I was asked this question recently and thought I would post an answer here. I’d like to share some core reasons for having a content management system (CMS) as well as one new one that should seal the deal if nothing else will.
- Separation of presentation and content. Design can be changed without touching the content. Content can be added or changed without touching the design. This enables specialists to focus on what they do best rather than having to be a Web generalist to modify the site.
- Content management. The eponymous value! Since content is stored as data, the system can provide tools for reporting and analyzing your content across the site which is immensely helpful in keeping content up-to-date as well as simply knowing what you have in place. The more content you have, the more valuable this becomes.
- User management. In most systems you can create separate logins for each person who needs to work on the site and limit what they can do based on specific roles or rules. This allows you to move to a model of distributed publishing, where content experts work on their content and web experts work on the overall site.
- Dynamic content presentation. While implied by the separation of presentation and content above, I wanted to highlight that this arrangement opens up new ways of driving traffic to content. It allows you to have the site display content based on content data or user data. Think of how Amazon.com shows products related to the one you are viewing on their site as well as suggesting products based on your purchase history with them. This is dynamic presentation.
There is more to it than that (such as web-based systems allowing you to update the site from anywhere) but most features are some mix of the above. Running a site without a CMS today is like writing a book on an old Selectric typewriter. You could do it but why in the world would you want to?
Two words: social media.
If you wish to have a site that encourages collaboration, sharing and participation, the main elements of social media, then you will need to have a CMS in place that can sustain those types of activities. In fact, many of the open source CMSs on the market have strong roots in the social media world.
Implementing social media features on a site not built with a CMS of some fashion would be near impossible.