Thursday, April 11, 2013

A CMS is like Mongolian BBQ

I have long dreamed of building the perfect CMS (content management system).  I built my first webpage in the mid 90's, before many people even had personal computers let alone the internet.  From the beginning, I knew there had to be a way to let people make the edits and changes they wanted to make without wasting my time.

In my history of building for the internet, I have created a small handful of very capable content management systems.  These days, there are plenty of mainstream options to choose from as well.  But, the thing I came to learn is that a CMS is like Mongolian BBQ.  

For those who are unfamiliar with Mongolian BBQ, it is like a salad bar that has almost anything you could possibly think to put in a stir fry.  You pay for a bowl that you proceed to stuff with meat and vegetables and hand to a cook who will fry it up on a giant iron griddle.

If you know how to make the items work together (the chicken, pork, beef, veggies, sauces, spices, etc.) you can make a delicious plate of food that you can't find on any menu.  For most people, myself included, if you're just piling on items that look good, you'll most likely end up with a plate of decent food (if you're lucky) or outright garbage.  

Just because a CMS lets you build and edit webpages without having to code, doesn't mean or even imply that you will end up with a decent website.  You wouldn't buy a scalpel and scrubs and expect you can take out your cousin's appendix.  Owning the tools doesn't necessarily make you capable.

I think there are some great CMSs out there, and I think they could all be better, but I am no longer upset when a client asks me to update something, even if they have the ability to do so via the CMS.