What is a CMS?
The term CMS is an abbreviation of “Content Management System”.
More and more clients prefer to be independent of web design companies and be able to modify and update their website content by themselves. This is precisely what the content management system (CMS) allows.
What is a CMS and how does it work?
The content management system, a.k.a. CMS, is a complex software system installed in your hosting server, or in other words – in the place where your website resides. With its help, the work of certain types of sites, called dynamic sites, is fully controlled and managed.
With this type of site, generally speaking, the design is defined in a template that is common for all pages, and the content of the pages (texts, illustrations, diagrams) is stored in a separate place called a database.
When the client (that is, for example, you) types in the address bar of his browser the URL of a given page, the content management system “orders” the necessary content from the database, inserts it into the common visual template of the site, and so the “assembled” page is sent to your browser to be visualized.
The content management system (CMS) also has an administrative module, which is invisible to ordinary users, and through which the website administrator can edit and modify not only the content but also the design of the entire website.
For this reason, sites built on the basis of CMS are also called dynamic sites – because each page of the site is dynamically generated at the moment a user requests to view it. The rest of the time, in practice, the web page does not exist.
This is also the main difference between dynamic and so-called static sites, where every page exists and is available at all times.
Therefore, static sites, as a rule of thumb, work faster, but they are deprived of the convenience of the administrative module, through which the content of the site can be easily and conveniently modified with an ordinary web browser.
What types of CMS exist?
There are dozens, and possibly hundreds, of website content management systems. Some allow you to do practically anything with the site, but this is usually at the expense of excessive complexity in operation and difficult maintenance, especially for non-professionals. Few customers can handle such systems without extensive prior training and experience.
There are also other types of systems whose functionalities are relatively limited to only what is strictly necessary for regular and trouble-free updating of the most important elements of the site. These systems are much lighter and simpler to maintain and much more intuitive to operate but allow only limited functions.
Our years of experience have taught us that the size and specifics of each site should dictate what system is best suited for that particular site.
So for example, if your site consists of a couple of pages, or is of the recently popular “Single page” type of website (consisting of one long page with many sections), it probably won’t be a good idea to jump right into the popular nowadays WordPress.
If you ask about the reason for that, let me tell you: you probably have a car and you know that engine power is always proportional to the size of the car itself, right? Well, what would happen if you put a huge engine from a truck in a small city car? The answer is – it will mostly spend fuel mainly to move its own weight.
The same goes for WordPress. It’s a powerful and heavy-duty system that you only need when your task is to control something really big. If you use it for small sites, you will have to bear the consequences mainly of its shortcomings.
Using a CMS doesn’t have just positive sides
What are we talking about?
First of all, be aware that a CMS-based site always loads and runs slower than a static site of the same volume.
You will ask why? Because any CMS is a complex software system that dynamically creates each page of the site the moment it is “requested” by a user.
This always takes more time compared to a static site where every page exists and is ready to be “sent” to the user with no time required to generate it.
In some cases, even the programs of the CMS itself (the so-called core) are many times larger than the actual content they serve. We have come across many cases where a site of two or three pages (a few kilobytes of information) is managed by a CMS with a size of several hundreds of thousands of megabytes! Is this reasonable? In our opinion – no.
It is also good to know that when updating the site with CMS, you are only changing the content of your site on the server. If you do not regularly back up the site on your computer, any problem in the server (crash, hacker attack, or otherwise) can irreversibly damage the information on your site.
Apart from the disadvantages described, however, a site equipped with a content management system (CMS) gives you a lot of freedom in maintaining and updating it. You don’t have to contact the web designers for every small change in the site because you can do it yourself with the help of the CMS. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection.
What’s better than that?
What is the best content management system – CMS?
Just because the statement that “there is no complete happiness” is true, there is also no such thing as a “best” CMS. 🙂
Any content management system can be good in some circumstances and bad in others.
The choice of a content management system should always be dictated by the nature and needs of the website for which it is intended to be used.
Some systems do a great job of building company news and article sites but are nearly useless for building online catalogs and online stores. Others specialize in just that.
How to choose the best CMS for our needs?
Since the choice of CMS is almost entirely the work of designers, here we will only indicate some important points dictated by our practice and which you, as customers, should take into account:
First of all, make sure that the system they offer you is open source.
There are many fellow web designers who are really competent at building their own content management systems that sometimes work quite well. The problem with these systems, however, is that with them you commit “for life” to use the services of the developer or, in other words, the company that built your CMS.
This is not a problem if everything between you is smooth sailing … However, if you decide to have your site taken over by another company or web designer, you will find yourself facing a problem.
The time and effort that the “new” designer will need in order to master and competently take care of the maintenance of this unfamiliar system can turn out to be at your expense and be completely unjustified …
That’s why we only use established open source systems (such as WordPress and Joomla!), which are well known and perfectly documented. Thus, any client of ours who decides not to use our services any more is free to choose any other competent web design company.
Make sure the system can do what and only what you need it to do!
It’s hard for me to count how many dozens of clients have come to us for help with a content management system installed on their sites. In a huge part of these cases, we find that the cause of these problems is the use of a powerful and complex CMS, equipped with extras and capabilities, many times exceeding the needs of the specific site.
So what’s wrong with being able to do more, you ask? In general, there is nothing wrong, but the problem here is that the rich possibilities are always associated with the complexity of the CMS, difficulty to work with it for non-professionals, and very often – complicated and extremely demanding support …
You probably find it useful to have a big and powerful truck or bus at your disposal, but if you plan to use it mainly to transport yourself and your family, it would probably be smarter to buy a very basic sedan … :- )