Let's face it, Content Managements Systems have had a shaky and inconsistent past. They historically have been notoriously difficult to update and use, and they segment the fluidity of a website into widgets, modules and other boxy containers that tend to compromise a web designer's artistic vision. They also feature rigid templates that are at times freakishly complex and extremely difficult to modify. Add to this the sheer number of Content Management Systems, each with their own learning curve, focus and contributors, and what you have is a complete mess.
So why do we use them?
Simply put: collaborative web design is the future.
Content Management Systems are trying to solve a problem that has been around since the very beginning of the Internet and browsers.
In the early days of web design, a company would get a team together, brainstorm about all of the ideas they have for a website and what they want to accomplish, and hand this over to their webmaster. Soon after the company would typically find they were much more limited on what they could accomplish and the expense was much greater than what they expected.
But the pain doesn't stop there. Soon the company would discover a typo, or a need to update some copy or maybe a picture. So they call their webmaster again, only this time he's moved to Hawaii or is otherwise unavailable. So now they are on a deadline looking for another webmaster. When they finally find one, the new webmaster tells the company the site needs to be completely redesigned because of 'bad' or 'out-of-date' code or whatever. Then the whole cycle begins again.
How do Content Management Systems help solve this problem?
- Cost Management: Open Source Content Management Systems are typically free to download, free to install, and free to use.
- Code Unification: With Open Source Content Management Systems, any web designer you employ will be using the same base code, reducing the need for regular and expensive "start over" scenarios.
- Regular Updates: The more popular Open Source Content Management Systems have large communities of contributors who regularly fix bugs, update code and add features. So the website becomes a living, growing entity rather than decomposing and aging from day one.
- Feature Rich: Since Open Source Content Management Systems provide the platform, Web Designers and Developers are free to spend their efforts creating new features and functionality for the website, rather than hand-coding thousands of lines of code just to turn the lights on.
- Accountability: Probably one of the best advantages of Open Source Content Management Systems from the client's perspective, is that many Web Designers know how to use them. So you are never locked into a relationship with an unreliable or unsatisfactory provider.
- Self Publishing: Gone are the days of calling your provider up and being charged $100/hour to fix grammar and typos. With powerful and easy to use self-publishing tools, Open Source Content Management Systems empower customers to make simple updates to their own website at no cost.
- Community Support: Open Source Content Management Systems boast a large community of users who regularly visit support forums and group pages to assist do-it-yourself-ers.
All of these things work to bring the consumer and the provider closer together, and tend to make aligning goals mutually beneficial for both parties. There are also more subtle benefits, such as clients and providers gaining a better understanding of each other's needs and workflows. This results in an improved relationship between the two traditionally segmented camps.
The bottom line is, with all the advantages that Open Source Content Management Systems bring to the table, it's hard to image the web back-pedaling to the days of hard-coding websites from scratch, and it's likely the trend towards content-managed websites will only increase in the future.
There is clear evidence of this trend even now with 19.8% of the world's websites (about 5.1 million) being built with Wordpress and 3.3% (about 1.6 million) with Joomla. Examples of popular websites built with Open Source Content Management Systems include NBC Sports, CNN, UPS, Tech Crunch, Ebay, Pizza Hut, GE, Nasa, MTV, The Economist, Cisco, HP, Philips, Hilton, Bose and The Hill just to name a few.
If you want to learn more about Content Management Systems or would like to know which one would be a good fit for your website, feel free to hit that "Talk to an Expert" button below, or sound off in the comments section.