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We have been designing websites using content management systems (CMS) for years. Web developers all over the world tend to prefer developing CMS-based sites because they feel it saves them time. Recently, I've been wrestling with that notion. Does using a CMS really save you time?
Over the past three or four months, we've done a number of pretty big websites, which is a little out of the ordinary for us. In each and every one of these bigger websites that we have designed using content management systems, we have spent far too much time debugging silly little errors. One thing you learn when you're working as a web developer - it's always the smallest things that take the longest period of time to correct.
The feeling I get is that if I wasn't using a CMS - if I was writing the code myself - I could save myself a huge amount of time in the debugging and testing phases of our web development.
The problem with open source content (most CMSs) is that all those plugins and extensions aren't developed specifically for your purpose. The developers create them with the objective of covering as many bases as possible. They want to provide a solution for as many people as possible.
What does this mean for the everyday user? The CMS and/or its extensions are able to do a lot of things, but in most instances it doesn't do any of those things really well. None of it is tailored to your specific requirements, which means that you're probably going to need to do quite a bit of customisation to get it where you need it to be - especially if it does something incorrectly.
Now the reason it takes so much time to do this is because you need to familiarise yourself with the way the developers have coded the plugins before you are able to start debugging it. There are many ways to skin a cat and you'll need to figure out which way the plugin developers have chosen in order to understand how to fix errors.
Because most content management systems tend to use object-oriented-programming, one function or one page on your website can be created using several different files on your server, each one contributing a portion of the finished product. What this means is that inexperienced web developers/programmers will take just that much longer to figure out what has gone wrong because they will first have to identify which file/script, out of the thousands contained utilised by a CMS, is the one causing the problem.
In the end, none of my rant really means anything, because content management systems are here to stay. There are far more advantages to a CMS than disadvantages, and 9 out of 10 times our clients specifically request to be able to change their own websites.
It won't take too long for an expert to find and debug an issue with a CMS website, but let's not kid ourselves - in an industry with no barriers to entry, it's not very likely that your web designer is an expert. Make sure you're either doing research into your web developers' experience and knowledge, or foot the bill for additional time spent by inexperienced developers.
What has your experience with CMSs been like? Has it been seamless or have you, like me, had to spend hours fixing issues that you really think shouldn't have been there to begin with.