Updating Your Web Site with Contribute


“With great power comes great responsibility.”
–Peter Parker, The Amazing Spiderman

Here at flyte we build and update Web sites using Dreamweaver, a professional-level HTML editor from Macromedia. This month we’ve been test-driving its consumer-level sibling, Contribute.

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Contribute allows a Web site owner to update her own site without having to call in a professional every time an email address changes or she has a new speaking gig.

Please note: We love handling your changes! You’re never bothering us when you request an update on your Web site–that’s what we’re here for!

However, I understand that some of you want to make changes at 11:30pm on a Friday night and we’re not around. For you, we decided to review Contribute to see if it’s the right tool for you to update your site.

Contribute: The Review

I found Contribute easy to use for most simple updates. I deleted some text from our home page, added press releases to our press room, and created links to these new pages.

However, when I tried to “un-comment” some code on our Web marketing seminars page, Contribute wasn’t up to the task. For better or worse, Contribute won’t show you the underlying code or allow you to edit it. I needed to use Dreamweaver to update this page.

Contribute is best suited for updating copy on a page and creating new, derivative Web pages. You can also do simple image editing, such as resizing and cropping images, although I recommend a program like Adobe Photoshop for anything more taxing.

In Dreamweaver you can create Templates and Library Items : tools that allow you to instantly update recurring information across multiple pages, such as navigation. These items can’t be edited using Contribute. In short, certain elements of the page have a safety lock on.

Think of Contribute as Dreamweaver with training wheels: your movement is somewhat limited, but you’re less likely to have a major crash.

Publish a horrendous mistake? Contribute can be set up to allow you to “rollback” to earlier versions. The caveat is that you need to set this up in advance and there are a limited number of rollbacks.

The rest of the flyte crew had mixed reactions. Some didn’t like what it did to the underlying code, but that may bother us developers more than it will your site visitors, who will probably notice no difference. There was also some concern that damage could be done if clients didn’t back up their Web sites on their computers before making any changes. Two gave it qualified thumbs-up, with one dissenting.

Who is Contribute Right For?

Contribute is going to be best for people who want to make frequent changes to their Web copy or add new pages, as long as they’re based on current pages. Don’t expect to update primary navigation, create online forms or add drop shadows to your images. Contribute is best for updating the content on the page, not the structure of it.

You should be comfortable with technology and willing to accept a small learning curve, especially if Web development is new to you.

At $149 Contribute won’t break the bank , and if you often hire someone for simple updates it could prove to be a wise investment. Compared to Content Management Systems (CMS) that can range from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars, it’s a great option for small business owners.

Who is Contribute Wrong For?

If you often feel overwhelmed by technology, stay away. I found this program fairly simple to use, but I’ve been doing this for over nine years.

If you don’t regularly update your Web site the money and time investment is probably not worth it.

If you are going to need your Web developer to also make regular updates it might not make sense. Your Web developer is going to need to download the entire site each time he touches it to make sure he doesn’t overwrite your work. This will add time and cost to any update.

In Conclusion

Keep in mind what I call the Mr. Coffee rule. When Mr. Coffee came out with a clock the commercials showed people waking up to fresh coffee that was there just waiting for them.

What the commercials didn’t show were the exhausted coffee drinkers the night before, stumbling around like zombies in their pajamas making tomorrow’s coffee.

In other words, the updates won’t take care of themselves …in fact, you’ll be adding to your workload. You need to ask yourself if this is the best use of your time.

If you decide to move ahead, be sure to contact your Web developer. She may have to provide you with some password information and should be alerted that you will be making changes to your site…otherwise she might overwrite all of your hard work…and you won’t have a backup!

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Contribute comes with a free 30 day trial so you can decide if it’s right for you. If your creative juices start flowing after your Web developer has gone home for the night, give it a try.

Want to learn other options for updating your Web site? Contact us!

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media