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Should Your Website Use A CMS?

Content Management System

Content Management Systems are a robust way to keep track of your/your teams website assets (files, pictures, videos, scripts, etc.), enable a coding interface for advanced users while having the option to use a WYSIWYG (visual editor) interface for those users that may be involved updating the website with limited coding knowledge, and provide a mechanism for webpage templates to encourage theme and code consistency across your website. These are some benefits for using a CMS, and like everything else some are better than others depending on your needs and situation.

Well Should I use a CMS or NOT?

A large corporation, for example, that has many staff and faculty from different departments would most likely use a CMS. The IT staff would set up the CMS, and enable certain edible regions for other employees to maintain their own department's subpages within the website.

A CMS can be a great solution for those tending their website solo. The same benefits can be applied to a team. When I design a website for a client and they want certain features that are beyond my knowledge I may suggest a CMS that has the built in functionality the client wants.

Some Pros of CMS in general

  • Enables the average Joe to make website updates with an interface somewhat similar to Microsoft Word: insert pic button, add new paragraph button, etc....
  • Cost Effective: Some CMS's are open source (free). Moreover some CMS's have functionality already built in them like rss feeds, a blogging platform etc. If you hire someone to create a custom blogging platform for your website can be a huge additional cost. However, you may not get a perfect solution with the bundled features.
  • Assign Different Privilege Levels: This is great to allow certain users only the necessary privileges for their task-which you should do. For example you wouldn't want to allow access to a person whose job is to just update certain web pages text and pictures. This would leave your website's main code files that deal with the framework and functionality vulnerable to deletion or being corrupted. Person "A" will not be able to access and therefore won't be able to screw up the main code files.
  • Encourages Theme Consistency: CMS allows you to have the framework and basic layout for your web pages separated from your editable regions. This is great if you want to give person "A" the capabilities to create or simply update individual web pages only. Person "A" could have access to create new pages that have predefined layouts/functionality/themes keeping your site consistent.

The Downside of Using a CMS

  • Some CMS's don't produce web standard code which is an important consideration for SEO efforts.
  • Some CMS's are overly complicated for your specific needs, but you can always test drive another CMS.
  • Customizing a default CMS theme could be pricey: If you or your team are not familiar with some of the underlying code languages that CMS's are built with, like PHP or Perl, you will have a hard time customizing the templates yourself. You may need to hire a backend web developer to alter the underlying code-keep in mind this work is more advanced than HTML and commands a higher price.

List of Some Popular Free CMS

Dont Forget These Options

Adobe Contribute is software that you can specify editable regions and assign certain privileges like the CMS's I mentioned above. A particularly neat feature of Adobe Contribute is that once set up you can have the web editors log in the web and make changes... they don't need to be at a computer with Adobe Contribute installed.

Hiring a web developer for a custom login interface is another option and may make sense for your website. It may consist of allowing you, once logged in, only access to update certain parts of a webpage like body text similar to CMS's and Adobe Contribute features.

What Do You Really Need?

Ask yourself what functionality and features you want for your website and think of factors like time and money before jumping on the CMS bandwagon. They are a good solution for some while not making as much sense for other websites. Some CMS's are free but they can end up costing more to alter the underlying code down the road. If access to making text updates is all the client wants to control maybe hiring a web developer to create a custom back-end login for such a simple task makes sense.

There are options and it's better if you are aware of the pros and cons of each viable solution: Startup cost versus longterm cost? What features do you want for you website?

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