The Trouble With Content Management Systems
Modern Content Management Systems (CMSs) are amazing. They allow the end user to manage complex websites, and allow you to do clever design things with little or no design knowledge. All that power comes at a price though. Usually when our customers weigh up the pros and the cons, they agree that a CMS is still the right choice, but it’s good to be aware of the cons. Here they are:
CMSs are software programs. Any time a page is requested, a file of PHP programming code executes many other files of programming code, the requested page information needs to be requested from a database, and it all needs to be packaged into a template and displayed. With an old school “static” website, all that happens is a HTML file is retrieved, and that HTML file may need to request a number of other resources like images. Typically a static HTML web page will load in a couple of hundred milliseconds. A CMS page will generally take 10 times longer, or more.
There are actions which can be taken to keep a CMS running fast. Firstly you should use a reputable, knowledgeable hosting provider, offering optimised hosting. Secondly, only install the extensions or plugins for your CMS that you actually need. Lastly, you can install an optimising plugin which will claw back speed, by caching, minifying, and using CDNs.
As your CMS is a software application, it will need to be updated periodically. Some updates add features, some are bug fixes, but most importantly some are security updates to patch holes in the software that allow hackers to infiltrate. If you don’t perform updates, it’s quite likely that you’ll eventually get hacked, but updates can and do go wrong. If you don’t want to pay your web developer to do the updates, feel free to do it yourself, but always take a backup first.
You need to back up your website periodically so that you can restore if something goes wrong. What might go wrong? Your hosting company might suffer data loss. You might get hacked. A CMS upgrade might fail, breaking the website. Ideally, you would set up automated remote backups, or have your web developer do this on your behalf.
Since I started training customers on using CMSs, I’ve seen the training time creep steadily upwards. CMSs are getting much easier to use, with one click upgrades, drag-end-drop image uploads, easy video embedding and more, however the amount of functionality on a typical site has also grown. We’ll teach the core CMS concepts in an hour to anyone. However, mobile responsive theme frameworks, sliders, eCommerce, multi-column layouts and the vast range of extra functionality that are added to sites increase the amount of learning required. If you’re not very tech savvy, you will probably struggle with some of the concepts.
CMSs are great, they make it simple to do complicated things, but there are some gotchas attached!