If not, why not?

If you’re not familiar with the word “CMS” then it’s high time you make room in your busy schedule and see what all the fuss is about. I doubt that you’re someone who, after endlessly surfing the web and ended up reading this article, has no interested in what  a CMS is. So, because I value your time, I will sum up what a CMS is.

CMS stands for “content management system”. This is the word that should be the first thing you think of if you, for instance, want the ability to manage the content of your website without any real difficulties. It is important to determine whether a CMS is necessary though, so make sure you do your homework first. As the capabilities of websites have grown over time, we have reached an era of mass customization. With the ever-growing industry of technology and the power of the media, websites are now expected to be constantly up to date. Take a website based on the fashion industry. We expect them to be up to date with the latest trends, so how are these websites and their content managed? One word: CMS. Okay, so you’re not into fashion? How about a website that showcases your latest art collection? CMS. Not a fan of art either? Then how about having your own blog to state what you DO like? You guessed it: CMS. These are the kind of websites that benefit from what a CMS has to offer. A CMS not only stores your content, but it’s also a tool used to manipulate the content of your website. But don’t start announcing that you’re in need of a CMS when you don’t actually need one. Because a CMS is pretty heavy stuff, it requires… well… a system.

What this means is that we need to get a database involved. This in turn means depending on a stable network to ensure that your website’s downtime is minimal. Not to mention the required amount of time to develop, as well as manage, your website.

A breakdown then? Okay, I will do this by taking the example of where you want to run a blog of some sort. I’m pretty confident that almost everybody would like to share their thoughts for everyone to see. This is simply the core foundation on which social media exists.

Unfortunately, no one likes limitations. Yes, I am talking to you, Twitter! A CMS offers the ability to store any, if not all, of your website’s content somewhere, usually in a database. This means that you have access to the information that your website processes with the help of server-side scripting. Hmm, I guess this is where I recommend for you to look into server-side scripting. Let’s try to skip that; server-side scripting goes beyond the ability to control the behaviour of a browser. It talks to the server. In other words, this allows you to control the the output on the website dynamically. Pretty neat, huh? If you truly did not find that neat, then you ought to make sure you understand the potential of server-side scripting. So… this is where you run off to look into it.

Let’s go back to databases for a brief moment, as this is the pillar that a CMS stands on. Compare a database with a storage vault, one that contains all the information that we have explicitly extracted from the website, and we can manipulate it with the use of CMS. Let’s say that you’ve finished writing your first blog post. All you have to do is click on the submit button and voila! Your website publishes your first post. Behind the scenes, a task is executed which takes the content of your post, and stores it in the vault. The task may also include to update the website accordingly by publishing the new post straightaway. Oops, but we all make mistakes! What if you found a typo after rereading the post once it’s published? Or worse, you realize that the post was badly constructed! This is when CMS is your hero.

So how does a CMS work its magic? There are severals ways to allow you to access the CMS. Remember how I said that a CMS is a system? This may have led you to assume that it’s a program you have to download or something silly like that. This is not the case though. The CMS is just a different side of your website. You log in by the means of how your CMS is set up and you are able to view, edit and perhaps even delete your post(s). The most common way to access a CMS is by visiting a special URL that directs the visitor to the website’s CMS. For example, a website with the URL mywebsite.com can have a special URL, mywebsite.com/cms where a login prompt protects this URL. Once logged in, you are directed to the CMS side of your website. In love yet?

Mind you, “love” is a strong word. After all, a CMS is far from perfect. If you have direct access to the content of your website, it means that others can try to gain access to your content as well. With access to your CMS, the potential attacker can change your content. It is very important to think about the risks involved in having a CMS. On top of that, a CMS dynamically generates the web pages. If you have a high number of concurrent users, the server may risk slowing down to keep up with the heavy traffic. In the worst case scenario, the server will stop responding and lead to your website being inaccessible.

Thinking about such risks is inefficient when talking about running a blog that is, for instance, all about you. Attackers will not be able to do much to your website besides change your posts or delete them. So let’s think about what is really relevant to you in this case. Think outside the box for a minute. Your blog posts are likely to contain how you feel. You may go through a period of time where you feel a certain way. Why not base the theme of your website on the content of your blog posts! This, naturally, refers to a change in the visual aspect of your website over time. On one hand you can go and fetch a developer to implement this change. On the other hand, however, you can run to your CMS. Where you click a button here, choose a colour there and ta-da! Just like that your website looks different.

If you are not in love with the idea of CMS yet, then you clearly are not thinking outside of the box, as advised. That’s not to say that a CMS will be the solution to all your problems. It’s certainly not a piece of cake to develop, that’s for sure. Depending on the requirements of the CMS, developing the website can be a challenge. Don’t forget that it’s necessary to consider security issues that may be involved. And even after having your website developed and ready to go live, there is the issue of actually populating the website. I mean, what is the point of having a blog that doesn’t publish posts on a regular basis? In conclusion, you have to take into account the considerable amount of time it takes to both develop and maintain a CMS.

However, choosing the best CMS is a whole different story. One we should examine another time. Finding the most suitable CMS for your website lies in the clear-cut requirements of your website. Yep, I am talking about the most valuable documentation of the requirements for your website. If you, unfortunately, do not have the documentations mentioned, then you are moving too fast in life. Take a huge step back and reconsider whether you actually need a website. Everything else will simply fall into place as your website comes to live. Speaking of making a website come to life, however, I hope that you’ve been paying attention to both the advantages and disadvantages of using a CMS. You should have made, at the very least, a mental note of the them. This especially counts for the disadvantages. There are many other reasons for not using a CMS than those mentioned in this article. It is, therefore, important to ask yourself how to work around these drawbacks. In fact, I may just have the answer for you; you ought to go back to the basics. Listen up, my friend, I am talking about going all the way back, back to your plain, old, simple static website. Taking this simple static website and turning it into a powerful tool: a static site generator!

Now that’s a topic that’s worth giving a deeper thought. One I will gladly share my own thoughts on, once I have collected them, of course.

Author: Marfat Abdullahi.