CMS for everyone, but is it for you?

WordPress , bespoke CMS, Square Space and loads more, but what type is the best and which is worst to use? When you are shopping for a website or you are an agency looking to build websites, the two questions are what language you want it to be built in and what CMS method do you want to use? This can determine who you hire, what your limitations are as a design company and the future of your work.

The three case studies I will use to explain are WordPress as the open source CMS, a Bespoke built CMS as of course the bespoke  CMS and finally Square Space as the middle man, which I will explain why later. These I feel represent the three different type of CMS systems you can have and can also work for different people. I relate the bespoke one to Linux as the open source built CMS which the user builds what they want, WordPress to Windows as a slightly open source CMS that you can customise and develop. I then see Square Space as Apple as they are an all in one package with the CMS, plugins and support.

Let’s go with first the worst, which is WordPress. A lot of people will disagree with this, but I still stick by that WordPress doesn’t work well. Though I will point out I don’t think it works well for big companies unless they hack it, but well for the little guy. WordPress is a template open source system that is built off of open source plugins. This is against my belief of the Apple template to build, control and maintain all. When you let others hack into your code it makes it messy and can make more future problems.

You can install WordPress for free and easily, then choose a template, so far so good. Then you start entering data into the fields required, again so far so good. Then… you add plugin features, to be met with the issues of either the plugin doesn’t work, doesn’t work with your template, doesn’t work with the other plugin you have installed. You are in a sense asking two developers to make their plugins work with each other, but without talking or seeing each other. They then can’t know what will conflict in the code and what will work. They may pull it off as they are great coders and make it self contained, which is great but then your head tag can become 200 lines long.

When they do the plugins well, and not well, they have to call in their own code files. This can result in you having 10 JQuery files called in, plus other files, plus images, plus tracking. This is all on top of what WordPress has already put in and what your template has already put in. With all of these files your website can become so heavy that it breaks the speed scales. If you put your WordPress website on the Google Page Insights website how well would it do.

However I do see the light for WordPress and the improvement over the past few years. They have gone leaps and bounds from when I last used it, so there could be hope for them yet. This is also due to the demographic, with more people becoming self employed and wanting their own company, they need websites to be in the digital age. These companies though don’t have money and bing there is WordPress. This is a great system for small and quick companies wanting to be in the digital market, with a fully managed, up to date technology and great design system. Other people are Blogs, Portfolio plus other small type of site.

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On the other side of the river is a bespoke CMS. This would be freshly made by the company that is using it and be made for them. By this I mean that they would import what plugins they need, with any functionality, design and flow that works for them. Some creative agencies also go for this as they can keep putting new advancements into the CMS and then optimise the code. This is a great way to have control of the code as unlike the others you can upgrade all of the CMS as and when you need it. You will then also be able to fully support the system as you are not relying on another company to update it. If you are a bigger company or you just have money then you can pay for a user testing team to go through the whole CMS, but if you don’t then you are the user tester. Either yourself or your client will unofficial be the user tester when you use the system and find anything wrong then it’s reported.

This is where the con’s for this start. You do not ever have a finished product as you are consistently developing or fixing existing issues, where as systems like WordPress will have it 100% solid before release. This can also be the part that slows down development, because if you are caught always support the CMS you can’t improve it. With a template CMS the system would be fully tested and then you will have a community of users bug testing and sending out updates.

The last type of CMS I have used of course and see is Square Space. This I feel is bit more of an in between system as it has the open source model and the locked down feels as well. The templates you use are limited to only from Square Space itself, which gives you confidence that they work perfectly on the platform. They would be fully tested and checked over before going live so then you have confidence in the templates. This also goes for the plugins and tools you can use within the website. There are plenty of options like Amazon affiliates, forms and carousels that are all solidly built into the platform and the template. You can then start by injecting code into the head, footer and each individual pages so you can add analytics, AddThis and other plugins or specific CSS. This can then be expanded if you are  confident by opening up the developer mode in the settings. With this you can use SFTP access to download the template files and therefore customise the layout to what ever you want, but be careful as you don’t want to break the website. So far I have not see a need to open up the files yet as everything I wanted to do has been in the template. I think that this platform gives you all the flexibility and control of both type of CMS platforms. You have the control and flexibility of a bespoke systems, but also the solid testing, pre built system like WordPress.

With any system there are some pit falls but I think there are less with this platform that are that bad. Things like, you are limited by the template options, so if you don’t know code then you will have to have the templates how they are. This isn’t to bad as they are really good templates, but they are not made for you so you won’t be able to get that side bar where you want it for example. Though if you don’t know code then you wouldn’t be able to do anything with the other systems as well. I have also ran this website through the Google page insights, which it wasn’t bad on the desktop but the mobile was. The errors that came up are things like compress files, but I don’t have access to these files even in developer mode. They give you access to the template file, but not the systems files which is where the problems are. With other systems you would normally have access to improve the code side of the website.

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I used to be fully against template websites and the systems, but I have converted to Square Space. It has enough flexibility but also the security. When I had the bespoke CMS I was doing more development fixes and systems checking over than I was putting great content on. This is why I then looked for another CMS systems, but you can’t get the back end with out the front end, which is a shame. I then looked to WordPress, but I still think even though it has came a long way since I last used it, there is still a big issue with using plugins and templates with each other.

I would suggest the best method is bespoke as you have full control over what you are using and getting, but you would need to make sure you have a systems that is 100% strong and tested like the template CMS. If you can’t afford or do not want a bespoke systems then I would suggest Square Space as this will still give you that flexibility but with the security of a template. Finally I wouldn’t suggest WordPress unless you have the time to make sure all plugins will work together.

Please use the commenting system to tell everyone your experiences or even if you use another systems that can compare?

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