Really, What Does A Content Management System Do?
There are a number of large Content Management Systems out there that vary from extremely user friendly to extremely malleable, which one you pick depends on what you want to do with it and how much the administrator of your website knows. WordPress
is considered the bread-and-butter CMS around the web, they have the most support, developers, and are the easiest to use CMS. Drupal
is another extremely popular CMS priding itself on being open source (you will find a lot of developers opt to use Drupal because of this). Concrete5
is the last CMS I’ll mention, they focus most of their efforts on usability. It allows you to edit content while looking at a page without having to go into the backend of the site if you don’t want to. There are a number of other CMSs out there but those are a solid three to start off with.
How do I know which CMS to use?
Which CMS you end up using is up to you and how much knowledge you have about programming and which one you like the feel of the most. All three of those CMSs are very user friendly and have quite a bit of documentation to help get you started on building your interface to the web world. Not to mention the incredible number of forums out there created to help you move your website forward. There are still a number of things you have to do once your get your CMS set up on your website (install plugins, choose a theme, write content, to name a few) but your CMS is the base of your entire site and creates a solid foundation for you to build the rest of your website on.
What your CMS can’t give you is a pixel perfect website. In order to design your website with custom functions, sidebars, and everything else that takes a website to the next level, you need to either have an experienced developer at your side or be one yourself. Many of the drop down menus and popups on our site were designed by me because I have the development background to do these things. Not every site needs these things (if you’re making a website for your son’s Little League team you probably don’t need a fancy newsletter subscription box) but if you want to give your site that completed and professional feel, you need to have a web developer work on your site.
That said, a CMS is a great place to start if you don’t have the funds to hire a developer or you’re just not in that stage of your project. From there you can install a theme to your website and get some plugins running to create an effective web interface for your project or your company. Be aware that web developers often specialize in a specific CMS, I work on WordPress sites mainly for example. We can certainly work outside of our specialty but it’s going to take a bit more time to get that polished look you want in the end. If you have a developer in mind you want to work with, see if you can figure out what CMS they prefer and go with that one. Remember, your CMS is just the base, the theme and plugins are what really drive your site and dictate what it will look like and how it operates.