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Overview of benefits and drawbacks of Netlify CMS

Maksym Lukianov
Maksym Lukianov
502 August, 3, 2021 6 min read
502 August, 3, 2021 6 min read

What is the Netlify CMS?

Netlify CMS  is an open-source Content Management System. It has intuitive workflows and a comfortable UI part. 

Netlify CMS works with a lot of static site generators (SSG) that give us the advantage to create fast, flexible, and secure web projects. Here in OTAKOYI, we work with a few most popular SSG based on ReactJS (GatsbyJS and NextJS) as well as VueJS (NuxtJS and Gridsome).

The main advantage of working with Netlify CMS is that all the content and source code is stored in the customer Git repository. Of course, you can also organize the content in subfolders. Moreover, you can use additional content models for your convenience.

You simply do not need the backend part as well as databases. However, it will make an impact on the functionality of the project. All the changes (including content updates) will be available for the development team, since the content will be stored directly in Git. 

Netlify CMS works like a wrapper for the Git workflow. In order to connect to Git, Netlify CMS addresses APIs, such as GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket.

It is built on serverless, headless technology, based on client-side JavaScript, reusable Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and pre-built Markup. This structure makes it more secure than a server-side CMS like WordPress. 

Which type of projects is Netlify CMS suitable for?

Netlify CMS is suitable for many types of projects, including:

  • Corporate sites
  • Blogs
  • Landing Pages
  • Simple e-commerce sites
  • Sites with portfolio
  • Sites with documentations
  • Sites with photo gallery
  • Sites with crowdsourced content like Wikipedia
  • PWA

For which business queries is Netlify CMS not recommended?

Netlify CMS is not recommended for projects with high interactivity. For example:

  • online photo editors;
  • online site development;
  • social networks;
  • other projects with dynamic and frequent changes of content.

In these cases, it is better to use the SPA approach and something classical on the backend part. In other words, if it is necessary to see the changes in real-time, you should not use Netlify CMS.

We had the experience with the projects where we combined Netlify CMS with other third-party services, such as AWS Lambda, Stripe, Disqus, Snipcart, and other APIs. Then, all of those were built into one big and dynamic project that works as one whole.

What are Netlify CMS's advantages and disadvantages?

Netlify CMS provides many advantages, including:

  • Open-source Content Management System (which is especially precious for open-source projects);
  • It is based on JamStack technology;
  • Easy installation;
  • Rich-text editing, real-time preview, and drag-and-drop media uploads;
  • The work with a lot of static site generators (SSG);
  • Flexibility and extensibility with creating custom previews, UI widgets, and editor plugins;
  • The work with an unlimited number of content types with custom fields;
  • The use of GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, or JSON web tokens provides modern authentication. Another way to provide the site with authentication functionality is Netlify Identity. Such a tool is a convenient interface for user management;
  • The security that surpasses a server-side CMS like WordPress;
  • The use of GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket as a Content Database;
  • Possibility for frontend developers to implement the whole project without other developers from other directions, which helps to save the budget of the project;
  • Accessibility for a few content editors to change the content. By the way, you can create the possibility for non-technical users to do it, but for this purpose, it is advisable to create links on content to direct such users. This is especially useful for example for blog posts.;
  • Control over custom fields;
  • Editorial Workflow (draft, in review, ready to publish);
  • Community-driven content contributions;
  • Single-page React app build.

Disadvantages of Netlify CMS, include:

  • The fact that all content changes will be available for users after the build process is completed, unlike real-time alternatives;
  • Engagement of developers for the implementation of custom previews, UI widgets, and editor plugins. 
  • Customers cannot implement changes by themselves.
  • Incompatibility with page builders. If you do not know how to code, you will not be able to build a site without the help of page builders.
  • Trouble managing large sites (10k pages and more). The frequency and quantity of making page edits can delay updates, since sites must be rebuilt and tested.
     

What to look for when working with Netlify CMS?

  1. First of all, you need to look at the required frequency of change in content and the importance of displaying it immediately in real-time. If that is not crucial, and you can afford the content to be not updated for a few seconds or minutes, then JamStack and Netlify CMS is a good choice for you.
  2. You should decide where and how the future site will be deployed. By default, we recommend Netlify . The server cost is free (300min of automatic deploy/month). Another way we can do it is AWS or Digital Ocean, but it is a bit more time-consuming and expensive.
  3. It is important to know which third-party services you will need and whether to manage their data through a single CMS (Netlify CMS). It is possible to do, but for this purpose, you usually need to create custom Plugins or widgets in Netlify CMS, and this will require additional time and money. 
  4. You need to know what data the site will work with and where this data will be stored. Netlify CMS by default works with Netlify and all data is stored to CDN (Content Distribution Network). However, not all data can be stored there due to the size of files.
  5. Finally, ask yourself how often you want to change the project functionality, and if you want to change the content by yourself. All the functional changes will require the involvement of developers, unlike e.g. WordPress.

Summary

To conclude, Netlify CMS is a super useful instrument for fast content management and content creation with numerous benefits and special tools in place. With the right way of content mapping, you can make the customer journey effortless and interesting.

In order to gain the most advantages from it, you should carefully analyze the situation on your project: think through your plans and ideas, decide if you want to scale, make your mind on external services you would like to use, and choose whether you want to be able to update the content yourself or you may afford the content managers who will do it for you. If you have the answers to these questions, you will be able to see whether your project and NetlifyCMS are a perfect match for each other. 

In case you still have some doubts about it, contact us, and we will make sure that you made the right choice.