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Why It’s Important Not to Ignore Your CMS

Why keeping your Content Management System up-to-date matters

Jan 9, 2024 | Jesse Rykerson

Let’s start at the beginning—with a quick overview of what a CMS actually is and does for you. A Content Management System (CMS) is a software application or a set of related programs that allow users to create, manage, and modify digital content. They’re commonly used for websites and web content, enabling individuals or teams to update and organize information without requiring (much, if any) technical expertise.

A shiny new website with a CMS is a great thing. But just like with a new car, there is vital maintenance and upkeep that needs to happen regularly in order to ensure that it runs smoothly. Here are some important reasons to keep your CMS updated:

Security Enhancements
One Saturday morning in 2009, I received a frantic phone call from an important client of ours. We did not host or manage their site for them at the time, and had just begun to transition in as their agency of record for technical needs (along with design and strategy). The issue: their website was gone, and in its place was a highly offensive illustration, paired with equally-offensive messages on the site. As they feared, they’d suffered a security breach, and had to deal with days of downtime, backup restoration, malware removal, and embarrassment. We discovered that their CMS had not been kept up to version, and as a result was an easy target for a malware attack.

Some common challenges that website owners face when their CMS is not kept up-to-date:

  • Security Exploits: Outdated CMS versions often have known vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access. For example, a hacker might use a well-known exploit to bypass outdated security measures and compromise sensitive data.
  • SQL Injection: Outdated CMS systems may not have the latest defenses against SQL injection attacks. Attackers could inject malicious SQL code into your website's database, potentially leading to data breaches or unauthorized manipulation of data.
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): Vulnerable CMS versions may lack protection against XSS attacks. Attackers can inject malicious scripts into web pages, allowing them to steal sensitive information from users or deface your website.
  • Brute Force Attacks: Outdated CMS systems may not have the latest safeguards against brute force attacks, where attackers systematically attempt to guess usernames and passwords to gain access to the administrative backend.
  • Malware Infections: Security vulnerabilities in outdated CMS versions make it easier for malware to infect your website. Malicious code can be injected into files, leading to compromised user experiences, data loss, or even blacklisting by search engines.

Bug Fixes and Stability
Bugs (which sounds better than calling it what it is: a software error), can have an impact on the functionality of your website. Bugs may manifest as broken links, distorted layouts, dysfunctional features, or, in severe cases, complete website crashes. Bugs not only hinder the user experience but also compromise the overall reliability and performance of your site. Visitors encountering issues may become frustrated, leading to increased bounce rates and potential loss of credibility.

As bugs (which are inevitable, unfortunately) are discovered, the team tasked with building and maintaining the CMS will release bug fixes to deal with these issues. Keeping your site up-to-date will ensure that the latest fixes are deployed in a timely fashion.

New Features and Functionality
Content Management Systems (CMS) have undergone a remarkable evolution, continuously adapting to the dynamic needs of website owners and content creators. In the early stages, CMS primarily focused on basic content creation and management. However, with technological advancements and changing user expectations, modern CMS platforms have evolved into robust solutions offering a diverse array of features. These include advanced content editing tools, multimedia management, e-commerce integrations, and sophisticated user collaboration features.

Embracing the new functionalities introduced in CMS updates is crucial for enhancing the overall user experience. Advanced features empower content creators with more flexibility and creativity, allowing them to craft engaging and interactive content. Improved multimedia management ensures seamless integration of images, videos, and other multimedia elements, enriching the visual appeal of your website. Enhanced user collaboration tools streamline workflows, promoting efficient content creation and updating processes. Additionally, features like responsive design capabilities cater to the growing demand for mobile-friendly experiences, ensuring your website remains accessible across various devices.

Performance Optimization
The speed of a website is a critical factor influencing user experience and search engine rankings. An outdated Content Management System (CMS) can significantly hamper website speed, leading to longer loading times and diminished performance. As technology evolves, so do the optimization techniques and algorithms that enhance the efficiency of content delivery. Outdated CMS versions may lack these optimizations, resulting in sluggish page loading, increased bounce rates, and a negative impact on user experience.

CMS updates often include optimizations and performance enhancements that directly address the speed issues associated with outdated systems. Developers continually refine the codebase, implement efficient algorithms, and introduce technologies that streamline the loading process. These updates may include improvements in database queries, image optimization, and overall resource utilization. By staying current with CMS updates, website owners ensure that their platforms leverage the latest techniques to deliver faster and more responsive user experiences.

One of our favorite examples of excellent ongoing performance optimization is with Shopify. Shopify regularly updates its CMS to enhance the performance of e-commerce websites. Recent updates included improvements in product page loading times and checkout processes, resulting in a smoother and faster shopping experience for users. This optimization contributed to increased conversions and customer satisfaction.

Parting Thoughts 
Maintaining an up-to-date Content Management System (CMS) is crtical for ensuring the optimal performance and success of a website. Neglecting updates exposes websites to a range of security threats, compromises stability and functionality due to unresolved bugs, and inhibits the adoption of valuable new features and functionalities. 

Outdated CMS versions can severely impact website speed, leading to subpar user experiences. Regular updates not only patch vulnerabilities and fix bugs but also contribute to system stability, introduce innovative features, and enhance performance, ultimately safeguarding the integrity of the website and fostering positive interactions with users. By embracing the evolution of CMS technologies and staying vigilant in applying updates, website owners can establish a secure, stable, and high-performing online presence.