UPDATED 2023: CMS vs Hard Coded Website: Which one is right for you?

Categories: Web Design

So, you need a website, and you’re not even sure what the title of this post means! That’s okay, let us break it down for you.

When it comes to websites there are so many options that it can seem overwhelming. For simplicity sake, we’ve broken them down into two options: Content Management System (CMS) + Hard Coded.

What’s the Difference?

A CMS, or Content Management System, is a software application that allows users to create, manage, and publish digital content, typically in the form of websites or web applications, without needing specialized technical skills. A CMS provides a user-friendly interface for managing content and typically includes features such as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors, templates, and plugins that make it easier to create and customize content.

Hard Coded:

A hard-coded website is a website that is created using HTML and CSS code that is written directly into the web pages themselves. In other words, the content of the website is directly coded into the HTML files, and any changes or updates to the content require editing the code manually.

Hard-coded websites are typically static websites, meaning that the content does not change frequently, and there is no dynamic content or interactive features. These types of websites are often used for simple online brochures, portfolios, or basic company websites.

While hard-coded websites can be fast and efficient, they are often difficult to maintain and update, as any changes require manual coding. In contrast, dynamic websites, which are built using a CMS or other content management system, allow for easier updates and changes to content without the need for manual coding.


Now you understand the difference between CMS + Hard Coded websites. Before deciding which website structure would be best there are some important questions to ask yourself first. This section gets a bit ‘techy’ but we promise to translate it for you.

 1. How big is your website + what’s your budget?

A CMS uses template files that are created to handle content input from a backend interface.  If your website is small (1-4) pages a CMS could be substantially more expensive than a hardcoded website. However, if your website is large, a CMS could be the better option. Why? Well, when we can take a template and use it for multiple pages it has an economies-of-scale effect.

Translation: CMS + Large website = Great Option

2. How often does the content on your website change?

As discussed earlier, CMS websites are built for the purpose of allowing you to edit the content of your website without technical knowledge. So, here are our general rules of thumb when it comes to deciding if the number of edits warrants a CMS website:

i. If the content on your website is only updated 1-2 times a year (or less), a CMS’ functionality could potentially limit the design freedom of your website, as the design relies on specific templates.

So, if your company offers services that remain consistent from year to year, then you are more likely to benefit from a Hard Coded website design.

ii. If you are adding / editing or removing content on a regular basis (numerous times a day/week) a CMS will eliminate the need to contact your web developer to make these changes for you. All of your changes can be made immediately.

1. Example: Real Estate is an ideal situation for a CMS website. The content of the website is constantly being updated.  New listings, and current listing changes (such as the property being sold or the price being reduced) can occur several times a day.

2. Restaurants: makes it easy to add/update their menus

3. eCommerce: allow you to quickly add and remove products, track sales/inventory

4. nonprofits: After the initial build of the website you can manage your website updates without having to pay a programmer to make the edits for you.

Translation: CMS + Constant Updates = Great Option

3. Do you have time to update your website?

a. Even in situations where the content of your website is constantly being updated, a CMS may not be the best option.  If you or an employee have the time and knowledge to update your website that’s great! However, if you do not have the time to update your website and plan on going through your web developer to update your website a hardcoded website may be the better option.

i. Ultimately you pay for the extra functionality being built into a CMS website. Does it make sense to pay for the extra functionality when you will still be paying the web developer to make the changes to your website? We don’t think so!

b. Be aware that time is not only needed to update the content of the website but CMS’ need to be maintained as well.  The CMS and additional plugins will need to be updated on a regular basis to avoid security vulnerabilities.

Translation: Programmer Updating Website + Hard Coded = Great Option

If a CMS website still appears to be the way to go after asking yourself the questions above, you’re now tasked with deciding which CMS will best suit your needs.

1. WordPress

a. 43% of the web operates through WordPress including

i. Time Magazine

ii. Sony Music

iii. The White House

b. Open source, which means you don’t need to purchase a license to operate it.

i. No additional yearly cost

c. Easy to use/update

d. Plenty of add-ons/plugins (60,000+ Free Plugins)

e. Content, document and project management, file distribution, and project tracking

f. No native database report

2. Magneto

a. Developed specifically for eCommerce

b. Open source

c. Websites:

i. Burger King

ii. Nestle,

iii. Zumiez

d. Easy to navigate

e. Extensive features revolved around products, pricing tools etc.

3. Drupal

a. Many tools and modules to help create content relevant to your target audience and structure your website so it can be crawled effectively

b. Major websites:

i. Entertainment Weekly

ii. Tesla

iii. NASA

c. More complex than other open source CMS platforms

d. Regarded as the most secure open-source CMS

4. Joomla

a. Major websites:

i. Epson

ii. Nintendo

b. Many extensions/plugins that can meet the needs of most small businesses

c. All add-ons are free

e. Easy to navigate

f. Not many support options

g. Inst a quick website builder

h. Regarded as a CMS for web designers who have experience using code.

As you can see, there are a LOT of factors to be considered when deciding what the best path forward is for your website. Still unsure as to what the best option is for you? That’s okay, if you’re looking for an experienced company to develop your website, let us help you decide. Send us a quick note and we can go from there.