When to use a CMS and when not to

Content management systems are great website-building tools, but they aren't always the answer.

Content management systems have been a blessing to web developers and site administrators for over fifteen years. Providing heaps of out-the-box functionality, content solutions, and regular security updates, they have played a significant role in advancing the rate of website progression amongst the masses.

In fact, the CMS has become so popular that it is nearly too popular.

When to use a CMS

Content management systems were built with a very specific use case in mind: to allow content-rich websites the ability to grow and develop without the boundaries and limitations of static websites created from raw HTML.

Today, the same goal stands pretty much amongst all major CMSs. But as these content powerhouses have streamlined the bespoke website creation process, making it easier to spin up a new, functional website in a matter of minutes to hours, many developers now resort to using a CMS for almost any project. And unfortunately, this is slightly problematic, for a few reasons.

And when not to

Content management systems are great tools, but their best primary use case is to ease the management of websites which are home to a lot of dynamic content. That is, websites which either produce or publish new content on a frequent basis, or sites that are home to content which is frequently updated.

Sites with a high turnover of content, whether the content is new or simply updated often, benefit hugely when powered by a CMS.

All site administrators know that a CMS will greatly ease both the content creation and updating process. These are the kinds of websites that should be using a content management system.

But as powerful as they are, CMSs also require a great deal of maintenance. This upkeep is generally incredibly worthwhile, given the gains that are experienced. This isn’t the case for all sites, though.

This is precisely the catch of content management systems.

They come bundled with so many features and tools, all of which make website creation a lot easier, and subsequently quicker than building a site by manually writing code, using raw HTML, for example. But deploying a CMS for a small, simple website (think 3-5 very simple pages comprising mostly of text), for which the content is never updated (or is seldom updated, maybe once every few years), is a slightly poorer use case for a CMS.

In fact, using a CMS in a case such as this may prove to be more of a challenge than not using one at all. A lot of code is being held redundantly on the server, and frequent security updates may become more of a nuisance than they should be... if they aren’t forgotten about completely, that is.

Websites which don’t require the power of a content management system are probably best off not using one. It’s a lot of code to be carrying around if it’s unneeded.

Conclusion

Content management systems are great, powerful tools.

They are the first-line choice for websites that either have a high content turnaround or store a lot of information, such as details of your customers or clients.

Be thoughtful, however, about whether a given project really requires the use of a CMS, or whether you’re carrying around more than is required.