How to build and maintain a web-site easily.

A lot of people ask me about this.

I update this website in any web-broswer from any computer anywhere on the internet. There is an "administrator" log-in which opens up a word-processor into which content is added. The software, called Joomla , is free & open source, and it is easy to find web hosting companies that provide it as a standard part of your web-hosting package. I use bluewho.com , which is perhaps a little more expensive at $20 a month, but the service is good and they've been around for a few years. For the $20 a month, I can host as many different websites as I like (I host some for good friends as well as a few personal websites). 

Back to this website: In Joomla, you edit content and set up the menu structure without needing any special software. The look of the website is completely customisable with templates; menu can go top, bottom, left and right, or all or those optoins. You can flow your content in multiple columns. You get a range of templatees for free, and you can pay for really nice ones (or custom ones).  Or you can make modifications yourself, which is a technical task (not very difficult, but much more difficult than managing content).

Joomla supports multiple users with different rights about what they can do, if needed. It has a lot of add-in modules, such as membership management, forums, surveys and there's a module to allow people to subscribe to your content changes via RSS (this is called "syndication" or a "web feed"; in Firefox, these are "Live Bookmarks"). 

This type of software is called "content management software" (CMS). A very simple CMS is a blogging website. Joomla provides a lot more possibiilty than a simple blog. There are many other CMS on offer, and fancy, expensive commercial ones as well as a good range of open-source software. Someone said to me today that if it's free software, it can't be any good. Well, even the expensive content management systems will probably be running on the open-source web-server software called Apache, since most websites use that, and the server computer is probably running an open-source operating system such as Linux, since most servers do, and the web-browser you use may well be Firefox, which is open-source. Enough said. Open-source software works because software developers get to customise or modify something that it 99% meeting their requirements. The licence terms require people amking these changes to share their work with others, and so the software develops with great momentum.If you are happy with the functionality, it's just another piece of software, although you have no vendor lock-in, it's free, and you know you will have first-class support for standards.Companies make money from open-source by selling support and training, should you want that.

An alternative to using content management software is something like Dreamweaver, which is often used by SMEs in this way: you use a very powerful software package to update a local copy of your website on your office computer, and then copy modified files back to the webserver. When using a CMS like Joomla, the web-server does the hard work behind the scenes; when using Dreamwever, the hard work happens on your local computer, and the webserver is relegated to a very simple role. You are tied to the Dreamweaver computer, and it's expensive. Dreamweaver is a serious and wonderful tool for very customised and advanced websites; for most SMEs it is huge overkill. It is the haut couture of the web world, but for most people with simple websites, using Dreamweaver is like wearing a tiara to the office.

Using a CMS means it is easy to update content. and if content is the most important thing your website needs to offer, look into it. The trend is towards content websites, so the trend is to the CMS approach.