This article provides an overview of seven important benefits of using a Content Management System (CMS) for managing a Web site.
In summary, CMS benefits include:
- Consistency of appearance
- Ease of adding content
- Ease and low cost of adding features
- Rapid yet thorough site-wide changes
- Ease of "repurposing" (using existing content for new purposes)
- Ease of dividing work among team members
- Ease of adding user accounts and features limited to authenticated users
In a bit more detail, respectively:
- When a site does not maintain a consistent appearance, it not only looks worse but it can be harder to use, causing people to give up on it and go elsewhere. A site that just uses plain HTML files requires ongoing effort to make sure all pages on the site have a consistent appearance. A CMS automatically keeps pages consistent by applying a template to them at the time they are requested by a site visitor.
- You shouldn't need a background in Web authoring to post content to a site, and a CMS makes this process easier for non-technical users. Even technical users can benefit from the reduction in work involved with posting basic content online.
- Popular CMS's offer a lot of features, either built into the CMS itself or added on from third-party developers. Adding a blog, guestbook, or other feature to a site can be as easy as checking a checkbox. There is no need for expensive custom programming that might not offer all of the maturity of a pre-built solution, and often the add-ons from 3rd-parties are free (as are most CMS packages).
- If there is an element of the site that needs to be changed and it is in the template, whether that is the whole look and feel of the site (i.e., the "theme") or something small like a copyright statement in the page footer, one change will update the entire site -- no matter how large the site has grown.
- Even though CMS software is usually free, creating the content on the site incurs costs, even if just indirectly from time spent on it. To recoup that cost, people will sometimes want to use existing content for new purposes. CMS software makes that easier. One example is turning a blog into an email list, so each new blog post is sent automatically to subscribers via email, either in full or as a teaser to bring the subscriber back to the site.
- If content authoring and management on the site should be divided among team members, using a CMS allows this without training each team member in how to use a Web development tool and also avoiding the revision control issues that typically arise when a team works on a non-CMS site. When the site is managed with a CMS, a team member simply logs in, makes changes, and logs off.
- In many cases, site owners will want to present certain sets of features or content only to specific people, such as clients, employees, shareholders, etc. The security structure of a full-featured CMS makes this type of access restriction easy to implement and manage.
As you might expect, there are other benefits that may be more relevant to specific sites. Also, there are negative facets of using a CMS, such as the initial learning curve, the ease of adding content that is not syntactically valid, and the possibility of an urgent security issue requiring a prompt upgrade at a time when it is not convenient to invest time in the site. However, while each site is different and "your mileage may vary," the many benefits of a CMS often strongly outweigh the costs and downsides.