Ben Furfie

Do you really need a CMS?

Speak to most web agencies and they'll try to upsell you a content management system. But do you really need one?

Published May 20th 2017

What is a CMS?

A CMS – or content management system – is a way for you to update the content on your website, without needing to code. The opposite of a CMS-based website is a static website.

The most popular CMS around is WordPress, though there are many more options. Some other popular CMSs include Drupal, Expression Engine and Magento. There are also a raft of CMSs which are gaining popularity, such as Perch, Statamic, Craft and Jekyll.

They are also one of the most requested features of a new website. But do you actually need one? In short, probably not.

Why do you think you need a CMS?

When investing in a website, chances are you will want to get the biggest bang for your buck possible. Many agencies and freelancers – like car salesmen – will try to convince you that you need to buy bigger and better; preferably with the most options they can bundle in.

Want to be able to edit your website? Sure thing!

A quick Google search turns up tens of thousands of blog posts of why you must have a CMS. The thing is, they’re all lies. They’re little more than a sales tactic to get you to spend more money.

Like that rear mounted bike rack a car salesman will try to sell you, chances are you’re never going to use a CMS. In fact, it'll probably only slow you down and increase your expenses.

In the case of the car accessories, they’ll increase the fuel you use. As for your website, a CMS will increase the amount of hosting resources you need. This will means more money every month you’re spending on something you likely won’t use.

In the case of editing content on your website – chances are – it will be cheaper (not to mention easier) to have a monthly retainer agreement. That agreement can cover your web designer or developer updating the content for you.

Reality: CMSs are an expensive waste of money you (probably) don't need

If you run a small business, chances are you won’t have time to spend editing your site. I’ve seen it time and time again; small businesses spending money they can ill-waste on a website with a CMS that they never end up using. The same goes for blogs.

An agency I used to work had over 20,000 small business customers on file-based sites. On a busy week, no more than ten would email us or call us to change content on their sites. Even then, it was usually a phone number, email address or their location. Chances are, you’ll find you have the same needs.

So what is the alternative?

A file-based (or static) website always has been the best and most cost effective type of website for small businesses. They are low maintenance and almost unhackable compared to CMS-based websites. Crucially in today’s world of SEO, they’re lightening fast.

There is nothing new about file-based websites. The first websites were file-based. Indeed, up until the turn of the millennium, most websites were file-based.

The reality is that CMSs are a waste of money for most businesses. Unless your business relies on generating content (such as a newspaper, blog or a shop), chances are you’ll be able to get a far better return on your investment with a static website.

So next time you go to invest in a website, consider going file-based.