For many years (most of my web designing history, really), I maintained all my pages myself with only an HTML editor and scp for uploading. I saw many other sites that used tools like WordPress, MovableType, and Drupal to organize their pages but I never saw the benefit of such things for entire sites, only blogs. It’s only recently that I decided to try WordPress and to use its Pages feature to control all of my site and not just my writings and journal. So far, it’s been a great change.
I can update everything from anywhere.
If I take a notion to change my autobiography while I’m visiting relatives, I don’t have to mess around with saving any files to edit them, uploading them, and then remembering to update my copy on my computer when I get back home. I can just log into WordPress and fire away. My whole site is at my fingertips for any changes I want to make.
Even though I used PHP when I was maintaining all my pages by hand and so layout changes were a breeze, some people don’t have PHP or any similar programming language at their command, and so a CMS would be a perfect choice in order to keep all the pages looking the same.
I mean two things by this: one is the community that forms around your whole site when feedback is allowed and displayed on almost every page (a feature that I know WordPress offers pretty easily), and the other is the community that supports and expands your CMS of choice. There are a ton of plugins, themes, hacks, and tools made just for WordPress that are easy to implement, thus allowing me to have some nifty features on my site without having to write them myself.
It’s great when I can change the name of a category and have all the links throughout my site that point to that category be updated immediately. It’s also nice when I can have archives of old posts, and then have those archives linked to on every page. I edit one thing and everything related to that thing is updated to reflect my changes, and I don’t have to tell it to do so. Having such things taken care of by the CMS allows me to focus on the content and appearance of my site, which is what I care about.
Those benefits above make up for the few drawbacks that I’ve seen:
Less control over individual pages.
All pages are treated the same, which is usually a good thing because you want a uniform look and feel to the site. If I want a particular page to look or act differently, however, this is a problem. I can make a stand-alone page and merely link to it, but then what happens if I want a few things on that stand-alone page to be like the rest of my pages, such as its design? I can’t very well just write out the same HTML and CSS that configures the look of the page, because I support skins and my visitors might be using a different skin. So I could write out a skinning tool just for that one page, but then what if I update the navigation on my other pages? I’d have to go back and keep this one stand-alone page up-to-date, and that becomes a hassle. That’s why I moved away from maintaining all pages by hand in the first place: I don’t want to deal with the logistics of how a site is set up, but instead what it’s made of and how it appears.
If one thing goes down, it all might fail.
I used WordPress a few years ago to maintain a blog but dropped it like a hot potato because, one day, I went to my blog and all I found was an error message. Something about MySQL and PHP, I think, but I never could fix the problem. It might’ve been a problem with my database or with WordPress itself, but whatever went wrong caused the whole page to not display. None of my blog archives or categories were available, either. With all your pages being stand-alone pages, if one page has a problem, it’s a very isolated problem and it shouldn’t affect the rest of your site. A few visitors may be inconvenienced when they’re trying to read the history of Harold, your pet hamster, and find the page is down, but they can still read your political commentary, so it’s all good. If the main system of your CMS goes down, for whatever reason, then visitors can neither read your pet’s history nor your opinions.