Should You Use a CMS or Not?

By James Rogers • Apr 9th, 2014

Technology, Web Design

One of the popular things that people want on a website but don't necessarily understand is a CMS. It's a great buzz word that gets thrown around by designers and the like, but that doesn't mean everyone really knows what it means, or what the purpose is.

A CMS, short for Content Management System, is exactly what it sounds like. It's a system that is built for the purpose of managing content on a website, or sometimes an office backend. For the sake of this blog though, we'll be talking about CMS in regards to website content.

Traditionally, some designers and developers will argue as to what really qualifies as a CMS and what doesn't. Some people would consider Wordpress a CMS system, while others still hold it to being a blog system. Most ecommerce websites would be considered CMS systems, since there is some sort of backend interface that users can login to and make changes.

The short answer, in my opinion, is that any admin interface that is used to change, update, add, remove, or edit content and/or images would be considered a CMS. Usually there are no more than a handful of people with access to the admin area (usually found by going to who can make edits.

CMS Information

So what does a CMS really do?

A CMS can do many different things. It usually depends on who built the system and what you and your developer have laid out. For this website, WebInke Design, I use a CMS that's integrated into my design that lets me create gallery pages on the fly, add images, delete images, add text areas to pages, edit the navigation, and I use it to create blog articles, just like this one.

Another site that uses a similar system is Kay Jasmine Photography Kay Jasmine Photography is able to add galleries for recent shoots, new pages, and she can manage her own page keywords. The best feature of any CMS though is that it allows you to make updates to your website and the content from any computer with an internet connection. All you need is the admin login, and a browser. There's no special software required (you can use something like Adobe Contribute, but I find it incredibly restricting) and usually you don't have to know how to code. If you can use Microsoft Word you can typically use a CMS interface.

So why would I want a CMS? Isn't it pricey?

In the short term, having a CMS built for your website can be daunting. It adds a substantial amount of hours to any project, and the total cost will go up, but that's only initially.

Say for example, you own, and you make updates pretty often. Your web designer charges you $75, and you average 2-3 hours of updates a month. That can be up to $225 a month, and in a year's time you've spent $2,700 on updates. In two years that could be $5,400.

Now let's say that you decided you wanted to make updates yourself, but the idea of getting into FTP and page code is a bit daunting (as it should be, a misplaced comma can break a whole site). You decide to have a CMS installed into your site (which can be done on a new build, or it can be retrofitted into your existing site), and it costs anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000* (*just an example, it could be much higher, depending on your needs). In one year, you have a cost of $3,000. The next year you have a cost of...nothing.

And the savings just continue to stack as time passes.

You see? With a CMS, you've just eliminated the need to continually send emails to your web designer for small updates, and you'll save money for bigger projects or needs as they come around.

Ok, but why wouldn't I want it?

In truth, a CMS solution isn't the answer for everyone. Of course, there are some websites that require such a thing (ecommerce, estores, etc), but for the most part, it's up to you and how much maintenance on content you'd like to do yourself (or have your team do). Some CMS packages let you change your whole website with new templates (like Wordpress), and some allow you to only edit the images and content. If you have a small site, around 5 pages or so, then you probably don't need one. The cost of creating a CMS admin side doesn't change too much, since it's the initial setup that takes time.

When it comes down to it, the purpose of a CMS is too give you a tool to help you manage your website content, on your time, from anywhere, and there's no waiting around on your busy web designer friend to get around to it. If you don't need, or want, any of those things, then you probably don't need to make the investment.

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Creative thinking and development are just a part of what makes James tick. When he's not working on a project for a client, he's usually working on a project for himself. When he's not doing that he can be found snowboarding, hiking, or enjoying a broadway show with his wife.



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