Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a CMS for Building Your Website
When setting up a website, business owners are faced with a choice – whether or not to implement an off-the-shelf Content Management System or opt for a hand-coded custom one. Before CMSs, people would hand-code their websites on their local computers and used an FTP program to move those files to their webserver, and then these files would become available on their websites. If they needed to modify something, they had to go through the whole process again. While continuing to apply this old method is no longer feasible, some people do favor a custom CMS over out-of-the-box solutions like WordPress or Drupal.
What is a Content Management System?
A CMS is a web application that provides all the necessary tools to manage online content and users, or more specifically, a server-side software that facilitates the creation and maintenance of websites.
Probably one of the most notable perks of having a CMS is that users don’t need extensive technical expertise to generate webpages, to upload or modify content. CMSs feature an administration area that allows users to upload or edit their content as needed. This admin area is accessible through a web-browser, which means that no client software installation is needed and an internet connection is all you need to start working on your website.
A CMS essentially eliminates the need for a webmaster and allows users to take matters into their own hands.
Most Popular Open-Source CMS Software
Migrating from one CMS to another requires a lot of time, knowladge and effort, therefor is essential to choose the content management system that is right for your website modell and your business. There are hundreds of software out there both paid as free which you can use for building your website. In the following I will present the top 3 most popular and feature-rich open-source CMS software.
At its heart, WordPress is more of a blogging platform than a CMS, however, due to the many plugins available (over 17,000 plugins) it evolved into a more CMS-like software. Given that its script is open source, you’re free to use it for any project that you may have, which makes it a multi-faceted and highly customizable platform. It’s mostly used for small and mid-sized websites and blogs. Although it’s a complex system, it has a fast learning curve even for those who don’t possess advanced technical skills. In this sense is probably the best platform for beginners.
WordPress has a huge community of users, meaning that support and documentation on almost all aspects of installing, customizing, updating, using, managing, etc. WordPress are available for users. The abundance of plugins allows you to achieve virtually anything with your WordPress site. By using free and paid templates or themes, you can easily customize your website’s look.
Disadvantages of WordPress include: need for PHP, HTML&CSS knowledge for implementing modifications; the need to install a lot of plugins for advanced features; security vulnerability issues brought about by themes and the installation of multiple plugins.
In terms of complexity, Joomla is a bit more complex than WordPress, but less comprehensive and advanced than Drupal. Joomla is also an open source platform with more than 3% of the web running on it. Joomla is extremely rich in features and supports all the features of a modern website. It can be used to create any website, however, it’s predominantly used for small to mid-tier eCommerce websites.
Although not as easy to use as WordPress, Joomla still ranks high among the easy-to-use content management systems. Users have an abundance of resources available, including programmer’s tools and tutorials to get started on their Joomla website.
Thanks to Joomla’s comprehensive navigation system, users can successfully manage several hierarchies, meaning that managing a website with hundreds of pages can be easily done.
Disadvantages of Joomla: requires lot of work to make it SEO-friendly, huge server resource requirements, some plugin incompatibility issues, less secure.
Drupal is one of the most comprehensive open source CMSs available, outranking both WordPress and Joomla in terms of complexity. It is considered an enterprise-class CMS, allowing developers to readily integrate it with SAP or other similar applications. Moreover, it is viewed as a content management framework rather than a CMS. This means that unlike a CMS, a CMF does not make any assumptions regarding how a website’s content should be managed, leaving a lot of leeway in terms of structuring the content. It’s a great platform for creating tailor-made eCommerce websites or any large projects where power, scalability and stability are the most important elements.
Drupal focuses on functionality in all aspects of website management, particularly with respect to user management, graphic content management, page content management, etc.
Drupal facilitates the creation of feature-rich, SEO-friendly, and mobile-ready websites. It also allows companies to deploy core features rapidly and leave customization for later. In this sense, it’s a platform that allows for a better dynamic in terms of customization, that is, a Drupal website can better respond to changing business requirements and customer feedbacks.
Disadvantages of Drupal include: steep learning curve, the absence of quality free plugins and a lack of theme variety.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using CMS
While all CMS software have their own particular advantages and disadvantages, some of the pros and cons are common for each.
Advantages of using a CMS:
- Quick development and deployment time: Using a CMS can drastically speed up the process of developing a site;
- Open source CMSs are free to download and install;
- Advanced site functionality: Most systems allow the implementation of functionalities (forms, polls, quizzes, event calendars, etc.) that would otherwise be extremely hard to achieve;
- User-friendly: Gives people with little or no technical skills the ability to create, update or modify content;
- Reduces costs: Implementing an out-of-the-box CMS is definitely less costly than a custom one. Also, after users have learned some of the ins and outs of the CMS, they will be able to handle the basic functions on their own, and this reduces the costs of outside technical assistance as well;
- Easy maintenance and updates: Most CMSs are developed to be easy to maintain and update.
- Huge development communities for open source CMSs;
Disadvantages of using a CMS:
- Hidden implementation costs for perfecting the system for users’ needs;
- Server resources: Some CMSs (e.g. Joomla) can put a load on your server resources;
- Some technical skillset requirements: If users have an aversion to learning the basics of using a CMS, the usage of a CMS will not be as efficient. This means that hiring experienced staff or contracting technical help might be necessary;
- Maintenance: In the wrong hands, an unmaintained and outdated CMS can do a lot of harm to a website and lead to serious security vulnerabilities;
- Direct support: for community-based CMS systems, direct support may not be easy to find, and you have to rely on user forums and existing documentation.
What to Look for When Choosing a CMS?
Apart from the above-mentioned CMS options, there are hundreds of others. Choosing the perfect CMS for you can be a daunting task. Here are some features that you should look for when selecting a CMS for you or your business:
- Page management: see if the CMS includes the page management features that you need. For example, a blogging CMS may have restricted page management capabilities making it hard for you to structure content beyond these capabilities.
- Adding content: Can adding or modifying content be done in an easy, straightforward way irrespective of the type of content?
- Template and theme variety: If customizability is important for you, look for a CMS that supports a lot of templates and themes.
- Flexibility of user groups: For organizations in which the workflow requires the collaboration of more users, a CMS that can handle multiple users or user groups is a better option.
- Multisite support: Does the CMS support multiple site installs?
- Security: If you own an eCommerce site or you handle sensitive data, make sure your CMS is bulletproof in terms of security.
- Search capabilities: If searchable content is important on your site, make sure your CMS covers this area both in terms of search speed and structuring results.
- SEO-friendly URLs, page generation speed, and clean code generation – all of these can have an impact on the Google ranking of your site.
- Support documentation and support community: Make sure there are plenty of resources and that comprehensive documentation is readily available.
So which is your favorite CMS? What content management system you are using for your website? Please let us know in the comments below.