Content management systems are all the rage now because they make creating, maintaining and updating Web sites a breeze. All you have to do is write your content, then style it the way you want and the CMS would take care of everything from layout, navigation to publication. So instead of learning how to code and upload by yourself, you can now use a CMS to publish anything on your site.
However, can a CMS limit your Web design? Will using a particular CMS hinder you from having a visually stunning Web site?
The reality is that CMS is not just WordPress and Joomla. There are literally hundreds of CMS packages out there that you can use. But more than just making it easy for you to have a Web site or a blog and to maintain it quickly and easily, a CMS should help you have the design you want.
Not all CMSes offer the same functionality. Some are geared towards business sites, others aim for simplicity, others help you get an HTML5-ready site, while others allow you to have a responsive Web site out of the box.
So the short answer to the question on whether a CMS can impede you or not from having a visually stunning Web site is "Yes!". That is why it is essential for you to make sure that you choose the best CMS for your needs.
Here are some elements that several CMSes handle differently:
Themes and CSS
If your main concern is to have a visually stunning Web site, then you should choose a CMS that allows you to install themes that you can customize. It should also let you tweak the CSS classes and styles to make sure that everything conforms to the look that you have in mind.
If you use a CSS that does not allow you to do these things, then your CMS can severely limit your site's design.
You should have full control of your themes and CSS. To achieve the kind of look and functionality that you want, you or your Web designer will need to spend lots of time customizing purchased themes and working with the CSS to get all the elements together.
Some content management systems are designed badly that files and images are poorly handled. There are CMS packages, however, that allow you to easily handle images so that you do not have to do the work each and every time you upload an image.
For example, in WordPress, the system automatically specifies the sizes that you can use for a particular image that you have uploaded. This means that if you upload something with dimensions of 500x333 pixels, you cannot display that image at something way bigger than that. Doing so might mean your site would be littered with highly pixelated images that can turn off your visitors. In short, WordPress ensures that your displayed photos are never pixelated. If you need to display a big image, then make sure you upload a high-resolution copy for you to be able to display it nicely.
Also, some CMSes would allow you to specify default sizes for your pictures. For example, if you have a gallery done in WordPress that calls for thumbnails of similar sizes (i.e., 100x100), you can go into the functions.php file and add that particular image size. This way, every time you upload an image file, you are always given the option to display it at 100x100.
Speaking of galleries, you might want to choose a CMS that allows you to easily create a gallery for your photos.
Also, look into CMS that allows you to link your images to an attachment page. An attachment page enables you to feature a specific image, complete with detailed information that you might want to share with your visitors. Instead of just linking a thumbnail to the bigger sized image, use an attachment page. What's more, you could style these attachment pages according to your wishes.
Another way to prettify your Web site is through the use of plugins. This is the reason why it would make sense to choose a CMS with a strong user community that can provide you with a plug-in that you can use for your design. Or at least, use a CMS that allows you to build and use your own plug in.
For example, you want your editors to be able to do some simple image editing such as cropping, rotating and color adjustment. But if you find that your CMS does not have that particular feature, then you should be able to get a plug-in that would allow you to have that functionality.
Rule of Thumb: Ease of Use
As you can see, not all CMSes are made equal. If you choose the right CMS package, you can certainly fly with the visual elements of your site and give your visitors an eye-catching experience. However, if you choose a CMS that handles images badly, or does not allow you to customize themes and CSS, or does not have a good set of plug-ins available, then you will have to do with what you can get.
All in all, CMS is here to help you with your Web design. It should make everything easy, convenient and more manageable for you. So yes, the kind of CMS you use does matter. Different CMSes offer different features and different tools, so you should use one that provides you what you need. This way, your Web site will look more visually appealing and serve the main purpose you have in mind