Content Management Systems
CMS - Content Management Systems
Content Management Systems are designed to do exactly as the name sounds; its a system that allows the layman to manage the content on their website without having to know any arcane code. This allows the business owner, or website owner, to make timely changes to their website without being dependent on someone else to do it. This is essential for adding blog posts, news updates, calendar events, product launches, adding a new employee to a staff directory, and so much more. Its also just as important for removing outdated content in a timely manner, products that are no longer in stock or services no longer provided, price changes for 'sales' periods, etc.
Though we've worked with various content management systems the primary two that we endorse are Wordpress and Concrete5.
Wordpress is the industry leader for CMSs. With more users worldwide than any other system it has become a household name and will continue strong into the future based on its current momentum. With so many users worldwide, Wordpress has established a vast network of contributors that provide numerous options for adding supplemental functionality to enhance your website and business offerings, whether that's a powerfully dynamic image with interactive functionality and calls to action, a WooCommerce shopping cart, or Yoast's advanced SEO management systems. You name it, the possibilities are seemingly endless with Wordpress.
There are two minor shortcomings to Wordpress:
1) a less than intuitive editing interface that is not likely to change any time soon given their well established methodology; frankly, this is a deterring factor for many business owners as there is a bit of a steep learning curve compared to many of the other CMSs on the market. 2) Sometimes less than stellar support in their vast spectrum of additional offerings. Sometimes having so many options means you may occasionally opt for a lemon. Unfortunately, there is sometimes no replacement for trial and error.
Concrete5 is the perfect response to the two weaknesses of Wordpress above. 1) Concrete5 rode in on the wave of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing, which, combined with drag and drop editing is the new revolution in most CMSs today. Wordpress is aspiring to meet that trend with its Gutenberg Editor, but it is a heavy handed approach to the sleek in page editing of Concrete5. 2) The simple and clean interface of Concrete5 makes it a much easier system for the layman to embrace do it yourself publishing and editing. This very website that you're currently visiting, is built on Concrete5 and is ultimately the in house preference we often recommend over Wordpress. Concrete5 is built on an impressively straightforward coding framework that makes it a breeze for cosmetic customizations and functional enhancements that aren't as readily achievable in Wordpress. Though Wordpress themes are customizable, the network of files on the back end are far more complex and have a greater frequency of internal conflicts with supplementary plug-ins or add ons than Concrete5. Additionally, Concrete5 lives up to its name; based on on the solid foundation of its architecture Concrete5 is for more secure than Wordpess. Wordpress, with its varied infrastructure of plugins, requires much more frequent monitoring of security updates than Concrete5. The primary drawback of Concrete5 is that it isn't as established in the marketplace, so supplemental out of the box addons aren't as prolific. That said, its limited options are of a higher caliber and less likely to pose complex or elusive internal conflicts or what coders call bugs. The foundation of Concrete5 also makes it a preferred choice for much larger or scalable websites with more users and intensive multi user functionality; Concrete5 is ideal for membership oriented websites.
Buyer Beware: CMS Impulse Buys & Captive Audiences
Wix, Weebly and Squarespace
These platforms, and less comparable 'wannabes', are remarkably easy interfaces for someone that wants to publish a website fast without any coding experience. Unfortunately, these options are geared more towards the impulse buyer who may experience some buyers remorse after the fact. As impressive as the editing interface of these systems are, the front end user inevitably encounters some limitations. Its not as easy to customize your brand in the long run, and there are certain nuanced functionalities that arent always available or dont work as anticipated. These limitations are further compounded by their proprietary frameworks that are not really supportive of custom coding; in these instances it can be difficult to find a freelance coder versed in the framework, which will in turn drive up your investment (very often for what may likely be a free widget on Wordpress).
For the money, these platforms ultimately don't offer the granular control deserving of a long term investment of your hard earned dollar. They not only have monthly and annual fees that are much more expensive than your typical hosting platform, you are locked out of the ability to manage your network resources, manage subdomains, additional coding languages, increase your page speed, and any number of aspects that can improve your website in the long run.
Finally, you become a captive audience. Not only are you often locked into your contract (often forcing wary business owners into more expensive, short term, monthly fees) but it can be very difficult to transfer your website to a more traditional web hosting environment that offers more options. With Wordpress and Concrete5 (both free CMS's) you can always transfer your website to another server, whether your simply prefer the customer service, or because the server offers the latest state of the art enhancements. Depending on the size and functional scope of your website, you can typically transfer a website and have it up and running within a few hours. This is not the case with Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. Their code is proprietary and you are not free to simply package the files and move them to a new server, which means you will need to rebuild the website from the ground up, cutting and pasting each line of text, every image, and any fancy functionality you may have added. Additionally, their gorgeous premade templates are also proprietary, and as such you will not be allowed to emulate their exact look and feel should you be tasked with rebuilding your website on a new server. That's why its always advantageous to manage your own brand, in addition to your website.
These website builders are perfect for short term, expendable websites, or simpler, less functionally demanding websites. All too often, someone starts with these systems, only to feel locked in after investing so much time and money. Easy to use, but hard to break out of.