Do You Need A CMS?

Most modern sites need to be updated frequently in order to stay relevant. In order for your site to stay on top, you should be posting new content regularly to keep people coming back. One of the most attractive features of a Content Management System (CMS) is that it makes it easy to publish content. CMSs often provide text editors that make it so easy to write content that authors don’t even need to know any HTML at all. As an added advantage, most provide a means of hosting media so it can be included seamlessly within posts, making uploading by FTP a thing of the past. Some CMSs, like WordPress, even provide a means to version control posts so they can be approved and edited by a curator prior to their publication – another benefit if there are several contributors to your blog.

A CMS sounds like a great tool for bloggers, but what if you’re looking to do something more than that? Good news! There are tons of plugins for popular CMSs that include WooCommerce, BuddyPress and Yoast SEO that allow you to manage your own store, run a social network, or improve your site’s rank on search engines. Unlike a custom site, it is far easier to find support because of a larger user base and active developer community. Indeed, in 2014 WordPress alone boasted a user base of almost 75 million sites and it remains the most popular CMS today.

All these sound like great reasons why you’d want to use a CMS, but where there are advantages, there are also caveats. Most popular CMSs are designed with blogging in mind, but offer extensions into other areas such as e-commerce and social media. If your site is specialized in any way or has specific requirements, this general purpose methodology could either be too much or not enough. For example, if your site is tuned for performance, then a CMS is likely to be too slow or incur too much overhead due to database lookups that are optimized for flexibility, not speed. Likewise, if your site is complex or requires a lot of integration with specialized tools such as communication with remote databases or APIs, it’s likely you would find a CMS to be too limiting for you. Also, because most CMSs employ the use of templates to create posts, graphic designers or people desiring tight control over how their posts look can find that CMSs cramp their style. Conversely, if your site consists of just a few pages and you rarely update it, a CMS would probably be overkill and not worth the learning curve.

As you can see, there are several marked advantages in using a CMS and CMS-driven sites are generally faster and cheaper to deploy than custom sites when the requirements are simple and fit the mold. However, it is important to note that specialized requirements and custom third-party integrations can quickly drive up the cost of a site, so if a site evolves beyond a blogging platform or overextends the power of off-the-shelf e-commerce applications suitable for small businesses, then a CMS may not be the answer and more enterprise-scale solutions should be sought out. However, if you are a small- to medium-sized business that updates content frequently and wish to harness the power of the blogosphere and social media, a CMS is an excellent tool to make this happen.