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Why Use a CMS?

Should you use a Content Management System? Should you buy one, build one or get a free one? This is the first in a series of articles exploring the use of a Content Management System on a website, all based on our real-world experience.

Hello -

I thought it would be useful and hopefully informative to write a series of short articles about Content Management Systems.

For those who are unsure, let's define what a content management system is in the context of a web site. Basically, a CMS allows non-technical users to upload and edit content on the site. There's more to it than that of course, but that is the use to which a CMS is most commonly put. So, at least in theory, a web design company can create a framework and their clients can populate the website with content. I will discuss in a future article what the pitfalls are to the achievement of this utopia, but how do you choose the CMS to start with?

Some of us have been involved in web development for more years than we care to remember. When we started, a simple html page was all that was required. The content and the page programming was all one, and if you wanted to change the content of the page, you had to be at least familiar with some elements of programming. Good for web companies, not so good for their customers. Any change required work by the developers. Separating the content and the programming by putting the content into databases was only really cost effective for huge sites, and generally still required the developer to made changes or to add new content. 

Of course, that has become increasingly unsustainable. The online world is fast-moving (and getting faster). If you need to make a change to your website, you need to do it now, not when the your web developer has a free slot. At mkWebSolutions, we found that our customers would often have a specific requirement on their supposedly 'static' site. They needed to add news, or special offers or downloadable documents. To allow them to do so, we developed a suite of content management tools. In most cases they were specific to the client and/or the website. There are snags to this approach. If there are only certain sections of the site that have the content management applied, it is a pound to a penny that another section is the one that will need to be changed. And of course our customers needs develop and change over time.

We investigated CMS systems that would cover a whole website, rather than discrete parts. Should we build one or buy one? 

In the next article, I'll talk about how we decided!

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