Websites for nonprofits have often been little more than a combination of an online brochure and annual report. Then came along Content Management Systems (CMS), and the weblog (blog) options. These new arrivals to the website development scene offered the ability to easily apply third-party applications (apps) to make the website more dynamic and enjoyable – along with the ability to edit content without the assistance of a professional webmaster. Websites had never had more options… and the site’s manager more decisions to make.
This begs the question: which is better for the nonprofit, CMS or blog?
At first the answer seemed apparent: CMS. Since the blog was invented to be primarily a vehicle for displaying time-sensitive articles (posts) within a pre-determined (often ridged) template, as opposed to the CMS which focused on pages that were a more permanent part of the website (a website that was more customizable), the pull of the CMS was strong. But then nonprofits learned of the power of blogging – of utilizing articles/posts in addition to their older cousin, the page.
Page versus Post
The difference between a page and post (also known as “article”) can be subtle, if not confusing.
Posts are meant to be time-sensitive, such as a news item or an event announcement. Posts allow for categories and tags to better manage and archive the items once their public viewing has gone out of favor. Posts can also be syndicated through RSS feeds – allowing for a greater, global, distribution. And, they’re the place where people tend to comment on and share (via social sharing buttons). Posts, however, are not permanent.
Pages tend to be timeless content, such as the About Us and Donate pages. They’re static, are not usually slated for receiving comments, and don’t get fed through RSS. Pages are usually what’s on the other side of the menu button, and where the public goes for information on an organization’s programs and services.
So, which is best: CMS, which would be heavy on page content, or a blog, which would be heavy on posts?
As mentioned above, the use of blogging within your page/content-heavy website is a good thing. Therefore, the best way to go is to have a hybrid of both! Posting periodic announcements and articles of interests helps to generate traffic to your website, both return visitors and from search engine referrals. Employing social networking cross-linking (e.g.: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), via plugins and widgets, will extend your social marketing even further. Add all that to your base of permanent pages, and engaging design, and you have a strong web presence.
So, which platform is best to construct this hybrid?
CMS platforms (such as Textpattern and Joomla) were developed with the website designer in mind. By applying standard HTML (the core language of any website) within their respective starter templates, a customizable website could be had that would be rich in page content, and light on posts. Blog platforms, such as Blogger and old versions of WordPress, though offering far more blogging options, use (often confusing) layers of PHP files within a fixed control panel (dashboard) that makes customization of pages more difficult. But, then came along WordPress 3.0! Essentially, it gave website designers more tools and flexibility to modify the default layout and options, so that the “blog” could look and operate like a CMS. Moreover, new WordPress versions are exceptionally user-friendly, have access to far more plugins/widgets (applications) than any other platform, and offer a vast technical support network. (It’s why we use WordPress exclusively for our hybrid websites.)
To see samples of nonprofit websites utilizing posts and social networking within their social marketing program, please visit our Portfolio.