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A content management system, usually abbreviated as "CMS", is basically just a piece of software that is installed on web host's computer. That is, instead of installing the program on your own computer, the way you do a web editor, you install it directly on your website. You then use your browser to log into your website and use it to add articles, photos, or whatever to your website.
Advantages of Using an Online CMS Software
It Allows You to Focus on the Content
Posting an article is almost effortless. Compared to adding an article to thesitewizard.com, using an online blog software to post articles is like a dream come true. I only need to concentrate on the content of the article. The blog software automatically takes care of modifying the main page to include a snippet of the article and putting links to that article on the main, archive, category and tag pages. You are essentially freed from the mundane nitty-gritty of adding articles, to doing the stuff that only you can do - writing content.
Automatic Generation of Site Usability Features
Unlike an offline web editor, where everything you want done on your site has to be added manually, blogging and CMS software handle things like tagging, categories and a managing a search engine for you. Simply tag your post as having a certain keyword, and a new index page is automatically generated for you with a list of posts that have that particular tag. There's no need to contemplate whether it is worth the effort and time to create a new page for that particular keyword or tag. The software does it for you. Your visitors automatically have the option, if they wish, to check out all the other articles having the same tag or keyword. Likewise, adding a search engine to your website is no longer a hassle. In fact, the few popular blog software that I have tried automatically add a search engine for you whether you want it or not. The blogging software automatically increases the usability of your website without adding complexity to your job as a webmaster.
Creation of a Community
If you use a blogging software, your visitors will be able to give their comments and interact with each other under each article you write. For some people, this is a significant advantage, since you can create a community of people around your site who will revisit your site regularly for updates. This loyal following also helps to break your site's dependence on search engines to send traffic.
Ease of Site Redesign
Unless your site is maintained using a sophisticated site manager like Dreamweaver's template system, or you dump all design elements of your web pages into server side includes, updating the design of your website is usually not a trivial operation. Even if you have a good search and replace utility, you still have to manually fix a lot of things if the individual pages on your site have some customized design elements. Updating the site design when using a blog script or a CMS usually involves modifying the theme using the online software. Once you're done, all the pages on your website automatically reflect the changes.
The Disadvantages of Using Online CMS Software
Potential Security Risks through the Online Scripts
While it's true that there are security risks in any type of website, having an online blog or CMS software installed on your site increases that risk. Such software are often complicated beasts with many modules performing different tasks. It is always possible that there is a security hole somewhere that the developer was not aware of. Since the software is on your website, open to the public, anyone who discovers a hole before the software developers fixes it can compromise your website and its data.
The risk increases if you are not up-to-date in upgrading your blog or CMS software.
The Inconvenient Timing of Upgrades
In general, upgrades can be a colossal pain in the neck. Online blog software developers release upgrades every now and then to fix security holes and other bugs. As mentioned above, for the blogger or CMS user, there is really no option other than to upgrade, otherwise your site can be easily compromised. Unfortunately, such security upgrades don't always happen at convenient times. Nonetheless, when they are released, it's in your best interest to apply them whether you are free or not.
It would be great if upgrading were easy. For the most part it is, particularly updates that contain only security fixes. Sometimes, however, an upgrade involves a modification to the theme files which control the website's design. Such modifications may or may not involve adding new features supported by the newer version of the blogging software. If you are anything like me, chances are that you would have customized the theme files so as to make them more search engine friendly. If you want your site to incorporate the new features, you will have to manually go through all the updated theme files to modify them to include your changes. Since you can never be sure whether an update to the theme impacts your site, you always have to perform this check on every upgrade.
The difference between such a situation and the normal one when you want to change your site design is that the latter takes place at a time you decide. Upgrades force you to take time out of your normal schedule to attend to things like this.
Unusable Site During Upgrades
While you are uploading the files to your website during an upgrade of the blog or CMS software, your site is basically unusable. If the updated software requires changes to the database, you have to run an upgrade script after uploading the new version of the software before your site will load correctly. Since upload speeds tend to be slow for most ISPs today, there is a large window of time, from the time you start uploading to the time you run the upgrade script to finalize the upgrade, where your website is unusable. If your site is a busy one, there will definitely be a period where the visitors reaching your site get a garbled or unusable site.
