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What is a Content Management System?

  • Do you really want to look at raw code all the time?
  • Wouldn't you rather use a CMS and make your life easier?

Really, What Does A Content Management System Do?

Do you really want to look at raw code all the time?Content Management Systems (CMS) are systems which allows you to maintain a website quite a bit easier than if you had to maintain it from the ground up. There are almost a thousand lines of code to define this page alone, not to mention all of the other files that run the website (CSS, PHP, JavaScript, etc); and those thousand lines of code have to be replicated on every page as well. Let’s face it, who really wants to look at all that data and edit it anytime you want to change your website when you can use a clean Content Management System like the one below just like a text editor? Many people are switching over to Content Management Systems because of their ease of use and the ability to edit global settings very easily. I can attest that as a web developer they certainly make my job easier for myself and my client.

Wouldn't you rather use a Content Management System and make your life easier?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.

About Author

Colwyn Fritze-Moor

I have spent the past 20 years of my life in the world of business, marketing and design. Before that? I wasn't born before that. I am an entrepreneur at heart, I've had 4 jobs and started 2 companies by the time I turned 18. I'm obsessed with technology and the ways it can improve our lives. Storytelling, design and community are themes which resonate through everything I do. I see the bond between technology and community, it's ability to bring us together as a planet. My vision is to create real bonds out of that potential for community and connection.

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