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By Craig de Fasselle
Content Management Systems (CMS) continue to evolve with the intent of making website maintenance easier and less expensive. Sounds like the perfect tool for simplifying web updates, right? The decision to use a CMS might seem like a no-brainer, but don’t kick your web developer to the curb just yet! CMS comes with limitations, and its success depends on your website update needs.
What is a Content Management System?
A CMS is a user-friendly tool intended for basic updates. If you need to change some text, post daily news snippets, or add a file, a CMS allows you to handle these tasks.
But it is not an all-powerful program that enables you to create stunning graphics or make complex changes to the page layout of the site—at least not if you want the site to work across all platforms. A CMS is not designed to give the average user full control over a website.
A CMS is like having a Phillips screwdriver on hand to make home repairs. It works great for tightening loose screws or assembling a child’s toy—but you’ll need a toolkit of more sophisticated implements for complex remodeling projects, or even for handling moderate tasks. In the same way, a CMS will handle web “tweaks” and basic file uploads. But it’s not advanced enough to serve as a design tool, nor was a CMS ever created for this purpose.
In most cases, your web developer relies on other programs and his/her design and technology skills to create your site. As a developer, I’d much rather dive into the code with my preferred web programs than use a CMS to make even simple edits.
Do I Need or Want a CMS?
The most important thing to remember when making this decision is this: A CMS is an information tool, not a design tool. Some clients expect that a CMS will allow them to do almost anything with a website. (Remember, we’re talking about the Phillips screwdriver of website updating here.) There’s no replacement for the years of experience and extensive training your web developer brings to the website design process/update. No CMS can replicate that.
That said, you probably do WANT a CMS if:
- Your site constantly needs to be refreshed with new content.
- You’re comfortable with computers and common file formats. For example, a CMS probably can’t take a raw image from a digital camera and resize and optimize it for web. You’ll likely need to do some offline work to configure files for your website.
- You have the time—and budget—to make updates. A CMS isn’t free, and eventually may require some professional care (tune-ups) to update its back-end structure.
A CMS is NOT a fit for your website update needs if:
- Updates are required infrequently.
- Your schedule is already too overloaded to consider doing your own updates.
- Changes are more than simple tweaks. Remember, a CMS is neither a design nor programming tool. Standard CMS tools cannot deal with conditional offers (buy two, get one free) or prevent a novice from requesting sensitive info in a non-secure form.
- More than one person will be making updates. Allowing multiple parties to make updates increases the likelihood that someone will break the design or create a cluttered result. (Let’s face it, everyone wants their news featured on the home page.) For team update capabilities, you’ll need a customized CMS that costs more and requires training.
Choosing a CMS: Find the Best Fit
When selecting a CMS, base the decision on your website update needs and skill level. How comfortable are you using the technology. Talk to your web developer about trying out a CMS to see how the system works before you commit. Your developer can walk you through how the technology operates.
Over the years, we have provided a variety of CMS tools to clients, from very limited editors to custom control panels for complex needs. A good web developer will discuss your requirements in depth, offer some different options, and provide the CMS that works best for you.
Decision Time: To CMS (or Not)
A CMS is a wonderful asset for organizations that need to make frequent website updates that are primarily text. On the other hand, if you simply want a place to add some articles or share information, having your developer set up a blog on your site may be more appropriate.
If your changes are infrequent, or require advanced graphics, forms, or modifications to the site layout, a CMS may not be the best option. If you’re planning a website redesign in the near future, you should hold off on a CMS until the design is completed.
Let’s talk more about whether a CMS makes sense for your website. Blitz Media uses a full “toolbox” of sophisticated design programs to create results-driven websites for clients—sometimes that includes providing them with a customized CMS so they can manage simple updates, and in other cases we build blogs to accommodate content update needs. We’ll walk you through the process of deciding whether a CMS is a fit for your business. Contact Blitz Media Design.