As published in the Business News
By Kiar Olson, Big Nerd at Kiar Media. An Interactive/Marketing company based in De Pere, WI.
Open Source, Easily Updatable & Responsive Make for Strong Reasons to Move to a Content Management System
In today’s business world, websites are a necessary evil that marketers plan and design for, IT departments try to control, sales departments try to over-educate with, and corporate officers don’t know how to approach. The common factor that everyone can agree with is that there is no simple way to wrap your head around all that a website can, and should, do.
Back in the Wild West days of websites, everything was hand coded and very simple. Ok, it had to be, we were accessing sites from a dial-up internet connection with speeds ranging from 28.8Kbps to 33.6Kbps. (For those of you that don’t know what this is like, try loading Facebook when your phone is in a 1x area.) But today’s websites power so much more than just text and a few grainy photos displayed on a monitor with the maximum resolution of 640×480.
As the world pushes the amount of data and socially relevant material to minutes and seconds from days and hours, the modern website needs to be capable and immediately responsive. That is where the Content Management System (CMS) driven website gains an edge over custom coded versions.
Popular CMS Systems
Today, there are many choices of CMS systems available ranging from simple blog formats to huge enterprise level e-commerce and data driven versions. For most companies, it’s more important to have something that can be updated and changed easily as new technology pushes the web forward. There are three main CMS players in the web world that dominate most corporate and personal websites. Those are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. While there are many, many, many more out there, these three account for over 218 million websites that are currently live. (Based on download numbers from each developer.) All of these CMS systems are open source and free to use as a base for your website.
WordPress dominates the website CMS systems that are currently in use, by a large margin. With over 140 million downloads, it is the clear leader for a lot of users. It is perfect for small and medium sized businesses that have basic information, blog, e-commerce and contact requirements. It has its “famous five minute installation” process that even non-developer types can have running in no time. The nice thing about WordPress is that you can get a lot of functionality in a quick and easy way. As of writing this, there are 48,458 plugin’s available to extend the functionality of it with almost anything you can think of. Some of the more popular ones are Yoast SEO and WooCommerce for creating an online store.
While it is very easy to use and update, it does have its downfalls. Overusing plugins can seriously degrade the performance of the site and also cause security issues. Since it is commonly used, outdated plugins can create an easy target for hackers to exploit and turn your site into a spamming service that can get your web host blacklisted on Google. (Kiss your rankings good-bye and have fun getting it cleaned off the blacklist.) Fortunately, WordPress and most of the popular plugin developers are constantly updating their software to close any issues that are found.
Joomla is similar to WordPress in ease of set-up and extensibility but does have a little steeper learning curve. It ranks second with over 63 million downloads and also has a great developer base who write plugins for it. It is generally a more clean and faster performing CMS than WordPress and really excels in creating social media, blog and e-commerce websites. You can create your own social network in minutes once you get Joomla up and running. It’s also a great choice for small and medium sized businesses that have staff or outsourced IT/web developers who can assist in some of the more confusing set-up and maintenance issues.
While it is generally faster than WordPress, it does have some problems with user rights management and a lot of processes are not very user friendly. For high quality plugins you can end up spending a lot of money to get the same results from a free WordPress plugin.
Drupal by far is the most impressive in regards to performance and sports over 15 million downloads. It started out life as a message board for students and it’s modular design has a different look and feel than both WordPress and Joomla. You begin with a basic install and add functionality from there. This is not as easy to set up as the other two CMS systems. With Drupal, you need to have some coding and website experience to get it up and running. It has robust database performance and is a great choice for medium to large sized businesses. It handles information, such as larger e-commerce sites, with ease and is much more scalable than WordPress and Joomla.
The downside to Drupal is the laborious configuration and upgrades to take it from its basic installation. This is not a one day set up and deploy CMS, but it is a very stable and fast performing platform for a lot of companies.
So What Do You Choose?
It really depends on what your needs are. I would say for most businesses, WordPress is the way to go. You can download or purchase themes to customize the look and feel of the site and then add a few plugins to get the functionality you need. A lot of advertising and interactive agencies also develop in WordPress so you don’t have to worry about building your own site if you don’t want to. It has a large amount of support available in the user forums and should perform great for general business needs.
In today’s world, one thing I need to touch on is security. Because all CMS driven websites use a database, there is always the risk of your data being breached. There are a lot of options for all of these systems to increase security and I would recommend finding one that suits your needs. A lot of them are free and can be done with a few simple steps by an IT department or a dependable web hosting company. Many hosts have online chat available for tech support that can give you assistance if you need it.
So stop waiting to see what happens with the inter-webs and take the plunge into the world of CMS driven websites. That’s one thing even a CFO would agree on.