A CMS is a system that allows you, as a non-technical user, to easily manage the content of your website, without needing to learn anything advanced (such as HTML).
Most CMSs are web-based. That means you use your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox) to edit the website – you don’t need to download any special software, and you can log in from any computer.
Within the CMS you can add new content, edit existing content, upload files, and so on. It’s usually not much more complex than Microsoft Word!
What are the advantages of using a CMS?
The biggest advantage is you no longer need to go back to your web developer every time you need a small change to be made to the website. This means your ongoing costs are lower, turnaround time is much faster, and you are more likely to keep your website up-to-date.
It also means multiple people can edit the site, rather than all changes having to go through one person. If you want, you can choose to restrict access for certain users to certain sections of the site, or to require all changes to be approved before they go live – so you can still retain overall control.
What are the disadvantages?
The most obvious disadvantage is a slightly higher cost to build the website in the first place. In reality the cost is not much higher as it is offset by removing the need to create every page by hand. In the long-run having a CMS is the more economical solution.
If you use a commercial CMS, there is also the up-front and ongoing license costs – but for most people a free (open source) CMS will be sufficient.
What does a CMS not do?
A CMS doesn’t allow you to edit every aspect of the website. In particular, you usually have limited control over the design and functionality of the website. This is by design – these are complex areas that are best handled by an experienced web developer. On the other hand, there are CMSs that give you quite a lot of control – but these tend to be more complex, and require significantly more learning.
Examples of CMSs
There are many CMSs to choose from – both free (open source) ones and commercial ones.
WordPress is a free CMS that started out as a blogging platform in 2003 and has evolved into the most widely used CMS on the internet. It is very user and developer friendly.
For more complex websites, particularly those requiring role-based editing permissions or advanced workflows, we generally recommend Sitefinity, a commercial CMS by Telerik.
Another option is to have a bespoke CMS created. This has the advantage that you can get exactly what you want, but the disadvantages of higher up-front and ongoing maintenance costs.
We would generally recommend using an existing CMS that can be customised, unless you have very specific requirements that no existing CMS will satisfy. (If any web developer suggests writing a bespoke CMS, you should make sure they’ve carefully considered the implications first!)
If you need a CMS for your website, give us a call on 01865 794009 or email us.