9 reasons you should never use a CMS

Default avatar.
July 03, 2015
9 reasons you should never use a CMS.

I’d like to find that guy who was the first to promote to customers the idea that they could manage their own website as easily as using a word processor” and give him a good kick in the ass. I think he deserves it. Really and truly. Since that fateful day when the idea was first pitched to the public, we’ve seen a stampede of low quality sites emerging. They probably weren’t always low quality sites, but I think you will find that, in general there is a direct proportional relationship between the decline in the quality of a site and the amount of time that the site owner has been self-managing it. [pullquote]there is a direct proportional relationship between the decline in the quality of a site and the amount of time that the site owner has been self-managing it[/pullquote] Then along came third-party site-builders with their ads all over Facebook encouraging the idea that with their software anyone can build a website quickly and easily. To some extent this is true. Anyone can build a website; but it does not necessarily follow that everyone should build one. My five year old kid can draw a picture of a car. In a light-headed moment I might do something really crazy like stick it to the fridge. But I’m certainly not crazy enough to go out and display it in an art gallery. Yet that is almost directly analogous to what these amateur website builders are doing. I’m not saying there’s no place for amateurs — especially when it is clear that the website is intended to be an amateur website that somebody just built for a hobby — it’s quite another matter, however, when amateurish sites are being used to represent businesses and organizations. The damage is done now, and unless there is a sudden mass enlightenment, it will continue to be the question every new client sets your teeth on edge with: Will I be able to update and manage this site myself?” Where once they were terrified to even think about messing with anything technical, they’ve now come to expect it as a right. Obviously as the customer and site owner they do have that right, but I wish I could be completely frank with them and say, By all means you can manage the site yourself. But, if we’re both totally honest with each other right now, there’s no way to deny that you’re going to mess it up.” I can’t say that though, instead I just quietly sigh and give a meek affirmative response, mentally wincing at the thought that this is going to be yet another site I will have to keep an eye on and eventually drop from my portfolio once the client has ruined it sufficiently that I’m no longer proud to show it off. The main culprits in this shift in clients’ expectations and mindset are CMS products such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. In an ideal world, the purpose of CMS would be entirely to make it easier for designers, developers, and content managers to design, develop, and manage websites. [pullquote]the copy you crafted most carefully for search engines, will be the first content your client edits[/pullquote] Inevitably, however, some misguided fool decided at some point to pitch the idea that the client would have autonomous control over their site content. Which is how they end up with a 700px wide image into a column that was intended to hold a 200px image. And that image will be at 300dpi. And saved in GIF format. Or maybe BMP if they are really having a good day. It is a rule, universally true, that the copy you crafted most carefully for search engines, will be the first content your client edits. They will completely ignore the white space that you built into the design. They will copy and paste half of a JavaScript code from Trip Advisor then blame you when it fails to work. They will cheerfully combine four different font styles in the same paragraph. In fact, if there is any way at all they can make your design look terrible, they will find it. What is the good side of CMS? Well, for one thing it allows you to develop sites more quickly provided that you already know exactly how your site’s skin is going to drape over the framework. For another, depending on which CMS you choose, you may have access to a vast library of tools and plug-ins that will help with easily adding functionality to the design. But what about the bad side of CMS? There is a bad side. The reasons not to use a CMS include: 

  1. Security vulnerabilities in your chosen CMS become security vulnerabilities in your sites.
  2. Unless you have a water-tight contract, any harm caused by security vulnerabilities exposes you to litigation; when you install and use the CMS software, you (not the client) agree to a licensing agreement that specifically states that you accept all risk for using the software, you have no recourse to make any claim against the manufacturer, even if the problem was due to negligence on their part.
  3. All available online WYSIWYG editors have quirks and problems that result in: What you see is almost what you get, but not quite!”
  4. For smaller sites that don’t need access to the full range of technologies provided by a CMS, the use of a CMS is overkill that often involves a steep learning curve for the client.
  5. CMS products inhibit your ability to create semantically structured source code.
  6. CMS products often make simple tasks more complex.
  7. All CMS products introduce bloat to your pages which can increase page load time and impede performance.
  8. Some CMS products are not SEO-friendly right out of the box, you may need to tweak the settings to make your pages crawl-able, and do you really want to leave SEO to a plugin?
  9. Self-management allows the client to alter your design, but still expect you to support their site (including their changes).

In conclusion, a CMS offers many advantages to designers, developers and content managers for rapid development and somewhat simple access to advanced features. But it is time that we stopped promoting it as a way for clients to manage their own sites, because in reality, you’re going to be doing the managing for them (for free). And honestly, how often do most clients need to update their website? Featured image, CMS image via Shutterstock.

Emma Grant

Emma Grant is a professional freelance content writer from Ireland. Over the past three years she has travelled the world while running her business from her laptop. You find her at www​.florencewritinggale​.com

Read Next

15 Best New Fonts, May 2023

The choices you make when selecting a typeface have more impact on your design than almost any other decision, so it’s …

10+ Best Tools & Resources for Web Designers and Agencies (2023 updated)

Having the ability to envision a tastefully designed website (i.e., the role creativity plays) is important. But being …

20 Best New Websites, May 2023

This month, there are tons of great new agency websites to get excited about. 3D animated prisms are a popular theme, a…

How to Find the Right White Label Website Builder for Your Agency

Web design agencies face a lot of obstacles in closing the deal with new clients. One of the most common ones is the ar…

Exciting New Tools For Designers, May 2023

There are hundreds of new tools for designers and developers released each month. We sift through them all to bring you…

3 Essential Design Trends, May 2023

All three of the website design trends here mimic something bigger going on in the tech space, from a desire to have mo…

10 Best AI Tools for Web Designers (2023)

It’s time to stop worrying if AI is going to take your job and instead start using AI to expand the services you can of…

10 Best Marketing Agency Websites (Examples, Inspo, and Templates!)

Marketers are skilled in developing strategies, producing visual assets, writing text with high impact, and optimizing …

15 Best New Fonts, April 2023

Fonts are a designer’s best friend. They add personality to our designs and enable fine typography to elevate the quali…

20 Best New Websites, April 2023

In April’s edition, there’s a whole heap of large-scale, and even full-screen, video. Drone footage is back with a veng…

Exciting New Tools For Designers, April 2023

The AI revolution is having a huge impact on the types of products that are hitting the market, with almost every app b…

3 Essential Design Trends, March 2023

One thing that we often think about design trends is that they are probably good to make a list. That’s not always true…