Content management systems (CMSs) let you create a website without getting into the code (much).
They also provide a user interface that’s easy to use (somewhat). That is, a CMS has menus, checkboxes, fields, and buttons that help make your life easier. As you use a CMS, you may find that the interface is clunky. You may get upset about having to change a setting by clicking six times every time.
And you may be unhappy that the interface gets in the way of what you want to do. For example, if you have a WordPress plugin, it may block you from editing a theme.
The good news is that a CMS provides support. Some support comes from fellow users, and it’s easy to find this support online. As with many products, you get more user support when the product is more popular.
I found that when a CMS is less popular, you don’t get much support from fellow users. What’s more, support from the company is expensive.
Learned My Lesson
In about 2008, I used the Concrete5 CMS for a client website because it got a lot of good reviews in magazines. It wasn’t as popular as other CMSs like Joomla and WordPress. Concrete5 support was expensive. I didn’t pay what they wanted, and I couldn’t solve some problems. I had little to no input from questions I posted on the Concrete5 user forum. So, I lost that client.
I should have used Joomla or Drupal, which were the two most popular CMSs at the time. Today, I would use WordPress, hands down. I use WordPress for this blog, for my website, and for my clients’ websites.
WordPress claims it powers about 35 percent of all websites. It’s free to download and use. And it’s easy to build a website quickly using themes, which are pre-made designs for different types of sites.
What’s more, you get a lot of plugins, which are small apps that you can install into WordPress to do certain things, like keep your website safe from hackers. You also have plenty of support on the CMS website and third-party sites like WPBeginner.
But that’s not enough. Companies outside WordPress, Joomla, or any other CMS offer their own services. Some of those services, like mine, develop websites in WordPress. Others provide more themes that you can use for your site.
I get my website themes from Elegant Themes. They’re very popular and it’s not hard to see why. They not only have a lot of great themes, but you can also get help from real people…if you pay. When you need to change a theme to fit your needs, talking to a real person is a must.
So, if you want to use WordPress, here are the three things you need to know about the time it takes:
- Any CMS takes time to set up and maintain. Yes, you have to maintain it.
- You need to take time to figure out what else you need to use with WordPress. For example, if you need forms, you need to find a plug-in.
- It takes time to plan and build a website in a CMS. If you want to change your theme design, it’ll take longer.
If you think you won’t have the time to develop a site, here’s what you need to know about the costs:
- WordPress is free to use. Many WordPress plug-ins are free, too.
- You may have to pay more for additional features and/or plug-ins.
- Paying to have someone design your website with a CMS costs as much as having someone code your website.
How You Should Decide
Like anything involved with computers, content management systems are the old double-edged sword. It’s easier to change things, but you have to learn how the CMS works. You can design a site with a theme, but changing that theme means you need to know CSS. And you may decide that after working with a CMS, it takes too much time and effort to work with.
Content management systems are the hot trend in web design, but they’re not for everyone. I’ll go into more detail about WordPress in a future article. If you think content management systems aren’t for you, consider other easy and cheap design options in my last post in this series about building your website.
Eric Butow is the owner of Butow Communications Group and has designed websites since 1997. Please feel free to comment with questions and ideas to help make this series as useful as possible. Thanks!