At its most basic definition, a content management system (CMS) is platform that handles the creation and modification of content for a website. It gives people with no development skills a straightforward way to upload, edit and publish content.
After that, things get a bit trickier.
Those looking to invest in a CMS or upgrade their current system face many choices. Every CMS system comes with its own set of features and advantages, as well quirks. The type you choose depends on the needs of your website.
You can spend months assessing all the features that are possible, but one question is going to be the same for everyone searching for the right CMS: How much can I expect to pay?
You can, of course, opt for a free, open-source platform for web publishing. Far and away the most popular is WordPress. Others include Joomla, Drupal and Magento.
That can work for basic sites. But for a business, they don’t offer the kind of features you’ll get from a CMS designer such as Sitefinity. As Bayshore Solution’s Eric Cadman pointed out recently, “To date, I’ve never had a client pay for a good CMS and then come back later to tell me that they wish they would have gone with a free option like WordPress or Drupal. Never.”
CMS Costs Have Dropped
Overall, costs have gone down for online businesses that decide to pay for a CMS. There’s never been a better time to start a business online in terms of upfront costs.
However, it’s hard to pin down the exact cost of a site. That’s because once you get past free services, prices can vary depending on the CMS provider, the size of the site and the amount of customization needed.
In an effort to at least provide ballpark estimates for what a small business might need to start a site, the review site Digital.com offered the following prices ranges for setting up a website (bear in mind the cost of the CMS is only part of this).
- Small site: $2,000 to $8,000 for a site with about 20 pages, a few stock photos, and no unique functionality.
- Medium-size site. $10,000 to $25,000 for a “mostly commercial” website with less than 75 pages, an enabled CMS, customized design and unique functionality.
- E-commerce site: $5,000 to $40,000 for a website where customers can search for and purchase products, the cost varies so widely because it depends on the number of products offered.
- Large site: $25,000+ for a website with hundreds of pages, customized design, unique functionality and other features such as multimedia creation and blog integration.
For the CMS itself, Digital.com estimated “thousands of dollars,” depending on which company you go with. But again, prices vary depending on many different factors and it’s not unusual to see very large, complex sites with tons of customization to reach the six-figure mark.
What It Can Do For You
Obviously, you want the most robust platform you can get for content management. And while fixing an exact price is important, it’s also critical to keep in mind what it accomplishes.
Remember that a professional-level CMS offers non-developers a chance to make changes, sometimes daily, that are needed. On your own without any technical skills, you can upload, edit and publish content.
Higher end CMS support mobile, integrate multiple content channels, manage customer experience, allow for creation of video and allow you to personalize content and maximize site data.
In short, they pay for themselves.
That’s something to keep in mind as you consider what you want from a CMS. Expect to pay in the thousands. But also know that — as with many things in life — you get what you pay for.
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