In the web development world it’s the equivalent of Ali vs Frazier or Holden vs Ford: Which is better for businesses – brochure-style websites or content management systems?
For the uninitiated, in simple terms a brochure-style website is often called a static website and is updated using editing software and knowledge of web hosting. This updating is usually done by the web developer. Content Management System (CMS) websites, on the other hand, are dynamic and can be updated by a business owner or employee. Two popular open-source (freely available) CMS platforms are Joomla! and WordPress.
Some web developers swear by brochure-style websites while others will only develop websites for businesses using a content management system.
So what do I think? Well, at the risk of sounding like a fence-sitter, I simply say that it depends.
As a person who specialises in marketing communications, I develop websites for businesses based on strategic reasoning (i.e. after analysing key areas such as aims, target audiences, budget, key messages, etc.). I also think the decision on whether to develop a brochure-style website or a content management system needs to be made strategically.
For example, if your business is simply looking for a website to gain a web presence and you don’t envisage updating it more often than a few times a year, a brochure-style website is likely to be your best bet. This is even more the case if you have limited computer skills or free time.
Content management systems are intended to separate the design of a website from the content, making it easy for users to update and add new content. In practice, however, learning how to use a content management system can be difficult, especially for those who aren’t particularly computer-literate. I’ve used several CMS systems – some are anything but user-friendly while others, such as WordPress, are much simpler but still require a reasonable degree of knowledge and skills.
The risk, therefore, with a CMS website, is that businesses don’t update their websites because of a lack of knowledge and skills, or in some cases time and focus. Or they change the content or add new content, make a few mistakes, and their business website starts to look anything but professional.
So why would you choose to have your business website developed using a CMS? There are several but the main one is the ability to update and add new content any time you want, without having to get your web developer to do the work for you. CMSs can be very powerful and flexible. For example, if you want to have a blog and let people add comments, which can be a great idea and is one of the big business trends, a CMS is a must.
Still undecided? If you are unsure on which style of business website to develop, talk to a reputable web developer, preferably one with marketing communications experience, who will sit down with you to chat about the strategic decisions.
If you want to hedge your bets, however, I would generally recommend a CMS website, providing you have a web developer who can update the content for you until you feel confident or have the time to do it yourself. You will generally pay a little more for a website developed using a CMS platform, however, for many businesses the investment will be worth it because of the flexibility these websites provide.