When building a business website, one of the first and most important decisions you will have to make is which Content Management System (CMS) you will use. Most people who approach a Web Designer to build their website for them don’t even think about the type of CMS used, leaving the decision to them.
You may not even know that there are distinct differences, each with their pros and cons.
However, deciding which CMS to use to build your website on is vital as it affects every aspect of the design and development of your website.
You really need to know what you are getting into before you sign up with a provider or designer as their CMS may not be right for your business.
What is a CMS?
CMS stands for Content Management System, and this has pretty much replaced the former static website platform where everything was coded once and stayed the same, right down to the last line break.
A CMS is the computer application used to build, publish, edit, modify and maintain your website. It allows you to login and make changes to your site easily without having to understand how to write code.
Although there are many different CMS platforms available, they can be split into three different types. These are Open source, Custom and Proprietary.
Open Source CMS
Open source applications are those for which the code required is readily and freely available to use, copy, or edit. This freedom encourages collaboration and innovation within the industry and there are thousands of developers and designers out there submitting website themes and other small pieces of add-on software (plugins) that act as bolt-on enhancements to improve or modify the operation of the CMS.
Examples of Open Source applications are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
WordPress is by far the most popular; it has a 78% market share of all CMS systems used world- wide. It is used by individuals wanting to build their own sites and also be web designers looking for quality website platforms they can customise for their clients, allowing them to spend less time on site development and therefore offer more competitive pricing for website design.
A custom CMS is a bespoke application that is built specifically for your website.
A custom CMS gives the developer a lot of flexibility and control over the code and functionality.However, this personalisation can increase the cost when compared to open source or even proprietary CMS systems.
These systems may be more susceptible to bugs, and often require extensive testing before being rolled out. They are also only as good as the developer who created it and you may find that some things you want your site to do are not within their particular skillset. As a result, updates to new design technology may not be readily achievable.
Using a custom CMS also locks your business into using that provider for the ongoing hosting and support of your site. Moving to another provider may be difficult, and could involve abandoning your website and starting from scratch.
A proprietary CMS is an application that is built using privately held code. These applications are designed and controlled by the companies that create them.
There are a number of website builder CMS platforms on the market, including Weebly, GoDaddy and Wix. Some major internet service providers now offer a proprietary CMS application to their customers as an add-value service.
A proprietary can also be free to use, but often the free version is quite basic. You may find you need to pay for additional functionality modules to get the site you want. There could also be a monthly subscription charge that soon mounts up to costing you more in the long run than if you went with a web designer, or the company might run advertising on your website in exchange for the free CMS.
Pros and cons for the different CMS applications
A Proprietary CMS is attractive to many smaller business owners, especially start-ups with limited budgets: they are inexpensive and relatively easy to use and you may not need a web developer.
However, in general they are quite limited in what they can deliver. There is often a very narrow scope for personalisation or additional functionality. Web design technology is also changing fast, and if you are using a proprietary CMS platform, you are completely dependent on the CMS provider’s ability to keep up. Any updates and changes are at the discretion of the company owner.
Anyone using proprietary CMS systems may also find it difficult to switch CMS providers without starting their website build from scratch, due to potential restrictions from the company they are using.
Sometimes a free proprietary website platform is just a way for a service provider to lock in their customers: you might think twice about switching telecommunications providers if it meant starting over with your website.
Using a Custom CMS gives you a chance to have a website that is specifically tailored for your business with complete flexibility in its look and functionality. However, building a site platform from the ground up can be costly, and is more likely to contain errors that will take time to discover and work out how to fix.
Custom providers also tend to be very protective of their designs and will lock your business to a provider they prefer to use or control themselves for hosting and updates. If for any reason the web designer stops trading or you want to change web designers, then you may find it impossible to take your expensive site with you, forcing you to start over with a new web design.
Open Source applications used to be the free and easy web presence option for small-time sites and bloggers. Now they are a lot more sophisticated and growing in popularity for commercial use. This readily accessible and cost-effective way to achieve a simple online presence is ideal for businesses and professionals looking for greater flexibility without the high cost. As more and more developers contribute to the availability of ready-coded platforms like WordPress there is greater access for all to the latest in industry technology and trends, along with a wide selection of plug-ins for advanced functionality.
The downside is there are so many theme options that the uninitiated may find they have picked a lemon. However, if you do your homework and learn what to look for or use a web designer who has
the experience and know-how to choose one that is right for your business needs, then Open Source could be the way to go.
Open Source systems can move quickly to keep up to date with consumer trends and changes in technology, whilst giving companies flexibility in what they do with their website. A good developer will update their themes to keep current with security threats and technology, and if you are managing your own site you need to install updates as they come through. Some website hosting services include security and other updates as part of their package – it is a simple task that does not justify a large additional fee, so be wary of this too.
Web Tonic designs high performing custom websites for our clients using the WordPress Open Source application. Contact us for more information on what you can achieve with our recommendations for WordPress website design and functionality.