Building a website can be a daunting task, and one of the first decisions you need to make is which tool you want to use to build it. Is a content management system (CMS) the best way to go, or is a HTML editor sufficient? Both tools can help you get the job done, but there are certain benefits to using a CMS that just might convince you that this is the tool for you.
Comparing HTML Editors and Content Management Systems
HTML editors and content management systems were both created, in large part, to accommodate non-technical people who wanted professional looking websites. However, the methodology used by each is vastly different.
Technically, HTML can be written in any text editor, but many people find it easier to use an HTML editor because it contains a library of HTML tags and other features that simplify the process. These tools have evolved a lot over the years, but one of their strongest improvements, the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) feature, came early in their development. This one option took the concept of HTML and reduced its complexity to the point where an amateur could create great looking web pages. This was because creators were able to focus on design and let the program deal with the markup language.
Content Management System (CMS)
Just like HTML editors, content management systems create great sites with the added bonus of getting them up and running quickly. The concept of a CMS is to control everything about a web site from one tool. This means page design, page content, dealing with the remote server, and even manipulating images can, for the most part, be handled inside the CMS. Since a CMS creates database-driven sites, all the components are controlled through the database. This allows users to quickly and easily replicate content and templates.
Seven Benefits to Using a Content Management System
1. Requires Fewer Technical Skills
One of the most significant reasons that CMS has caught on is due to the lack of technical knowledge a user needs to maintain a high quality site. When HTML editors were used in the past, sites could only grow to the level of knowledge the web designer had. Web designers who tried to create viable sites were forced to stay current with rapidly expanding web development technology, and it was easy to fall behind. Since a CMS builds off the collective knowledge of web developers worldwide, more and more modules, plug-ins and add-ons are constantly being created to further simplify web maintenance work.
2. Everything in One Place
Regardless of the type of website you have, from personal to ecommerce, and anything in between, the site will consist of documents, images, graphics, and more. Even small sites can have hundreds of components. In a CMS, you can access all of those parts from the admin panel. Among other things, this improves the accuracy of your content. In a non-CMS approach, there are often multiple documents with the same content. When a change is required, multiple documents must be opened and altered to reflect the update. In a CMS, one file is accessed, and the change is automatically populated throughout the site.
3. Increased Security
One of the inherent strengths of a CMS is the ability to create user groups with permission levels. If a person's role is to update content on the site, he has no access to templates or style sheets that maintain the look and feel of the site. This prevents potential actions that could break the site. With the admin tool, you can also determine when a change is made and which user made it. This is extremely helpful for narrowing down any mistakes because it gives you a time frame for when a problem first occurred. It also lets you know if a user is making the same mistake over and over and needs to be re-trained.
4. Easier to Add Bells And Whistles
Unless you are a web developer or you have a strong IT department, adding interactive components on a site, such as forms, chat features, or even photo galleries, can be somewhat cumbersome. You could use vendor products if you don't use a CMS, but this adds to the expense of your site. In a CMS, you simply need to add a module to your system with the feature you want. These modules are small bits of coding designed by professional web developers. If you want a chat room on your site, you would add a module to your CMS package, and the coding inside the module would do the rest.
5. More Control Over Look
Too many hands accessing integral parts of your coding can make it difficult to maintain the look and feel of your site with an HTML editor, even if you use templates. One of the underlying premises of a CMS is to separate design from content. By doing this, the site's design is rarely compromised because only approved designers have access to templates and style sheets. When design changes are needed, the templates can be updated, and the changes will populate throughout the entire site.
6. Community of Developers
As web technology advances, having a large pool of professional web developers working to improve the product is yet another benefit of a CMS. When a new feature appears on the web that you want to include on your site, chances are good that a module has been or is being created to address the need. It's as if you have a team of web developers working to improve the quality of your site. The expense of doing that in-house could be quite large depending on your needs.
7. Browsers, Mobiles, and Sharing
Web browsers and their varying interpretations of HTML have been a source of irritation for many web designers because, even with available tools, keeping up with the differences hinders their work flow. Most content management systems solve that issue through templates coded to address each of the major browsers' quirks. These systems also have style sheets to deal with varying screen sizes and mobile devices, and they are definite time savers when launching a site. Built-in features like RSS make sharing your content simple.
It Comes Down to a Matter of Growth
Possibly the most important factor when determining whether to use a HTML editor or a CMS is your intentions for your site. If you intend for the site to remain relatively small with few updates, an HTML editor will most likely accommodate all your needs. If you anticipate your site's content will grow significantly or you want a lot of interactive features without becoming a web developer, a CMS offers the best approach.