To CMS or Not to CMS

by John Eberhard

CMS stands for “content management system.” It is a system used for putting together a web site, where the site owner can log into an interface and make simple changes to the content themselves without the web designer. Changes like the text or pictures on a page.

There are a number of content management systems available today. Some of the most commonly used ones are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. There are other less known ones, and some companies develop their own.

The advantages of having a CMS are many, including:

* The site owner can make changes to the site anytime they want, not having to wait for a trained web developer to do it.
* Most content management systems have what are called “plugins,” that can be installed and give various added functionality, such as search engine optimization features, installing Google Analytics, easy hookup with social media sites, Flash animation, slide shows, photo galleries, and site backup.
* From the designer side, a CMS makes it easy to make certain changes that then affect the whole site, without having to go manually to each page to make the change. WordPress also has other advantages that make things easier for a designer to add certain features.
* Easy integration with a blog.

Our company decided to go with WordPress as a CMS and have been using it for over two years now. WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform, but has gained a lot of popularity as a CMS over the last couple years because it is so easy to use. It also has a plethora ($5 word) of free plugins available. We can also work with Joomla and Drupal sites.

Going with a CMS or Converting to a CMS

Going with a CMS or not is a decision you will need to make at the beginning of a web design project.

I think there are lot of pluses and I can’t think of a whole lot of negatives, but there are a couple so let’s be honest about them too:

* WordPress and other CMSes pull data from a database to compile the page, and this can sometimes slow down the page loading.
* Some people think they will be able to make any change to their site with a CMS, but that is not the case. To make changes to the background, the header, the footer, and for the most part to the sidebar, you will have to have advanced web design knowledge.
* If anything goes wrong with the site you will definitely need to bring in an experienced designer, but that would be true in any case.

But by and large I think going with a CMS is a good idea, and over the last two years I have designed most of my client web sites using WordPress.

So if you are having a new site designed or having a current site re-designed, now is a good time to make that site in a CMS. So you need to use a designer that is familiar with the CMS you want to use.

Responsive

I use a customizable WordPress theme called Catalyst, which then allows me to implement whatever custom web design I come up with. It also has a feature that converts the site into what is called “responsive.”

Wikipedia defines responsive web design as:

“Responsive web design (often abbreviated to RWD) is an approach to web design in which a site is crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”

So responsive means your site will work well on mobile phones and pads. That is becoming more and more important, especially for certain industries. Adding this responsive feature is a good reason all by itself to convert your site to a CMS. For the most part it should be possible to convert your current site to a CMS and have it look almost identical, if desired.

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