Static HTML vs. Content Management System Website
At a high level overview, there are two basic methods used to build a website. The older method is to write each page in HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) – you can either write the HTML yourself or use a program to write the HTML for you. A newer method is to use a Content Management System (CMS) where the information that makes up your website is stored in a database and then called when serving a webpage to a site visitor.
Static HTML Websites
One very popular program used to write static HTML websites is Dreamweaver where you can create each page using a WSYWIG interface and then have the option to edit the HTML. Dreamweaver will keep track of folders where photos and other elements are stored put it all together as you build your site and compose each page. When you are all finished building your site, you upload all of the files to your web server and voila – you have a website! That sound quick and easy – and it is and everything works great until you want to add more pages or edit or make just about any other change to your website.
Content Management System Websites
There’s a better way. With a Content Management System (CMS) when you add a page the menu structure is updated and you don’t have to upload the entire website to reflect that change. With a CMS you can have an eCommerce site – something you just can’t do with a static HTML site. With a CMS it is very easy to have a members only area of your website and manage information about your site members. With an Open Source CMS, the cost of entry is nothing – it’s free.
A Content Management System is a piece of software that runs on a web server and serves the website content from a database. That means the HTML web pages don’t even exist until you click on a link for a particular page then the CMS gathers all of the necessary information from the database and writes the HTML on the fly as you are downloading it. At first that sounds inefficient, but it opens up so many possibilities for website management and maintenance.
Two very common scenarios where a CMS website is far superior to a static HTML site are blogs and eCommerce sites. In the blog example, you are continuously writing new articles and posting then to your website. For sure you are going to want to have the most recent articles posted in a conspicuous place on your website – like maybe the front page. And you write new articles, it would be nice to have the newest article post at the top of the list with the older articles moving down the list. All of the older articles are still stored on the website, but a site user just has to dig a little to find them. A CMS shines here, because as you write new articles they show up and the older articles are automatically moved into the archives. All of the menu structure updates itself automatically as each new article is added and all you had to do was add your article to the website. Can you imagine updating everything by have every time you added a new article? You would never have time write any articles because you would be always updating links to your newest articles! A Content Management System does this automatically for you.
In the eCommerce example, you would want your online store to be able to do things like inventory control, show related products (and not show a related product if you are out of stock), have site viewers write reviews, take orders and keep track of your customer’s billing information and email address. Could you imagine writing a static HTML page for each product and taking pages offline and then putting them back online as your inventory goes up and down? That would be a nightmare. With a Content Management System, all of this can be controlled at the back end of the website and your website viewers only see what you allow them to see based on the rules you set up for the CMS to follow. You couldn’t run an eCommerce store with a static HTML website – at least not without losing your sanity in the process. A Content Management System makes running an eCommerce online store easy and profitable.