The Need to Deal with Comment Spam in Blogs
User comments on blogs can be a boon to your site as well as a hassle. It's great when genuine visitors leave their comments on your site, whether positive or negative. At least you know how people are reacting to your articles. But along with these legitimate visitors come bots and other webmasters that spam your blog with advertisements for their sites that, far from adding value, decrease the quality of your web page. Of course you can delete such comments. But this takes up your time. On certain blogs, the signal to noise ratio have become so low that the webmasters are forced to disable comments to cope, thus negating one of the advantages of using a blog software to create a community.
Mistakes are Immediately "Live"
When you redesign your website with the blogging or CMS software, you are redesigning it "live" on your site. Any mistake you make is instantaneously reflected across your site. With an offline web editor, you can preview your site with a browser to make sure it looks the way you intend before you release it to your visitors.
Limitations of the Software
In general, you also have to work within the limitations of the software. If your software does not have a particular feature that you want, you will not be able to have that facility on your site until the developers of the script implement it.
The Software Uses More Resources on Your Web Server
CMS and blogging software use more CPU, RAM and other resources on your web server. The software has to construct each page every time a visitor loads it, taking up valuable computational resources. On a high traffic day, not only will your site appear slow, it may also slow down all the other websites hosted on the same web server. If you are hosted on a shared web hosting plan, this often brings down a notice from your web host that you have exceeded the resource limits on the server, resulting in their recommending that you upgrade to a dedicated server.
In one sense, using a CMS has some superficial similarities to using your web host's online site builder, which is probably why the visitor asking me this question was confused. For example, when you use a CMS, you don't need to install any program on your own computer to create and update your website. You just connect to your site with your browser and modify it directly.
Having said that, there are substantial differences between a CMS and a web host's site builder. Firstly, with a CMS, you control the software, the visual design of your site, and the end product. You're not tied to your web host at all. If you ever have to change hosts, you can bring your entire site, lock, stock and barrel, over to the new web host, much the same way you can when using a standalone web editor. Secondly, a CMS is typically much more than a site builder. You can use it to create an online community (nowadays called a social networking site) with it, with visitors being able to create their own accounts, have their own member pages, and so on.
On the other hand, CMSes also have their own disadvantages over a web host's site builder. For example, they rarely have the huge range of web design templates that an online site builder has. ("Templates", in this context, are just pre-made web designs that you can use wholesale, or customise, for your site.) However, if you use a CMS platform that is very popular, you can probably find some free template somewhere on the Internet, possibly even directly on the CMS author's own website, that you can adapt. CMSes are also much harder to set up. You have to learn how to do things like transfer files from your computer to your web host's computer, set up a database, and configure the CMS for your site. Once you're through with the initial stages, however, it's probably easier, since you have much greater control over the CMS than an online site builder (since the latter is controlled by your web host). Many popular CMS programs even have add-on modules that extend the functionality of the CMS, so even if the basic CMS package doesn't have everything you want, you can often install one or more of these modules to provide the missing feature.
Blogging software are (for the most part) a subset of CMS software. That is, they are mostly like the CMS software I mentioned above, except that they have fewer features since they are designed primarily for people who just want to blog (write short articles). Nowadays, though, the feature set of some free blogging software have increased to such an extent that they should probably be considered as fully-fledged CMSes.
In other words, you typically have to install the software on your web host's computer the same way you do a CMS. All the other advantages and disadvantages of a CMS that I mentioned above apply here as well. Like I said, they're mostly the same thing.
Wordpress focuses on speed, simplicity and great user experience. Wordpress is designed in such a manner so as to give the user absolute control of the webblog. Wordpress has control tolls, which enable to restrict the amount of changes that a visitor can make while visiting your blog. Also whenever you update your blog the is no need to rebuild your page. It has the template editor tool which allows you to improve the presentation of your blog. Wordpress can moderate comments from certain addresses, comments with particular words in them etc.
The differences are between an CMS like Wordpress and a blog, are
- Easy, intuitive daily news posting
- Categorical posting of news
- Thumbnails w/ each post (the more automated, the better)
- Some user feedback/voting (a la Digg) would be great
- Ability to run polls on the home page
- Ability to EASILY add content to the main page (other than news...probably in side bars/boxes)
- Ability to generate additional pages outside of main page.
- Easy site customization (outside of using a pre- made theme).