What is a content management system

What is a Content Management System?

Mark Walker Blogging, Web Design Leave a Comment

You’ve probably been in a meeting or heard a sales pitch where someone mentioned a CMS in reference to a website project. You probably nodded your head and smiled, not wanting your colleagues to know you had no clue what a CMS is. Well, that’s all going to change! We’re covering them in-depth so you’ll have a better understanding of what they do, why they’re necessary, and how to pick the right one for your needs.

A content management system, also known as a CMS, gives you a pre-built website management structure. To put it simply, it takes all the fancy code that’s used to make a website or app and packages it up nice and neat for ease of use. A CMS can help save your business time by making the content on your website easy to update and change. A content management system provides a backend that’s flexible enough for you to work in without having extensive HTML knowledge.

What are content management systems used for?

• Personal blogs
• Business websites
• Web applications
• Online stores to showcase products and services

Why bother with a CMS if you can build your own website?

You could build your website from scratch using HTML, CSS and Javascript. If you’re a big fan of working with code, then this may be a good solution for you. Most of us, however, aren’t developers and need a solution that is easy to use and maintain.

Even if you do build a site using raw code, you’ll still need to include a database for all the administration functions on your site (different users and roles) to make it easy for them to log in and update the content they have privileges for on your site. You will also need an admin panel because you don’t want random users and visitors to have free access to the data files on the website. An admin backend is essential so only authorized people can edit the website.

Even still, if you have the technical knowledge to set up a website it won’t be easy to use for the general public without the help of a user interface (UI) designer. If you’re someone who is not familiar with technology, then going with a proven CMS will give you and your team all the tools necessary to manage a website. This includes managing your content, choosing beautiful layouts, and taking payments.

Choosing the right type of CMS

There’s no one CMS that is the perfect choice. The choice depends on your situation. What are you using a website for? What goals do you have for your site and what kind of features do you want it to have? A content management system’s strengths and weaknesses will vary according to what your site is going to be. If you’re in need of a business website site with a blog, then WordPress would likely be your number one choice (it’s definitely going to be our recommendation). If you require a more robust and custom site with advanced features such as a shopping cart or product builder, you may need to consider other options. Possibly even a custom CMS solution like this one.

Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress are the three most popular content management systems. All three of them are used worldwide and they are all very user-friendly.

Here’s a little information about each…

WordPress

WordPress is a powerful CMS that powers approximately 25% of the web. It’s reliant on PHP and MySQL in terms of backend structure. The great thing about WordPress is that there are plenty of plugins available to download for added functionality. There are plugins available for most any type of functionality you might want. Another advantage of WordPress is the number of themes that are available. This makes it easy to change the look of your website without much coding. WordPress is also open-source, which means you can make your own modifications or you can hire someone to do them for you. Modifications are crucial in making your site work the way you want. With WordPress you have options: a simple template based site OR a fully customized site, which is why we typically recommend WP for our clients.

Drupal

Drupal, like WordPress, offers customization primarily through extensibility. From the Drupal site, you can get free add-ons and free themes as well as download the Drupal CMS software. The main drawback of using Drupal is that you have to have developer skills to work with it. Drupal has many more APIs and is much more extensible than even WordPress, but it does require that you have a fair amount of coding ability. Because of that complexity, some of the bigger sites in the world have been built on Drupal. But this means that Drupal might not be appropriate for non-technical users as the learning curve is steep.

Joomla

Joomla is built with a user-friendly experience in mind. It accomplishes this through its graphical user interface (GUI) emphasis. As a result of its user-friendly orientation, Joomla is known for having many templates to choose from. The problem with Joomla is that it appears to be stagnating as a CMS in terms of popularity and adoption.

Database-Free Content Management Systems

There is also a new type of CMS which doesn’t use a database. When you don’t have a database, this means there’s less slowdown as your CMS no longer has to query a database to retrieve data for the website visitor. Everything is uploaded into your web server’s directories and is served directly to the user. This lack of a database also makes these types of CMS’s very portable. Kirby and Grav are two examples of a database-free CMS.

Whichever CMS you end up choosing, make sure everyone in your organization is comfortable with it. You want a CMS that is easy enough for your frontline staff to use and features clean code for your tech staff to administer easily. Need help picking the CMS for your business? Give us a call or message us anytime. We’d love to help!

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