There is an article over at the 15MinuteWebsiteMaker that caught my eye because they were advocating CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) over CMS (Content Management Systems). That’s a little like comparing the use of a motor-driven bicycle to a car. The site contends that:
… Content Management Systems are expensive to buy, set up, and maintain. Cascading Style Sheets are inexpensive by comparison and require very little maintenance…
…Static sites containing CSS don’t have this problem. They load quickly and easily without hindrances like tables to slow them down…
…the CMS system has limited template designs and sometimes only one style to use throughout the site. If the company wanted to change the look of their online presence, a designer would have to come in and reload all new templates…
So here are my 5 reasons that a user should choose CMS over a simple CSS site.
1) Using a CMS, a site administrator has nearly total control over site design, layout, and content, all from a web site environment, as most CMS engines use an online “administrator only” section for controlling the site. In addition, you will not need to hire someone to continually update the site (by uploading “new” pages). The maintenance of the system is self-contained. And some CMS (like Kentico) provide many more page layouts and styles than a business would ever need to use.
When the author of the article claims that a designer would have to come help the company if they use a CMS is misleading. If the company uses CSS, and no one in the company has any knowledge about CSS or access to graphics editing software, then they will need to enlist the help of a designer to make any changes to the site.
2) In modern CMS dynamic web site environments, URLs can be configured to allow very good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which can enhance your standings in search engine rankings.
Older CMS systems (and some that are not as sophisticated) did not give users much control over how the URLs in their site looked, so often you would have something that looked like “http://www.yoursite.com/default.aspx?pageid=25fdac43bcdb§ion=45” which search engines had a hard time crawling and figuring out that the page requested is “Products”. Modern CMS systems overcome this limitation by rewriting the URL as “http://www.yoursite.com/Products/” which makes search engines happier and your search engine results more accurate.
3) The fact that you can make a CSS site very quickly and easily does not mean you know how to optimize your pages for SEO. Further, in order to effectively optimize your site, there are a lot of search engine spider rules and tricks that you will need to know.
You still have to know SOME tricks to tweak your search engine results, but for the most part, modern CMS systems handle the rules for you. You may (as a site administrator) need to go into the settings of the site to add keywords and metadata, but other tricks like how headers should be coded, etc. are handled by your CMS.
4) You can install a modern CMS and maintain it by yourself if you take the time to learn how. The companies that produce these systems make it fairly straightforward to install their products. Alternatively, you can work with partners of your chosen CMS to not only install the CMS, but also provide training to administrators and content providers on the proper use of the system.
Whether you use a CMS or CSS for your site, you will need some amount of knowledge. People are not just born with the understanding of CSS, and if you ask me, I would say a CMS is easier to use than CSS.
5) Finally, most hosting companies will regularly back up your database on a regular basis, so your data is secure. They also back up their web servers on a regular basis. CSS Templates require no back-ups, until the web server that is hosting the site crashes and you lose your site altogether and have to start from scratch.
Backups are a way of life, especially when your website is critical to the mission of your business. Whether you host your own site on your own servers, or you host it with a web host (like GoDaddy, etc.) your site (and any associated data) will need to be backed up.
I will not argue against the fact that CMS are the best choice for large corporations who need the ease of site management and data that they provide. But I would also argue that CMS are appropriate for small to medium sized businesses as well because there are many out there that are free or low cost, yet still provide the same benefits listed in this post.
Above all things, I say this… There is no one perfect answer for a website, whether your business is small, medium or large. Investigate your options, know your budget (for both the immediate as well as on-going maintenance), and work with people in the industry (like Dash Technical Solutions) who can help point you in the right direction.