CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Before starting a website, It's important to consider what type of web operator you are. Are you a hands on power user that wants the ability to make changes to your website yourself? Do you want the ability to change out photos, add new contact forms, edit SEO keywords and Meta Descriptions? Do you want to make minor changes to your website without having to hire a web developer to make those changes for you? If so, then we need to discuss different CMS platforms.
WHAT IS A CMS?
A CMS or Content Management System is the platform built around web technologies that implement a graphical interface. This interface allows website owners to easily manage their websites, post new content and extend their websites. In short. A CMS is a program that allows website owners to modify their websites with minimal HTML and programming knowledge. Choosing the right CMS is just as important as choosing a good solid design. A website CMS is the base of your website and allows the streamlining of website maintenance, everyday task and normally lowers the overhead of managing a website.
WHICH WEB PLATFORM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
The CMS you choose completely depends on what your needs are and your web developers experience. Some web agencies focus and build on one CMS while others like Clemson Web Design have experience working with a wide array of CMS systems. Certain CMS platforms have specific strengths where others may be lacking and some CMS systems are more complex than others. That's why it's important to work with a web developer who can give you choices based on your needs. There's generally no “One Size FIts All” web platform. In my experience, there are three main CMS platforms that serve most clients well. Those platforms are WordPress, Shopify and Magento.
WordPress is a php based open source Content Management System. It’s one of the easiest and most powerful web platforms of the modern era. WordPress’s strengths are based around the fact it has a tried and true GUI interface that even the least technical users can learn to use. It has thousands of plugins, extensions, page builders and themes that you can use to extend the functionality of your website with minimal effort and investment. As in, Theres no need to reinvent the wheel - its already been invented.
Not to be confused with its SaaS hosted brother @ WordPress.com. WordPress.org is a free, self hosted, open source platform that requires a web host. That means the source code is open to modification and your only limitation is your budget. Hosting for WordPress is usually pretty cheap and you can be up and running within a hour with most website hosting companies.
WordPress is great for any small to large sized content website. From small business pages, medical journals, church websites, school websites and even eCommerce (WooCommerce) websites. The ability to build any type of website around WordPress is one of its main strengths.
Some drawbacks of WordPress is that being one of the most widely used CMS platforms in the world - you have to stay on top of security and updates. Its not a build and forget solution. Periodic updates and patches are required to keep it running smoothly. Another drawback is a lot of inexperienced web agencies and developers can slopily slap together websites on WordPress. That usually results in poorly built websites that are insecure and hacked together. You can spot a poorly built WordPress website by slow page loads, excessive request and poorly implemented widely used commercial themes. WordPress is easy to work with but there are best practices and standards to follow that ensure a WordPress website is running at its best.
I normally recommend WordPress to anyone who needs a professional website thats not restricted to the eCommerce functionalities and limitations of Shopify.
Shopify is a eCommerce platform that’s based on a SaaS model. SaaS means software as a service. In basic terms, it means Shopify manages your web server and back end of your website so you can focus on design, SEO and sales.
Unlike WordPress. Shopify is not open source and is based on its own liquid programing language. The starting price for a basic Shopify account is $29 a month and goes up from there. Shopify scales from small business to medium large businesses and traffic. Even some major retailers have websites on Shopify.
The Shopify platform offers great usability and is very user friendly. Shopify also offers almost anything a small to medium sized eCommerce store could want. Where it does lack in custom functionality and features you can extend with 3rd party modules. Most modules and extensions are pay as you go monthly offerings so cost over time can add up if you need extension features not available on the base Shopify platform.
The cons of Shopify are that the platform is somewhat limited in the functionality that your website can offer. Plugins and extensions to extend default Shopify functionality are usually expensive, closed source and you have to rely on 3rd party support when things go wrong. Shopify’s themes are also pretty expensive and custom designs usually require a lot of effort to implement due to the nature of development on the SaaS platform.
