My chosen theme for this website – Venture.

Thanks to the creation of Content Management Systems (CMS), anyone can have their own website, whether or not they know how to code. A CMS is an application that allows users the ability to build their own website while facilitating a wide array of tools and functions in order to simplify the process. One of the most popular sites is WordPress, which has such a large community that there is support and documentation on almost all aspects of installing, customizing, updating, using, managing, etc.

My current homepage using the Venture theme.

A CMS essentially does all of the work for you in order to make your website look and function properly. With the two images above, it is obvious that my website was derived from the Venture template shown at the top of the page, with modifications only in the logo, menu names, font styles, and featured images. Most of the icons, commands, and features are all in the same locations, and because this is a template, these aspects of the website are not fully customizable.

There are plenty of reasons why less experienced web-builders may opt for a CMS development process rather than write their own code from scratch. Below is a screenshot of a website I had to build for one of my undergraduate courses.

My website I built for an undergraduate course. I wrote all of the code from scratch.

If any of you reading this are like me and have little experience with code, then you will clearly understand why building your website from a CMS may be better than hand-coding it.

It just looks so much better.

When choosing a template, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). You get a clean, professional-looking design that functions really well while also including a few customization options in order to make your website stand out from others possibly using the same template.

Using a CMS for web development is also free. WordPress, among other CMS’s, is an open-source application, meaning developers freely distribute the application code to anyone who wants to use it. This allows for strong communities and the availability of numerous customization options and plugins that can be adjusted to suit your needs.

Customizing the menus in WordPress.

While most CMS templates look well-polished, one of its major downsides is the lack of customization. If the goal of your website is to make it as unique as possible, then a CMS may not help you achieve that. Using a template is incredibly easy and practically eliminates the development process, but as you can see with the first two images of this post, I could not get my site to look much different from the template that it’s based off of.

If you would like to further customize your site, then you need to pay for it. I am currently paying for this WordPress site, which allows me to add some custom CSS into my theme.

Incorporating additional CSS into my WordPress theme.

CSS (cascading style sheets) is a coding language that can be edited to affect the layout and format of a website. Adding additional CSS on WordPress allows me to change the style, size and color of the text or background for my site, which I discussed here, but it was an excruciatingly painful process to undertake.

I had to reteach myself how the CSS language works. Once I got a basic understanding of CSS, I then had to look into the source code and through multiple forums in order to find the exact names for the specific blocks that I wanted to edit.

I was finally able to achieve the results I wanted, but because I was not messing with my own code, I did not know where anything was and thus spent a lot more time editing a template’s CSS than I could have spent if I had hand-coded the site.

HTML code I made myself for my undergraduate course.

If you would rather have complete control over how your website looks and feels, then learning how to code may be your best bet. Some major drawbacks from creating your own code include the intense learning curve and the outrageous prices it costs to hire a programmer. Despite this, the uniqueness and originality of your finished website may be worth the time and money.

While your coding process may not be as efficient as clicking a few buttons when developing your website through a CMS, your code itself will be more efficient, which means it will be easier to understand and easier to find potential errors that could prevent the website from working properly.

The Final Verdict

Overall, building a website through a CMS or by writing your own code are both effective and can lead to some very professional-looking sites. But which way should you go? If you need a website to maintain blog entries or to hold a startup business then a using a CMS may be more effective. If you, however, are looking to learn how to code or want to build websites for a career, then writing your own code will be the more desirable option. Go on and build your best website; the world will be waiting for it.

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