Content Management vs. Static HTML

By Deane Barker on October 27, 2003

Content Management vs. Unstructured, Flat HTML Pages: This article tries to make the point that content management is for everyone. It’s a comparison of using a CMS against using simple HTML.

“So how do you convince a company that no matter how small its Web presence it should consider some sort of content management system? It’s easy. Just ask management one question: What would happen if the Web master were struck by lighting tomorrow? All kidding aside, it brings up an important point. Having one all-knowing ‘key master’ for your company’s Internet, intranet, and extranet is probably not a good business practice. It’s like having only one key to the office and everyone having to depend on one person for access. What happens if he’s late or, worse yet, doesn’t show up at all?”

All the points are valid, but they leave out one really, really important point: content management systems are generally complicated. What would happen if the webmaster was struck my lightning? Well, implement a content management system and have the developer struck by lightning. The implication is that a content management system will reduce staffing, which just isn’t true.

It’s still a good article, however. Well-written and bascially well-researched. Still, you need to ask yourself if you really need content management. The answer for 90% of business is going to be “No.”

I work for a company with a Web site that is above-average in complextiy and that’s crucial to our business. For the last 11 months, I have maintained it in FrontPage with just one dynamic page fed off an Access database.

Just now (just today, in fact), I’m migrating it to something stronger. I pushed flat HTML as far as it could go, and then – and only then – I started looking to a CMS. And now, the only parts of the site that are going to be dynamic are going to be the handful of pages that need to be. The rest of the site will stay good, old fashioned, stable, static HTML. This post covers this thought a little more in-depth.

An anecdote about the “stuck by lightning” example: I worked in an IT shop which purchased a six-figure, enterprise content management system. Biggest name in the business, all the bells and whistles. I was the designated “content management developer.” I spent nine months preparing for the implementation – three-quarters of a year learning, planning, testing, etc. Then I was laid off (hit by lightning, whatever). That content management system currently sits on a shelf, unimplemented one year after my departure.

Comments (1)

Gene says:

Actually, I think this is a bad article based on a false dichotomy – that you have either static pages or a monolithic content management application.

In reality there’s a vast middle ground occupied by home-grown systems, offline processes (that can be surprisingly effective), lightweight CMSs that do static publishing (e.g. Movable Type), and tons of other approaches that can work well.

Sadly, this article reads like every CMS pitch I’ve sat in on.

(I once heard a story about a major CMS vendor that used email for their workflow rather than the workflow system built into their own product. There’s a company that fails the “eat your own dogfood” test.)