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Sticking with us – the upside of a central service

Managing your website through a large scale (or enterprise-level) content management system can occasionally feel like a frustrating or restricting experience. I know this because I’ve been a web manager myself, and I field enquiries and comments from time to time in this vein. I had one such email recently, and would like to share it with you (anonymised, of course!).

A colleague I worked with a few years ago to develop their website in Polopoly dropped me a line:

“Do you not think that we should enquire with <named website development agency> to get a new look website for the <unit name>? Why is this not an option?”

A fair enough question, and I was really pleased to receive it as it gave me the chance to help them make a balanced decision, rather than allowing frustrations to fester or make a decision that wasn’t fully informed about what they should do next.

Developing a new content management system for the scale we (as a university) need (300+ subsites, over 1000 trained users etc) necessarily takes time, and if everyone did their own thing they’d possibly get what they wanted more quickly.

But there’s a bit more to consider than just getting what you want right this moment. Website development and management isn’t like getting a new brochure produced – plan, design, send to printers, then that’s it until you need a new one. At least it shouldn’t be.

It’s an ongoing process of management, maintenance, evolution and improvement to help you achieve the goals of your school or unit.

Anyway (climbing down from soapbox), here’s how I replied:


Ultimately the decision you make about how you develop and manage your website is up to your unit. So engaging a design team to deliver you a new look website is of course an option.

I can’t comment on what you would get from another team delivering you a new site, but would encourage you to consider what I feel are the main benefits of using the centrally-supported University CMS:

Cost: You’ll be migrated to the new CMS from the existing Polopoly Service at no charge and minimal inconvenience. Your commitments will be: making sure your site is in shape before the move, getting trained in the new system and checking the migrated site over prior to launch.

Consistency: Your website will continue to comply with legislative standards (accessibility, privacy etc) and will be consistent with the rest of the University (and continue to remain in step as the design evolves).

Support and training: Your team get as much or as little user support as they require for free, as they have since joining the University framework using Polopoly. You should check how this will be charged if you go down another route.

Community: You’re part of a user group of hundreds, and this will grow in future. So when you want to share content, or liaise with colleagues in other areas about website management, you have a common point of reference in that you use the same system.

Ongoing development: the CMS and website continue to evolve, as they have while you’ve been using Polopoly. Again, this comes with no cost to you.


As it turns out, the person who sent me the email was actually asking on behalf of senior colleagues. As a non-specialist website manager (like many around the University) they particularly value the support we provide as it helps them feel  more confident and competent in the job they need to do alongside their full-time “real” job.

So these points were helpful in explaining to their colleagues why they are managing the website they way they are.

And with the new CMS coming in over the course of 2015, we’re going to see some of the more frustrating elements of current corporate website management swept away:

  • A new design and navigation that works for small screen devices
  • Greater flexibility in the design of your site: multiple colour palettes and more choice in homepage layout, for example
  • Significantly quicker and easier to do basic day-to-day website management tasks
  • The opportunity to take on and manage your own copy of the new CMS (one for the techies only!)

Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Am I being incredibly biased, or looking through rose-tinted specs because I work for the Website Programme?

Or maybe there’s something you like about our service that you see as a real advantage that I didn’t mention above.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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