Pros & Cons of Content Management Systems – Chumps or Champs?

Yes, we have experience using Content Management Systems, both good and bad.  As you can imagine, I am having a bit of a bad experience at the moment which has driven me to look at the pros and cons of using a CMS at all!  You got it, fight or flight time!

Let’s start at the beginning, what is a content management system (CMS)? – A content management system is a system used to manage and publish web content, ie the content of a website, without having to manually edit HTML code. A CMS can be a custom built system, template sites, site builder sites, or blogs.  Wikipedia is a good example of a site that uses a content management system.

CMS Pros

  • Allow for multiple users 
  • Ability to easily add/edit web content
  • Allows for frequent updates
  • Users do not need to be able to write code
  • Allows user to easily learn the basics of html
  • Web-based CMS can be free or very low cost
  • Provides a central hub so all users can keep up to date on site changes
  • Sets the stage for uniform pages, so multiple users don’t stray from the overall design
  • Some provide attractive templates and imaging.

CMS Cons

  • Limited SEO functionality
  • Restricted HTML editing
  • Design limitations
  • Not keeping up to date with new web standards & innovation
  • Difficult to switch web hosts
  • Website can look dated
  • Website can look like a ‘CMS website’
  • Price – Can be very expensive if building a custom system

Let’s focus on the limited SEO functionality, which has obviously got me up in a dither. CMS’s were originally developed as a quick and easy way to build websites.  Search engine optmisation and other search engine marketing techniques like pay per click and social media were not considered.

Not even that long ago, let’s say before quality score, the idea was, the more websites/pages you could get live, the more money you’d make (spoken like a true arbitrager). So speed and ease was an overall motivator.

Today, things are a lot different. Big Brother Google is watching you! Your site needs to have the correct business authenticators, oodles of relevant content, ability to A/B test landing pages, easy to follow navigation, the ability to keep up with search engine algorithm changes and anything else that improves the ‘user experience’.  Many of these things are still not as accessible to change as they should be using a CMS. 

Where does this leave the user? Am I still going to battle through, using the CMS, or am I going to desert it for greener pastures in Dreamweaver?  Both, right? What we can’t do in the CMS, we’ll build ourselves because it really isn’t up to us.  SEO is the name of the game and without it our websites wouldn’t be worth the time I’ve spent contemplating these pros and cons.

Anyone else Champing or Chumping their CMS?

Here are some great links if you’d like to read more: 

Which of the following CMS Systems are SEO friendly? – SEM 2.0 Google Group

The Pros and Cons of Content Management - Hochman Consultants (very informative)

29 comments

  1. Andy Smith January 29, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Try Etomite, works well, robust, manages template’s not content, very verbose. Can be dbase intensive, but can be optimised with a little knowledge. A programmers CMS system.

  2. Jamie January 29, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Good article – love it! It’s about time someone wrote a pro/con about CMS. I would really like to get your guys opinion on this CMS tool. Here is a hidden link to a free trial if you wish to check it out. It should address all your SEO, URL and price issues especially.

    http://www.easywebcontent.com/website_editing.shtml

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  4. James February 2, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Drupal is SEO friendly (Aaron Wall of Seobook.com uses Drupal)

    Allows for full html editing of page content, you can use filtered html or php as well.

    flexible designing – examples: http://www.sugarhollowretreat.com http://www.johnnycashonline.com

    Drupal has thousands of cutting edge programmers in the community that continuously innovate, add new modules, enhance usability, tighten security, etc..

    Hosting requirements are defined at: http://www.drupal.org/requirements – makes it easy to switch to a host that supports your site.

    A site looking dated is the site owner’s and designers fault.

    Check out http://www.drupal.org for more info

  5. Payman May 15, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Check out http://www.easywebcontent.com; A good alternative to content management systems and requires no installation, configuration or client side application for easy web site editing of any HTML based web site regardless of where it is hosted.

  6. Cher May 16, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks everyone for your suggestions!

  7. iprogress February 18, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Great article, an additional con for some CMS’s would be over complicated – not user friendly. We have created our own bespoke CMS and yes it is expensive but clients love it and find it very simple to use without any HTML or coding knowledge.

    I don’t really see the point in over complicating a CMS to accommodate programmers; they should be building their own site anyway! Keep it basic and only have features that are useful for the site owner, namely SEO!

  8. Squidge Website Design April 1, 2009 at 6:31 am

    An interesting article, it’s nice to see how people perceive a CMS from the user perspective!

  9. Jes Extender January 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Nice suggestions, thanks for good article…

  10. Tashina Romanowicz May 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I have tried out with new release of the Drupal. It is genuinely really solid. The admin panel is comparable to wordpress. And some more functionalities are contributed.

  11. centralne ogrzewanie September 7, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Haa, very nice!

  12. Rosalie Lagunas September 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    you are professional.

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  14. Nick February 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Literally every “con” you list for CMS is false when considering Drupal or WordPress. That’s some reckless blogging, folks.

  15. Cher February 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks for the comment Nick. Do tell….

  16. drupal web development February 21, 2011 at 3:28 am

    professional work you have to done.. great thanks. all CMS has been good futures. especially drupal has good SEO futures and compare with an other CMS like joomla, wordpress, silverstrip, etc..

  17. Nick March 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Cher,

    What I mean is…

    *Limited SEO functionality* – out of the box Drupal and WP are seo friendly. Clean urls, appropriate use of h1 and h2 tags, and a slew of SEO modules. -> http://www.kristen.org/content/drupal-seo-modules
    *Restricted HTML editing* – With a little know-how you can manipulate the HTML to your heart’s desire (it’s called “theming”). -> http://drupal.org/documentation/theme
    *Design limitations* – Any design can be implemented on WP/Drupal. The limitations fall on the designer, not the CMS.
    *Not keeping up to date with new web standards & innovation* – The thousands of developers contributing daily to the open-source community would vehemently disagree.
    *Difficult to switch web hosts* – Move the files, move the database, change the nameservers. done.
    *Website can look dated* – Why?
    *Website can look like a ‘CMS website’* – If you don’t learn how to customize your CMS, sure.
    *Price – Can be very expensive if building a custom system* – open-source CMS (WordPress and Drupal) are absolutely free.

  18. Cher May 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to share this info Nick. Really informative.

    First I just want to point out that this article was written three and a half years ago, during a time of signigicantly less modules and plugins.

    However, I do see your points and I definitely agree, now there are modules and plugins all over the place that can assist in making websites on content management systems SEO friendly. Can we at least agree there is an argument though that if a website owner has to learn how to implement these (usually more than one to get SEO functionality and the design they dream of) they may be better off learning the basics of dreamweaver and learn overall website building skills?

    PS Sorry for my late reply.

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