Do you need a CMS for your website? What does a CMS do?

Most people will have heard of or interacted with WordPress at least once in their life. This is because over 43% of websites in the world use WordPress as their Content Management System (CMS).

However, even some newbies in the digital world do not know that WordPress is a CMS, what a CMS is, and what it does.

For non-developers, a CMS does not make a difference. They’ll load the website, see the content and not care how it was built, or assembled. For developers, and even authors to an extent – the CMS can make a huge difference.

What does a Content Management System (CMS) do?

If you’re working on a website that requires frequent updates, or in even more cases, a blog for a website – you’ll very likely have to rely on a CMS. This is because manually pushing updates to a website, by amending the code is cumbersome and in most cases much slower.

In the most basic sense, a CMS is a tool for developers, authors, and managers of a website to manage content. WordPress – the CMS we’ll take as an example here – has the ability to have multiple users, each user with specific roles set to each user to manage what type of content they have access to.

The CMS works in the back end of the website, on the front end, you can deliver the content in many ways such as an application, a serverless static site, or use the CMS’s system to do it – such as most WordPress websites do.

There are many content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla, Bolt, and Contao. Many more are within your reach by the power of the internet.

Benefits of CMS

Using a CMS can make your life easier both as a website developer and as a website owner. It allows you to take a more hands-off approach to managing your content.

It improves ease of use and development speed

By far the best selling point – even though many are free – for CMS is the ease of use. As a developer, it might be quite easy (but likely not as quick) for you to add content to your website through manual coding – such as creating a new product or adding a blog post.

However, people that are not developers would find this next to impossible to accomplish.

On the contrary, with a system such as WordPress, they’re able to just log in with their given credentials, click on the “+” button and start writing the post as they would be writing it in a document editor application.

But even as a developer, publishing new content would be a much larger effort without using a CMS.

The CMS allows you to create categories, post types, pages, and posts, with just a single click, and to design, write, and publish them – all within a very short period. With free visual builders such as Elementor becoming so popular, it’s no wonder so many people are building websites.

It makes your website more SEO-friendly

In general, SEO optimization is a huge part of using any CMS. For any search engine to better index your website, you need to have a sitemap – it’s an XML file that contains links to all your posts and pages, sorted in an orderly fashion to make it easy to crawl.

Without a Sitemap, it can take Google a lot longer to find that a page exists on your site – if ever.

Content management systems such as WordPress have built-in or extensible SEO functionality such as automated sitemap generation, easy metadata editing, SEO score calculation, and much more. All the features are impossible to cover here since there are many plugins with differing core functionalities.

It provides automated security management

Security is a large part of developing digital applications – one mistake here and all your effort could’ve been for nothing. Custom-developed applications can have security issues if not audited properly – and professional security audits cost thousands of dollars.

Popular content management systems, on the other hand, are built by world-class teams. These teams put a large amount of time into improving and testing the security of the system. They can do this because they have more developing power and a higher budget.

WordPress has an auto-updating feature you can use to automatically update the core code-base, themes, or plugins when an update is available. This allows you to update as soon as a fix is released – meaning a quicker resolution for any security vulnerabilities.

Additionally, since WordPress is so widely used, tools have been built around it to harden it and detect any security issues. One such tool is cPanel’s WordPress Toolkit which regularly scans your site for vulnerabilities. Eltris hosting uses cPanel as the administration pane and offers this feature.

Disadvantages to using a CMS

As with anything software-related, there are also disadvantages to using content management systems.

1. The scalability is questionable

While content management systems make it easy to build and manage your website, the scalability aspect is questionable. After reaching a very high number of users or traffic, you might need to look for more ways to optimize your website to ensure it runs as fast as before – or migrate to something else.

Don’t get me wrong though, there are huge websites that still use a CMS such as WordPress and Drupal for managing content. While it might be more difficult to optimize it at this level – the benefits are also larger, with more users publishing content, which equates to more time saved.

This also depends on the code quality of the themes and plugins you have installed.

2. Site load speed is usually slower

While it’s not a fair comparison to make – between a dynamic and static website – we have to make it as this is one of the disadvantages of a CMS. Most CMS will use a language such as PHP for the back-end, which allows you to add and edit content and dynamically request it from the database.

While this allows you to make more user-centered content, it can also slow down your website. When the page is loaded, the server needs to process the PHP code. Once it does that, it will return HTML code so that the browser can render it. Processing the PHP is a CPU-intensive task and can load your server.

As opposed to that, with a static website, the server will simply serve the requested HTML file without engaging the CPU much – if at all. Due to this, static sites usually perform much better when under heavy load.

It should be noted that there are ways around this such as by using a caching plugin in WordPress that creates static files for pages that can be served with minimal to no PHP processing.

Make the best decision for yourself

The best case to start making a decision is if you haven’t started going in any direction yet and are just window shopping at this point. This will allow you to gather information from a neutral point of view.

However, if you’ve already decided on one or the other, I’d recommend looking the other way as well – just to see how the other side works. In both cases, the knowledge can prove useful to you while developing websites.

The use case you have planned can also determine which way you go. Obviously, an email application such as Proton Mail or Gmail cannot be built with WordPress. It requires more fine-grained control which is provided by starting from scratch.

We hope that we’ve managed to provide you with useful information on both the advantages and disadvantages of content management systems. This should serve as a good starting point for your web-developing future.

Any type you choose to go with, Eltris will be glad to host your projects.