A content management system (CMS) is a type of website that allows nontechnical users to create and edit web pages. Popular open source (free for public use) CMSs are WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal. Popular proprietary CMSs are Kentico, Sitecore, and Umbraco. Open source CMSs usually have a lower implementation cost than proprietary ones.

Pros to a CMS

  • You streamline your workflow because your copy writers/content managers can edit the website directly.
  • Most current CMS frameworks provide basic SEO (search engine optimization) features, such as search-friendly URLs and meta tags.
  • If your website content manager knows HTML, he or she can update the HTML directly (on a limited basis).

Cons to a CMS

  • Although your team members don’t need to know HTML, they do need to learn how to use the CMS. This isn’t a negative in itself, but some CMS frameworks have a higher learning curve than others, and, if adequate training isn’t provided, your team won’t use the CMS.
  • If the CMS security is too rigid, it will limit the type of content your team can add. On the other hand, if the security is too lax, your team could inadvertently break your site.
  • If your website content manager knows HTML, he or she can update the HTML directly (on a limited basis). Yes, this is both a pro and a con. It all depends on the manager’s capabilities and your trust in his or her work.

In My Experience

CMSs are best suited for businesses (typically micro businesses) that don’t need much more than a basic “brochure” website or perhaps a website that collects only basic information from its visitors.

Most small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) want more functionality from their websites. They want to leverage technology to improve business processes, shorten timelines, and boost the bottom line, and they know that the most powerful tool in their toolbox is their website. A website can integrate with other systems, process client/customer information, and serve as a primary component of your service offering.  While a good CMS framework allows your Web development team to make minor customizations, the needs of the typical SMB is far beyond the scope of a CMS.

Of the Creative Spark clients that have a CMS, only half actually manage their own content. The other half simply send content updates to us, and we complete them within two to four days.

Bottom Line

Is a CMS right for you? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the purpose of my website? Is it primarily a brochure site or does it help our clientele conduct business with us? 
    If it’s a brochure website, a CMS is likely the right choice.  If your website helps your clientele conduct business with you, you can include a CMS in your website solution, but the cost of the customizations may not be worth the investment to do so.
  2. How often do we update our website’s content? 
    If you update one or two pages every week or so, it would likely be more efficient to have a responsive web vendor provide reasonably priced management packages that include periodic content updates.
  3. Why are we considering a CMS? Is it because our current web vendor takes too long to update your site?
    Perhaps the solution is a new website vendor; someone who completes basic updates within two to four business days.
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