The pros of Shopify are that it's cheap and easy to get started. The platform caters to what most eCommerce website owners need and Shopify offers direct support to its customers. There's also no hosting issues or backend server issues to worry about. Shopify handles security and software updates so that's off your shoulders. Shopify handles everything server side. Payment integration is also straightforward and mostly built it. Services like Stripe and Paypal are largely built in. The Shopify admin GUI is also very easy to learn and its normally straight forward for website owners to make their own changes and updates on their website. In general. Compared to WordPress. Shopify is more user friendly, less hands on and easier to manage.
I usually recommend Shopify to clients who need a straightforward hands off eCommerce platform.
Magento is the creme of the crop large to enterprise level eCommerce platform. Offered up in open source and SaaS (Magento EE) formats. Magento offers unparalleled functionality and scalability for your website. Magento’s limitations are only held back by the size of your budget.
The cons of Magento are plentiful but are offset by its advantages. Magento has a huge technology stack. Successful Magento stores usually need multiple developers working on the different aspects of the website due to the wide array of programming languages and complexity of the platform. The development cost and overhead to build and maintain a Magento website fars exceeds that of WordPress and Shopify. Most Magento stores need a party time or full time developer and server administration on call. The platform requires quality hosting and requires a host that's familiar with the platform. The admin GUI is clunky, complex and to make matters worse. Magento just released a completely new build (Magento 2.0) that's even more complex to work with than previous versions.
The pros of Magento are its scalability and functionality. The platform can be built and catered to almost anything you can imagine. The only limitation is your budget and finding the right developers to do it. You can scale your website from a two product website to a 3 million product website without ever switching platforms.
Magento is a great platform but I always tell my clients - Only go with Magento if you NEED Magento. The cost, overhead and effort to build and run a Magento website far exceeds that of other eCommerce platforms.
PROFESSIONAL WEBSITES ON PROFESSIONAL PLATFORMS
What About Static Websites?
A static website is a straight base HTML,CSS, php, and Java based website. There's no CMS system, No graphical interface to control or make changes to the website. The pros of a static website are they are usually faster than a CMS based website, they have less overhead and less technology stacks. This means when something goes wrong, its usually easier to isolate and fix. Static websites are great for low content websites that don't have a lot to manage. They're also great for landing pages, promotional pages and low budget ventures.
The cons of static websites for most site owners are that any changes done to a static website have to be done manually on a code level, usually on a staging (test) site within a code editor, then the changes have to be pushed to the live webserver. New functionality usually has to be custom implemented and built from scratch. SEO, Maintenance and upkeep also have to be done on a code level. That means unless you know HTML,CSS and the technology stacks used to build the website, you need to hire a web developer to make changes for you. On a website thats prone to change and grow - the effort to stay up to date on a static website is usually a costly venture. I only recommend static websites for low budget clients and/or extremely simple websites. The occasional client will need a custom CMS built from a static base but those request are few and far between.
WIX and SquareSpace.
Clemson Web Design builds professional level websites. WIX and SquareSpace are targetted at low investment amatuer websites. Don't get me wrong. These website services work great for what they are and a half way decent websites can be built on WIX and SquareSpace. The issue is these sites are usually slow, not optimized and not SEO friendly. The downfalls directly relate to how the platforms are built, the limited functionality and how the web content is served to the end users.
Have you ever heard the saying “You can put lipstick on a pig but its still a pig” ? That sums up WIX and SquareSpace. You’ll never outrank or outsale your competition on amatuer web platforms. You’ll also never rank (Search Engine Marketing) above your competitors on a low effort platform like WIX and you’ll waste/drain your marketing and SEO budgets trying to.
Experience that counts.
From small scale $800 static landing pages to $70,000 large eCommerce Magento websites generating millions in quarterly sales. I've got first hand experience building websites that work and a skill set that produces professional results. I’ve built and worked on websites on the following website platforms: Radiant, Volusion, Shopify, Magento 1.X, Magento 2.0, Magento EE, WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Blogger, Presta Shop, WIX, SquareSpace and WebFlow. If you need help on your current platform or are looking to migrate to a new web platform, give Clemson Web Design a call!