Dan Davies{ Front-end Developer }

Are content management systems a waste of time?

20th November 2013

Ok, I know the answer to that question but play along for now.

I recently asked on Twitter,

Are CMS overused now and causing more hassle than good? Half the time, the client never uses it getting you to do the amends.

I was expecting a few replies along the lines of “daft question” and “of course they are!!” but I took heart from the various replies from you good people.

Why the post

I’ve worked with many CMS over the years for various agencies. Mainly WordPress but others like Umbraco, Joomla, Drupal, Expression Engine, Episerver as well as various shops and so on have all come my way. Aside from the obvious web builds, the vast majority of jobs I undertook, especially as a freelancer were amending a current site or a new build near completion. And the vast majority of these jobs consisted of amending the actual text or adding images.

Work was work and I took the jobs on. It did get to a point though where I started to question the agencies sending me this work when a) they could give it a junior or someone else at the agency and save money and b) they had just created a site with a content management system where the onus was on the client to update their own content. The agencies however were happier for a front-end dev to it.

I guess it suits the agency as they can charge for the CMS build and also the amends but it’s not a great use of time or resource and I can’t help but feel the client is getting a rough deal too.

That’s a win win for the business; CMS builds are billed higher initially, and 3rd party content updates are billable too.Jon Atkinson

Recently I redesigned the website. I always have a heavy heart when I get past the design and build concept stage as the reality hits home that I’ll need to create a WordPress theme. It would be much easier to just roll out a load of static HTML files. But as I found doing another site recently as a static site, having to keep adding in content and more importantly linking everything up became a pain in the arse. I wish I had used a CMS for that site really.

What stood out was that for one site, maybe a CMS was not essential but the other was. Looking back, both need a CMS as I often work on the blog away from my laptop say using my Nexus to reply to comments or write something.

On the flip side, I’ve worked on sites that the client has no intention of updating, it was more how it looked that mattered and going through the hell of making things work with WordPress and plugins where a simple static HTML site would have done never mattered. They were getting a CMS because “Everyone has a CMS right?”

Some sites need one, some don’t

So that should be the end of the blog post?

We’ve established that CMS can be beneficial if you have lots of content that will change or added to and maybe not beneficial if the site won’t update that often.

We haven’t really answered another question though. Why do clients never fucking use the thing and when they do, why does our nice laid out pages with just the right amount of text end up a clusterfuck?

often no Cms (or restricted access to editing) is what keeps a site from becoming a dumping ground of Ill considered stuff. Tim Harbour

I do wonder how many clients get trained up on a CMS. Do they know they are getting one, do they see the benefit and do they know how to use one?

I have to hold my hand up and say I’ve never taught anyone to use WordPress before. Looking back, I should have done. I’ve provided a log in and password and a brief overview of what to look for when editing but I’ve never taken the time to sit down with someone and show them exactly how to go about editing. Granted, I’ve not had many clients of my own over the years but still, a simple guide isn’t good enough if that person is a technophobe.

Do webfolk train people on CMS? I know of a handful of people that do and I am sure many more do. It should be standard though in my opinion. We hand over the keys and away we go. If they keep coming back for help or making a dog’s breakfast of the site, we’ve failed. CMS are not hard to use if implemented correctly and explained.

In summary, are CMS a waste of time?

No, not at all. They are an essential thing if the site needs it but like any tool, it needs to be learnt and used wisely. We as the experts need to be smart when using them and smart when handing them over otherwise we will keep on seeing things like this…

and nobody wants that do they?

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