CMS's (Content Management Systems) are all the rage. Wordpress has lowered the bar of entry to the CMS world, and made Web developers of us all. But what are the drawbacks? What are the hidden costs? Do you even need a Content Management System or are you asking for one because your neighbors kid told you it was the only way to go?
Many think of a Content Management System as a magic bullet that is going to save them from all of their on line marketing issues, and many of our prospects demand we build a site using one. But, as we begin to have a relationship with them we soon discover that in many cases a CMS is not needed and could actually do more harm than good.
To CMS or NOT to CMS? That is the question! Some basic questions can help frame the need (or not) for a CMS.
1. Do you need control over your content for basic updates daily? Weekly? Monthly? If you are updating less than once a month you will more likely be better off simply working with your website designer to make edits
2. Do you have the resources to commit to a CMS? Just because you CAN update it doesn't mean you will.
3. Do you plan on having a blog on your website? If you are planning on blogging than a CMS (at least for the Blog) is a must.
4. Do you have an employee who knows HTML?
A CMS is NOT the only way to maintain a Website. Someone who knows HTML can edit the website directly. Well designed Websites separate content from design so basic HTML skills can get you what you need. Also, your Web developer may have a helpful maintenance plan so you they can manage things for you.
What are the problems of a CMS? Because a CMS gives you the flexability to edit your website whenever you want, you may be thinking "I want that!", but like everything else in life, there are two sides to the coin. The pros of a CMS are easily defined. It's time to look at the other side of the coin.
- You will add cost to your initial project if it includes a CMS
- You will add time to the project deployment if it includes a CMS
- Code tends to be bloated
- Open Source tool sets come with their own headaches
- Open Source tool sets open a Website to security holes
- Design may be constrained by the CMS framework
- Employees must be trained in the CMS
- Limited Functionality
- Constant Upgrades
- Poor Writing/Editing
I Know! it's a pretty long list. And typically, not one mentioned. And each item on the list has repercussions of it's own. Hidden Costs, timing, work flow, training, it can be daunting. And because changing your mind later can be expensive, it's best to discuss and confront any issues up front. The fact that most people tend to think that because they have been told that if they use a CMS they will control over their content (and by content I mean the words on the page of the Website), they assume they can change anything, even the design structure of the site. See above bullet point in red.
Adding a CMS means you are tied to someone else's structure, and there will be a limit to your Website’s flexibility. All CMS's have a pre built framework and are template based which is always limiting. A website built without a CMS does not have these flexibility limitations. And, the site will have a much smaller code base.
LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR: There are Website projects that definitely require a CMS. However, this decision should be made in consultation with your website designer rather than you simply making it a requirement. AND: (pay close attention here...this means you...) your Website Developer should have a working knowledge of several systems, and be able to build static sites as well. If you go to a Wordpress shop (even unknowingly) and ask the developer for a Website, you are going to get....Wordpress!
Buyer Beware: There are unscrupulous Website designers who will be quick to add a CMS to your project even if it isn’t necessary.
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