Webvanta Blog: Creating Effective Websites

Should You Use a Hosted CMS?

If you’re like most web designers, you may use a hosted service, such as WordPress.com, when you need a quick, simple blog. But when you are building business sites and need full design control, you either build a static site or use a self-hosted CMS, such a downloaded copy of WordPress that you manage. And if you have the budget for a large implementation effort, you may use Drupal, Joomla!, or Expression Engine.

Any of these self-hosted systems leaves you in the software business, figuring out which add-ons work well, integrating everything together, deploying it to a server, searching around for help, and keeping it patched so it doesn’t get hacked.

A hosted CMS brings with it a variety of benefits, such as complete relief from software and server administration hassles, excellent security, automatic backups, and the clarity and efficiency of an integrated, supported system. Of course, all this is of little value if you can’t build the site you need to build, and this constraint has kept SaaS content management systems out of the mainstream of web-site construction.

The New Breed of Hosted CMS

The inexorable shift toward hosted applications, from Basecamp and Ning to Salesforce and Shopify, is now reshaping the way some designers are building sites. While offerings such as WordPress, Blogger, Intuit Sites, and SquareSpace are too constraining for most professionally built sites, a new breed of hosted CMS, designed to meet the needs of pro designers, is now available.

Webvanta, our own offering, is among the most powerful and flexible of the next-generated hosted CMS systems, while retaining an ease of use that simpler systems often fail to achieve. And there are others as well, from Adobe’s Business Catalyst to LightCMS.

As hosted offerings become more diverse and more capable, the number of self-hosted new site designs will plummet, creating a sea change in the web design world.

The Hosted Service Tradeoff

Life is full of tradeoffs, and the decision to use a hosted CMS is no exception. With any SaaS system, you’re giving up control over the back-end software, in return for being relieved of all responsibility for building, maintaining, and serving that software.

As long as the system meets your needs, this is generally an excellent tradeoff. You get to focus on your design and business needs, and let someone else take care of the technical details and day-to-day operations.

You benefit from the hosted service organization being able to invest in engineering and support that couldn’t be justified by any one project, or even a handful of them, but that can be readily provided for a large customer base that shares your needs.

Picking the Right Service

Part of the bargain you’re making when you use a hosted service is that you’re going to live with whatever that service is designed to do (or that it can be extended to do), so it’s critical to pick one that meets your needs.

  • If all you need is a simple blog, Wordpress.com is an excellent option.
  • If you want more design flexibility but don’t have a lot of content and don’t need database capability, SquareSpace is a great product.
  • If you’re building a straightforward e-commerce site, take a look at Shopify or BigCommerce.
  • If you need a private social network, Ning offers the most appropriate feature set.

And if you are building custom web sites, for which you need full control over the design and the organization of content, Webvanta is an outstanding solution (if we do say so ourselves).

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