In times of WordPress, Joomla and Co. more and more pages are built with of a Content Management System as back-end solution, but not always is a CMS the right choice to built a web site. I’m talking here almost exclusively about static pages, because there are more and more static pages that are built with the help of a CMS by now; an often unnecessary and sometimes even bad choice.
For pages that have often changing or new content, news sections or even blog pages a CMS platform in some form is in 99% of the cases the best choice, so we won’t further talk about this kind of web site.
But where do we draw the line between often changing, dynamic web pages and static pages?
When you start working on a project (whether it is for a customer or for yourself) try to determine as early as possible whether or not a news or blog section will be required or if there is going to be other content that needs to be updated/added regularly. If a web page needs to be updated once or twice a year it certainly can be considered a static web page. It also depends on what kind of updates need to be performed. There is a big difference between the extensive update of a portfolio with new images, texts and case studies and the adding of a “We wish a Happy New Year to all our clients”–message.
In the end it is mostly a decision based on personal preferences and work patterns. Hopefully it will be easier to decide once you read this article.
Please keep in mind that we are talking about small to medium-sized web sites and not big, corporate web sites, for which special rules apply.
Generally you can say, if you are working on a static page don’t use a Content Management System. It doesn’t only mean more work for you, but can also have a range of other, less obvious disadvantages.
Although most CMSs offer you a great flexibility there are always certain things to consider when designing for a specific CMS, a disadvantage you don’t have when you code your page regularly with (x)HTML and CSS. It usually also takes a lot more time to code and test a CMS theme or template than it does with a simple web site. It is also easier to design and craft individual pages manually and pay more attention to the details if you are not restricted by platform-specific guidelines. You could logically argue that it is easier to make site-wide modifications with a CMS template, but what for do we have Dreamweaver templates, extensive CSS frameworks and co.?
The plural of CMS
CMS, the abbreviation of Content Management System, often causes confusion regarding its plural form.
The plural of the long version is Content Management Systems, the plural of the abbreviation is CMSs. The possessive plural is CMSs’ (Example: The CMSs’ greatest advantage is the ease of use).
Another point that speaks against the usage of a CMS, if you don’t need one, are security issues. Even though most CMSs are on a high-standard and pay a lot of attention to security issues they offer much more contact surface for hacker attacks than a simple html-based web site does. This may not be a major point, but you should still consider it.
Even though you might think the contrary, on the long run a CMS-based web site will require more maintenance than a regular web site. You have to regularly update the CMS, its plugins and with that eventually as well your theme files. If you are really unlucky complications will occur and you have to spent valuable hours fixing a page that doesn’t actually require a CMS.
Finally there is the Search-Engine Optimization. Although most CMS offer quite good SEO results, they will never reach the quality of a hand-crafted html-page, where everything is in its place and you can make full use of all html-tags and their SEO advantages.
Sometimes your customer will insist on a CMS, because he wants to (understandably) be able to edit and change the contents of his web page himself. If it is clear that he will only use this possibility at rare opportunities try to use a very minimalistic and simple CMS, that leaves you as much freedom as possible. CushyCMS and Simple CMS are great examples. You only add a line of code to your regular html-site and the customer can edit the important parts of the web site all by himself. You can even brand the backend very easily yourself.
This is not meant to be an anti-CMS article. I love CMSs and all their advantages (I guess you could call me a WordPress-addict), but I’m against their (growing) use if it really isn’t necessary and the disadvantages overweigh the advantages.
What do you think? In what situations should CMS’s be used and when do you use them? Feel free to share your thoughts.