When starting a business website, or revamping an existing one, there are many important decisions to be made. The choice of whether to use a content management system, and subsequently which one to use, could very well be the most important decision you must make and have the biggest impact on how well your website performs in the long term.
What is a content management system?
There are many CMS to choose from, and the features they offer vary widely. In general, a CMS is a software application that is used to create, manipulate, manage and publish website content. Some offer complete control of every aspect of a website including design, content and user management, whilst some can be used to simply add blogging capability to a website, and are totally separate to the design and development of the site.
CMS are very popular and the most popular of them all, Wordpress, is estimated to power over 27% of all websites on the internet and some of the largest global brands use Wordpress in some capacity on their websites.
Why use a CMS?
All content management systems available have significant advantages and disadvantages both compared to each other, and compared to having a non-CMS website. How significant these advantages and disadvantages are for you and your business will depend on several factors including; budget, bespoke design, performance and security, future updates, personal level of expertise, features required and the number of contributing editors.
Budget is most likely being a big deciding factor in any website project, making most popular CMS available a very attractive prospect as they are open source and free to install and use. Many website hosting providers will even install the software, giving you an instant website which you are free to customise and add content to. On the face of it this seems to save a lot of money when compared to having a web developer build a non-CMS site for you. The problem many people face when using a CMS for the first time, especially if they installed it themselves, is that the huge number of customisation options available in the dashboard are overwhelming which can lead to errors being made and the website going offline. At this point you could be missing out on leads and sales and possibly also be forced to pay someone to fix it for you.
There are many themes available both free and paid for nearly all CMS. Some of the most popular themes are installed on thousands of websites which means that your website could end up looking and functioning like one or more of your competitors which is probably undesirable. Using the built in customisation options it is possible to align the look of your website with your business branding but depending on your level of expertise in design, HTML and programming it is easy to run into problems that can lead to your site functioning poorly or at worst becoming unavailable. A good compromise in this respect is to pay a developer to build and install a custom theme for your business which perfectly matches your company branding. This takes away the complication of developing and customizing the website yourself, whilst still giving you the benefits of the power of the CMS for content creation and management.
Performance & Security
A side effect of the popularity of the major CMS platforms is that they have become targets for hackers. A study highlighted that 70% of Wordpress websites have security vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Most known security flaws can be negated by regular maintenance, always using the latest version of the CMS and keeping any installed plugins up to date as well as deleting unused ones. Many people ignore updates leaving their website vulnerable. There are other steps that can be taken to increase security; some can be achieved using third-party plugins but some will need to be performed by an experienced developer.
The complexity and power of CMS websites means that the amount of resources required for each page load is usually much greater than a comparable non-CMS site. This can lead to slow page load times which, in turn can have a negative impact on user experience and ranking in search results. Most CMS also make it easy, and free, to install plugins which means it is simple to experiment with the design and functionality of the website however, failing to delete unused plugins can impact website performance and present a security risk if they are not kept up to date.
If your website requirements are quite general and relatively simple, an ‘off the shelf’ installation of one of the big CMS is almost certain to do everything you need and more. If a specific feature, such as running a forum, isn’t included in the core functionality there are many third-party extensions and plugins that will do the task. Caution should be exercised when working with plugins. Always ensure you have a recent back up of the whole website before installing any plugins and be sure to research them first. Check for compatibility with your CMS version and when the plugin was last updated. Be wary of plugins with very few active installs and check other users reviews to see if there are any issues with the plug in that may harm your website.
If you have a non-CMS website, there are options such as Perch which can add CMS functionality retrospectively, avoiding the need to completely rebuild your website which could prove to be a very cost effective option. If your website requirements are very basic, for example, simply adding a blog, a solution like Perch can meet your needs without adding complexity and code bloat to the website and give you a very simple admin area making it very quick to learn, streamline your workflow and keep content management separate the development of the website, making it impossible for content editors to damage the website.
If you would like to discuss the exact needs of your business get in touch for a free, no obligation quote.