What is a Content Management System?
A content management system (or CMS) is computer software that allows for the creation and organization of content. Websites are one of the most common scenarios where you use a CMS. A CMS can also deliver and manage content for other systems, too. For example, the text and images you see within an app on phones. A user typically logs in to a CMS and would manage it through a website interface. Some examples of systems that you may have heard of are WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Square Space, Wix.
Does my website need a CMS?
There are a variety of factors to consider when deciding upon a CMS.
- How often will you be adding or updating content?
- Will there be multiple people that need to manage the site’s content?
- Will the site’s “look and feel” also need to be managed?
A CMS can provide a straightforward way to to do all those things (and more), but is it needed? If a website is only going to be updated a few times over the course of a year, a CMS may be overkill. If new content is added regularly, or updates to existing content are frequent, a CMS will make it efficient for users to manage.
If a CMS makes things easier, why wouldn’t you use one?
As stated earlier, a CMS is computer software. And software can be finicky, complicated, and expensive. A CMS may also add “weight” to a website. Most CMS’s will connect to a database. That can make pages load slower, introduce a security risk, or add cost.
Not all systems are the same
You can’t write an article about a CMS without talking about WordPress. WordPress, has been around for many years and provide solid performance, flexibility and an ecosystem of design and functionality plug-ins. There’s a massive community of support readily available. Some services are free, some paid. Statistics are thrown around all the time on this point, but it’s been estimated that WordPress is running more than 30% of the sites published on the internet. You can’t argue with that popularity, but you have to consider the inevitable risks that come with it. The WordPress platform is open-source and has a potential to be compromised or hacked over time—especially if it’s not maintained on a regular basis.
Other CMSs lack this breadth of support but offer very specific features to help bring your site to life. An example of this is a Static Site Generator (or SSG). This type of CMS is relatively new and requires more technical knowledge. Hugo, Eleventy, and Jekyll are popular SSGs. They offer speed, security, and lower cost because there’s usually no dependancy on a database. A quick breakdown of these benefits is in order:
- Speed: These sites are typically just HTML, CSS, and JS files. There’s no connection to a database. They are considered “static” files, so they load fast.
- Security: No connection to a database. This is one less responsibility being put on the static files mentioned above. There’s no database that can’t be compromised. A hacked site is far less likely with static files.
- Lower Cost: The added cost in hosting a database over time comes in the form of each connection to the database using bandwidth – a cost of web hosting that should be considered.
There are dozens of flavors of SSGs powering websites around the net. You can monitor the popularity trends by visiting staticgen.com. This site is built with Hugo. The speed and flexibility of Hugo provide a single tool for fast and efficient website development.
CMSs come at a higher cost than basic static sites. The difference in money and time may be worth it. A quick checklist of things to consider when you are looking at a CMS:
- Will you be blogging, generating new, or updating existing content regularly?
- How many people need access to updating the site?
- Will the site’s look and feel need to change often?
Talk to your web developer or get in touch to learn if a CMS is right for your website.