If you’re thinking about having a new website built, one of the first things you’re likely to hear from your web developer is “do you need a CMS”? But… what is a website CMS? And do you really need one for your website?
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What is a website CMS?
CMS stands for ‘content management system’. It’s a piece of software that your website is built into and that gives you the ability to control and manage the content, often without any coding knowledge.
The main benefit to having a website CMS is that you won’t need to call up your web developer every time you want to change something on your website. You’ll be able to do it yourself! It gives you total freedom to manage the content and, to a degree, the design as you see fit.
Your developer will provide login details to an admin area where you can:
- Update page content
- Write and publish articles
- Change images
- Manage events and products
- And much more!
If there’s something that needs to be regularly updated, it’s probably going to be included in the CMS.
Most CMS software is easy to use, even if you’re not very computer-savvy. In general, if you can use Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages then you’ll be absolutely fine at using a CMS. However, if you’re unsure of anything, then you’ll more than likely be able to find a tutorial on YouTube.
Open Source vs. Proprietary CMS software
There are two main types of website CMS: open source and proprietary.
Open Source CMS
Open source CMS are free to download and use. There are no subscription or usage fees to be paid; the software is available for anyone to use at no cost.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should expect to be able to have a website built for free. It’s a bit like when you get a new phone and it comes with the software (e.g. iOS) already installed – you still have to pay for the phone, but you get the software along with it.
Some CMS software is not free to use. You either have to pay an upfront fee to use the software or a monthly/yearly subscription. The benefit to this is that the CMS company often hosts your website for you, so there are no additional hosting costs to pay and all updates to the CMS software are performed automatically.
Another type of proprietary CMS are those that are developed in-house by web development agencies and only used for that company’s clients. For example, a web company might build their own CMS that’s exclusive to them, that nobody else is allowed to use. This isn’t necessarily a good idea for the customer (you!) though as it means all updates to your website will need to be done by that same development agency as they will be the only people who have access to the code.
Popular CMS software
Four of the most popular CMS are outlined below. If you’re looking for a new website and you don’t already have a CMS, it’s likely that your website developer will suggest one of the following:
WordPress (open source)
WordPress is the most popular CMS – it’s estimated that between 50-60% of ALL CMS-based websites run on WordPress. There is a vast community of web developers who work tirelessly to keep WordPress modern, intuitive and fully-featured.
Drupal (open source)
Drupal is a complex CMS that works best for large-scale websites that process lots of data.
Magento (open source)
Magento is probably the most powerful e-commerce CMS. It’s used for largescale shopping websites, often with hundreds or thousands of products.
SquareSpace is the ‘new kid on the block’ when it comes to popular CMS choices. It’s proprietary software that requires a monthly subscription. SquareSpace works well for smaller websites such as blogs and brochure-style websites.
To read our run-down of the best CMS software for your website, click here.
Below you’ll find some frequently asked questions about content management systems and how they can affect your website.
Does my website need a CMS?
This is a tricky one to answer. Technically, no, your website doesn’t need a CMS – it can run perfectly well without one.
That being said, if you don’t have a CMS and you don’t have any programming skills, it means that every time you want to make a change to the website (even just switching some words around or adding a new image) you’ll need to pay a web developer to make those amends.
With a CMS, you’d be able to make those changes yourself, so it can work out to be the more affordable option in the long-term.
Will having a CMS help my SEO?
It’s a common misconception that having a CMS will automatically improve your website’s SEO (search engine optimisation). In reality, switching from a non-CMS website to a CMS based one will have little to no impact on your search engine rankings.
Many website content management systems comes with in-built tools that help you to improve your SEO (or they have plugins that can be easily installed), but it’s up to you to actually add in SEO improvements such as unique page titles and meta descriptions – the software won’t do it for you.
Which CMS is best for my website?
This very much depends on the type of website you need. Simple websites with a few pages and a contact form would work well on pretty much any CMS, although WordPress is probably one of the easiest to get to grips with if you’re new to having a CMS.
Try not to get too worried about which CMS your website is built into. Many web developers have their own preferred CMS that they build in. If you’re worried, ask them for their opinion and why they chose that particular system to specialise in.
To find out more about the top 5 CMS on the market, click here.
Will having a CMS mean I never need a web developer again?
No, this isn’t always the case. While you could probably manage without one in terms of adding new pages to your website, updating content, managing products or other such tasks, if you ever want to add new functionality to your website you’re likely to need a developer.
For example, if you decide to start selling products from your website but it wasn’t originally built for that, it probably won’t have the capability to run an online shop so this will need to be built by a developer.
If you’re looking for a new website, then Moodia can help. Simply tell us what you need in the form at the top of this page and we’ll put you in touch with the best UK web designers and developers. You’ll be able to compare price quotes for free to find the best supplier for your business.