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New start-up companies who don’t have a clue about designing small business websites can be forgiven for thinking that HTML and CMS are interchangeable. As long as the finished website is to their specifications, new small business owners may not care about the distinctions between the two. However, the differences between HTML and CMS are integral to the creation of websites and how they are maintained and updated. HTML is the programming language that every web page on the Internet is written in. A CMS is a software platform which is powered by a database and provides an easy to use interface which can quickly create and publish new content. Choosing between the two approaches to web design is an important decision for new website owners.

Coding Vs. GUI

Creating a website with HTML means lots of coding. Hundreds of lines of HTML code are required for every webpage, and advanced website features such as comment boxes or e-commerce capability need even more complex coding languages like PHP, SQL and jQuery. However, no coding knowledge whatsoever is needed to create a website using CMS. The installation of a CMS to a web server is quick and easy and some web hosts already have the most popular CMS platforms ready to use. The CMS automatically create a skeleton structure for new websites so all the user needs to do is add content and customize the design.


Structuring a website is much more difficult with HTML. Web pages are kept in a directories on a server and the HTML code has to link  all of the different pages to the relevant hosted folders. Images and other media have to be stored in the server directory, too, so an experienced web developer will be required as website visitors will see page errors and dead links if the structure is incorrect. A website created with a CMS has a much flatter structure. All of the content and website information is stored in the database rather than across different folders and directories, and the CMS handles most of the structuring and linking automatically.

Speed Of Deployment

It can take hours to create a single webpage from scratch with HTML. Even an experienced web developer will need plenty of time to create a small business website as the structure, content and design of webpages all need to be ‘hand coded’ from scratch. Using a CMS, the same website can be created in a fraction of the time. Changes can even be made after a website has gone live. Using a CMS means website owners can make significant alterations with just a few clicks, and the interface allows owners to see a live preview of the changes they are making.

Flexibility of Design

There are thousands of different themes available for websites designed with CMS. Popular CMS platforms like Joomla and WordPress have a wide range of designs and templates that can completely change the appearance a website, and the variety means that any small business will be able to find a look that suits their professional image. However, HTML can give designers almost unlimited free reign to make any aesthetic changes to a website. For example, CSS can be used to display the same HTML elements on every page for consistency, but designers could still easily create individual webpages with a completely different design from the rest of the website (useful for a checkout page, for example). One of the main differences between a HTML web design vs CMS is that while CMS themes can be customized, they don’t offer the complete flexibility of HTML.

SEO For Small Business

Having effective SEO for small business can make or break the success of a new company website, and both CMS and HTML have different SEO advantages. All websites created with a CMS have a structure that is easily read by search engines, ensuring they will be seen by crawlers and indexer bots. Similarly, SEO plugins exist which can automatically make changes which will optimize a website. Although SEO with HTML is not an automatic, quick process, experienced web developers will be able to completely optimize every webpage so with search engine performance in mind.

CMS and HTML are very different approaches to web design, but they are both suitable for creating small business websites. The user-friendly benefits of designing with a CMS have made the platform a popular option for new website owners in recent years, and its speedy deployment and easy content creation are ideal for small companies. However, experienced web developers can use HTML to create websites which require very specific graphical and design specifications. Ideally, new small business owners need to discuss the requirements of their website with a web developer so they can make the best decision.

Small business websites are a topic that Ross Davies writes about on a regular basis. He works as a web developer in the UK and understands the benefits of both a CMS and a HTML website for new websites.