Is a CMS or Custom Code Better for Your Web Site?
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When you decide to build a PHP-based web site, you have an important decision to make with far-reaching implications. That decision is whether to use a ready-made content management system or custom code for your site. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and in this article, we will explore the pros and cons of using a content management system or CMS, versus custom code for your web site.
What is a CMS?
What is a Content Management System or CMS? Is it a blog site? Is it a photo gallery? Is it a forum? It can be any of these things, or all of them.
The term "Content Management System" sounds like a single-purpose tool only for managing content. In a very broad sense, that is what a CMS does, but the definition of content in this case covers a lot.
A content management system is a ready-made web site, usually based on PHP/MySQL, on which you can put your own text and graphics. These premade websites typically come with all the functionality that most sites will ever need already pre-programmed.
This functionality might include such things as a contact form, live chat, a Joke of the Day box, a weather forecast box, forum, clock, RSS display, photo gallery, and many, many more. A mature CMS such as PostNuke probably has literally hundreds of widgets and plug-ins that can be added to your site. As the name "content management system" implies, CMSes also provide means of easily modifying and maintaining site content. Many of them even have "What You See Is What You Get" or WYSIWYG HTML editors for the site content.
A CMS works by providing a framework site that incorporates optional modules that contain all of the other site accessories and functionality. These modules can be easily added or removed by the site administrator.
Don't think that just because a CMS is a premade, canned website, it is only for small organizations or individuals who do not have the resources for creating a custom web site. Some of the most important sites on the Internet run on content management systems.
What some would consider the most compelling argument for the use of a content management system is that many CMSes are open source and free!
If content management systems do all of these things, and several are free, why don't all web sites use them? you may wonder. We will provide some answers to that question in the next two sections on the pros and cons of content management systems, and the pros and cons of custom coded web sites.
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