A Content Management System (CMS) is the application that lets you manage and update your website, usually via a “back-end”. WordPress is the system most people are familiar with.
In fact, there are many CMS’s available today in addition to WordPress. Systems such as Craft CMS, CMS Made Simple, Drupal, Joomla…. The list goes on! How do you know which one to use? And why should you care?
Well, all these CMS’s are very different. Choosing which one is right for a particular website requires knowledge of the pros and cons of each system. There just isn’t a “one size fits all” CMS.
Choosing the wrong CMS is a big mistake
Unfortunately, some web designers and agencies will recommend a particular CMS because it’s what they know, rather than because it’s right for the client.
Choosing the wrong system can mean either the client discovers they require an expensive maintenance plan for a CMS they don’t need in the first place, can’t make changes to the website as the “back-end” is too complicated, or it’s just too slow for their hosting plan.
Below we discuss four options and the pros and cons of each. We haven’t included every system available, but these are the ones we have experience with and feel qualified enough to talk about.
Can’t I just use WordPress like everyone else?
WordPress is the CMS that most people know, and is indeed what we recommend if you need something considered “standard” for a “typical” website. It’s by far the most popular CMS, with 30% of all websites using it.
Quite honestly, for a lot of websites, WordPress is a great choice. It’s easy to make changes, and there are a considerable amount of options available.
For those on a low budget, a page builder can be used to reduce the build cost of the website. Be aware though, that although a page builder gives you a lot of flexibility, the downside is that making changes is more complicated and there’s a risk of completely messing up the design or layout if you don’t know what you’re doing. (A custom WordPress site would avoid this. Check out our article on page builders vs custom websites for more details.)
The main disadvantage of WordPress is that it requires ongoing maintenance. It’s important to ensure that any plugins are kept up to date along with WordPress itself. Depending on the site, this can be expensive, increasing the site’s total cost of ownership.
Also due to WordPress’ huge popularity, you have to be careful when choosing who builds your website. Make sure it isn’t just cobbled together on the cheap, and then becomes a maintenance nightmare and impossible to update due to a poor quality plugin or abandoned theme.
Choose WordPress if you’re already familiar with it, on a small budget, or want something standard so it’s easy to find help. But be careful who builds it for you!
Check out the WordPress.org website for more details.
Craft CMS is a great alternative to WordPress if you want to easily make updates to your website, but with a much reduced maintenance requirement. This is possible because Craft doesn’t require a bunch of plugins which need to be kept up to date.
It’s very flexible, so will handle just about any content requirement, which WordPress can struggle with. It also works extremely well when content is managed by a team rather than just a single person.
It also has features like live preview which makes the content editing experience easy and enjoyable to use.
Also, as this CMS is built very much for the advanced web developer, you’ll need to hire someone competent to help you.
Choose Craft if you want an enjoyable editing experience, have sophisticated content requirements or require a team of content editors to manage the website.
Check out the Craft website for more details.
Do I even need a CMS?
Sometimes there is no need to change the website content, and if there is it’s rarely. So there’s really no need for a CMS at all.
In this case a nice light weight “static” site is a very good choice. Because there’s no system to keep updated, an ongoing maintenance plan is unnecessary. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to change anything, but you will need your web developer to do it for you. Over time this still works out cost effective if the changes are infrequent.
Another advantage to a static site is that pages will load very quickly even on inexpensive hosting.
Once you have a static site, then later on decide you do want to start making updates yourself, it’s perfectly possible to upgrade to a CMS, without throwing anything away. Any competent web developer will be able to do this for you without starting from scratch.
Choose a static site if the content rarely needs changing, and you don’t want the ongoing expense of a maintenance plan. Also consider it if you want pages to load quickly even on cheap hosting.
We hope this has been informative. We know there are lot of options out there and it can be a bit overwhelming!
If you need any further advice on what CMS to use for your next website, feel free to send us a message. All our advice is free.