CMS stands for content management system and is website software used to manage and display articles, images, videos, and other online assets. CMS’ are great for displaying marketing and customer support information. The out-of-the-box features of a CMS more than likely meet 80% of a company’s or personal blogger’s needs.

Out-of-the-Box Features

  • easy to use interface for non-technical people to post articles (text, images, and videos)
  • basic workflow as articles can be saved as draft then reviewed and published at a later date
  • users can be setup as administrators, editors, contributors, subscribers
  • alternative descriptions and captions can be applied to images and scaled to various sizes
  • article can be categorized and keyword tagged then listed by category and keyword
  • search capability to find text in articles
  • commenting and moderation of articles


The remaining 20% of needs are provided by installing and configuring plugins. Plugins are features written by independent companies. For example to complete the remaining 20%, plugins are installed to provide contact forms, manage search engine optimization (SEO), social media sharing, making pages load faster, and enhancing the security of the website.

There are plugins for special features such as

  • selling physical or digital products
  • membership only area with forums
  • displaying franchises on a map

A website’s look and feel is implemented using themes which are files that work together to create the design and functionality of a website. Different themes offer different choices in look and feel.

A web developer or web development firm is required to implement the remaining 20% and features that can not be implemented with plugins and themes.

The choice of CMS’ is usually based on ease of use and availability of plugins and themes and cost. The most popular CMS is WordPress which according Web Technology Surveys has over 63% market share. The next most popular CMS is Joomla with 4.3% market share.

Some companies that are using WordPress are RollingStone, Global News, WNBA, Vogue, and The Whitehouse.

When NOT to use a CMS

People opposed to using a CMS list the following as issues.

  • Security – CMS’ are always being hacked. This is true BUT the majority of websites running are a CMS. The basic CMS features are very secure. The problem lies in plugins not being tested sufficiently. Plugin developers regularly release updates that include security patches and new features. It’s important to have a monthly maintenance contract that includes installing plugin updates and performing security audits.
  • Inflexible Layout – The look and feel of your content is tied to the theme and content editor which limits how much you can format your content. A web developer is required to customize the layout regardless if you are using or not using a CMS.
  • User Management – A CMS has administrator, editor, contributor, and subscriber user types which maybe insufficient for your needs. Correct BUT there are plugins that can define more user types with more specific capabilities.
  • Speed – Themes produce an excessive amount of code to display your content which makes loading and displaying content slower. Plugins are available to minimize page loading times.
  • Limited Capabilities – There are no plugins that meet my business requirements. Whether or not you use a CMS, you will need to hire a developer to implement these features

Whatever issues are raised in opposition to using a CMS can be addressed by technology and a software developer. Instead the questions to ask is “What are my company’s long-term goals”? If there is no need to use the basic features of a CMS, don’t use a CMS. A more important question is “What is my total cost of ownership (TCO)”?

  • Hosting Costs – You’ll need some place to rent space to serve your website.
  • Development Costs – You’ll most-likely need a developer to complete the remaining 20% of features that are not available out-of-the-box. Development timelines for custom features can be longer since a developer has to work within the confines of a CMS framework.
  • Annual Subscription Costs – The free plugins have just enough capabilities for developers to see the benifits of using the plugin and hold back key features or place limits on use. For example, a newletter subscription plugin may place a limit of 100 subscribers which is fine if you don’t think you’ll have more than 100 subscribers. To increase the number of subscribers would require purchase an annual license.
  • Maintenance Costs – Periodic maintenance is important.
  • Search Engine Optimization – You can have a great site but if you don’t rank near the top of the search engines results, no one is coming to visit your website.

If the TCO of using a CMS is lower than building a custom solution, go with a CMS.

Contact OpenLava to discuss your business needs and whether a CMS is the right choice for you.