Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts related to Jebraweb’s “This I Believe” statements. You can read about them in our first post, “Welcome to Jebraweb.

jebraweb-herringI promise not to trot out that old clich√©: “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat forever.” No way. I would never be so trite.

Except, it’s true.

One of my major selling points when I talk with my clients about using a content management system for their new (or redesigned) web site is that it will enable them to manage their content themselves. I don’t want to overstate this, but it really is one of the best ways I have of saving my clients money in the long run. Here are some typical scenarios I see in my clients’ businesses and organizations when we first meet:

  1. They had a web site built for them several years ago by someone they know — a cousin, a neighbor’s kid, a friend, an intern. It was fine at the time, but now they need to change the store hours or the logo color or add a page, and they can’t get in touch with the designer. Sometimes they can get in touch with the designer, but the response time is too slow. Either way, they need their site edited and it’s just not getting done.
  2. They made a web site themselves using an online tool — sometimes it’s a software-as-service provider, which makes their content hard to get out or customize as much as they’d like, and sometimes it’s just not as robust as they want. They want something better, but they don’t know what’s available.
  3. Their web site is dreadful and everyone knows it, even Tibetan monks, even them. They need a new site — needed it yesterday.
  4. They love their site. It’s perfect. It’s exactly what they want. Now, how do they change it? Can they change it? Do I know how to change it? Will I change it for them?

My goal in all of these scenarios is to talk my clients into transitioning to a system that I build and from which I then walk away, slowly. Think about it: when you hire a general contractor to build your home, do you pay them by the hour later so that you can call them every time a light bulb needs changing? Do they come back when you want to change the curtains, plant flowers, or move the couch two feet to the left? Of course not. That’s the metaphor I encourage my clients to embrace: I am the architect and the general contractor for your web site. I will teach you to update your blog (curtains?), re-order the content blocks on your home page (move the couch?), change your posted business hours (the light bulb), and add new pages (flowers).

If I don’t do that, you’ll have to call me every time you need to change anything, and then I’ll have to bill you for my time. The time it takes for you to envision what you want changed, send me the instructions, check to see it’s done, and then pay my invoice at the end of the month is all time and money you could be putting into your core business or mission. I like billable hours for myself, but not more than I like doing the right thing for my clients. If I teach you to make those changes yourself, I’m empowering you and your organization to use the site well. Later, when you want to add on a whole new section or functionality to the site, you can call me again, and like the great general contractor I am, I’ll sit down with you to come up with blueprints for that new sunroom with the hot tub and bamboo ceiling fan…ah, but now I’m thinking of my own needs…

How do I do this empowering? If you decide to work with a content management system, our contract will include at least one live, in-person, two-hour training session and customized printed training materials for you and your staff. I’m available for questions and gentle reminding for several weeks after our training, and always to jump in if you get stuck. Somewhere down the line, you’ll want to freshen the look of your site, and knowing how you’re using it makes you better able to make those decisions when the time comes. I promise you; it’s good for everyone when you’re a knowledgeable partner in your site’s maintenance.

P.S. For what it’s worth, there may be those of you out there who don’t think you’re technically inclined enough to manage your web site yourself. Are you a Facebook user? Can you upload photos, change your profile information, and comment on other people’s posts? If so, then you’re ready!