Why you should use a CMS

I’ve designed a handful of small, static sites in my time. Over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that a CMS is mandatory if you want to keep your sanity.

CMSs seem like they’re meant for big sites, and certainly feel like they’re overkill on a small site. There are probably lots of features that clutter the interface when trying to use a CMS on a site with just a few pages. So why bother?

For one simple reason: a CMS makes it easy to divorce content from your layout. CSS fanatics might interject here saying that this is what CSS does, but it’s not the same. Do you have an h1 with your company name across the top of every page? A copyright footer? A navigation bar with links? That’s HTML, not CSS. So you add a new page, and then groan as you go about copying-and-pasting the new navigation bar changes into each of your existing pages. You inevitably mess up and paste it in the wrong place on one, screwing up the formatting of the whole page. Or you miss a page and soon your site starts to look totally different depending on what page you view. With a CMS, you update the navigation bar partial and the change applies site-wide.

As an extension of the same thing, divorcing layout from content means that, when you decide to add a page, you just create content. You don’t care about trying to make sure the background is the same as other pages, or that you remember to include all the right CSS files. You just write out the text that should be on the page and the rest happens automatically.

I’m working on porting a static-HTML site I host over to Radiant CMS. It’s not quite my dream CMS, but it’s small, easy, and it’s fast. That’s because it addresses the one pet peeve I have with most CMSs: they turn requests for mostly-static pages into dynamic pages that are database-heavy, sometimes reducing your maximum throughput from a few thousand pages a second to a few dozen a second. Radiant, though, caches the generated page and serves it as straight HTML for a bit, meaning that if you’re hit with a lot of traffic, your site won’t come to a grinding halt.

Incidentally, I see WordPress being used as a CMS pretty often. It seems like it could be used to that end pretty well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *