Website Development: The Pros and Cons of Using a CMS

Considering a new website for your startup, or a refresh of your current site? The options have expanded, and one option is the CMS, or content management system.

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There are alternatives to using a CMS, You could go with a ‘built from scratch’ website, custom coded from the ground up. Or you could try a site built on a framework like Twitter Bootstrap. Still, a CMS (such as WordPress or Drupal) is a popular option, and with good reason.

Essentially, once you install a CMS, you immediately have a working website that allows publishing, editing and modifying content; as well as maintenance from a centralized user-friendly interface. There are both key advantages and some drawbacks to using a CMS.

Advantages of a CMS

  • Content editing is kept separate from design and functionality of the site; and a typical CMS allows non-technically trained users to add, format, and edit content on a website, without disrupting its design and coding.
  • Each user can be assigned selective access permissions based on their roles (for example, you may choose to allow some users to only add and edit their own content, while giving others universal access).
  • Content can be updated rapidly; turnaround time for your site updates is generally much faster using a CMS.
  • Basic site components such as menus, headers, footers, and sidebars are easy to quickly update through the administrative interface.
  • A CMS is SEO-friendly — they have evolved to include custom page titles and metadata, and adjustable URLs; and helper plugins are available as well (like automated xml site map submits).
  • Depending on the level of customization required to a theme, you could have a CMS-based site up and running in no time.
  • The basic CMS framework is free (of course, quantity and quality of content and customizations may add cost).

Drawbacks of a CMS

It’s not all a bed of roses. There are a few reasons you may not want to use a CMS:

  • Unfortunately, there are some malevolent hackers out there who can figure out how to break into these platforms; so security will require extra precautions.
  • Making your website look exactly how you want can be more of a challenge. This is true of some CMS frameworks more than others, but all present a bit more work to ‘style’.
  • The CMS stores everything separately, then assembles it on the fly when the web client requests a page, which means they can be slow; however, this can be mitigated by using strong, effective caching and Content Network Distribution (CDN) systems.
  • Functionality limitations: There are a few things you cannot do in a CMS, at least not without rewriting all the code.  These are generally things the average website owner won’t care about, but if you have special functionality needs please do a little extra research.
  • Not everyone wants to see their data in a database. Outside the CMS administration, it can be a chore to edit database content; however, this is rarely a legitimate issue, as databases are scalable, generally faster, and space efficient.

Still conflicted about whether a CMS is the right choice for your website? We can help you decide. Give us a call or send us a note.

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