that my clients can have a good-looking, informative web site.  These businessmen don’t need help getting content to the web;  they need assistance writing content!

Reason #2 that CMS doesn’t fit my clients is Control! Most code management systems come with templates and options that typically look 85% like what a client envisions.  That’s a great percentage, but in my experience 85% isn’t close enough to make a client happy.

At first look they say, “Oh, wow! Great!”

The next call they ask if the blue borders could be a shade darker.  That’s usually no problem.  But, then they want the search box to fit on the other side of the page under the date.  The technical problem for the designer is that the pre-made Search widget comes at a specific size (or location or something).  Of course, it can be customized, but only with an unreasonable amount of time and effort (and client money) for the benefit.

After explaining the cost of modifications to move up from a 85% match of client expectations to a 99% match, the client suspects that the designer is being difficult.  Even when the customer acknowledges that they are buying a template based product, it’s obvious that they are wondering WHY moving a box from one side of a page to the other would cost hundreds of dollars.

And, the payoff for all of the tradeoffs is the ability for the customer to do his own updates in the future.  And, that’s something he is likely to do very infrequently, if ever.

I believe that CMS templates will become more robust, easier to modify, and easier to use. But, up to this point, I am not willing to risk client frustration and dissatisfaction for a functionality that the customer isn’t going to use.