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A Short Guide to Content Management Systems

Mark Dalton - Friday, October 17, 2014

If you’re looking to re-design your website or maybe start a new site from scratch then it’s likely that you’ve come across the term content management system (CMS). But what are they, what do they do and are they right for your business / website? 

Let’s take a little look, shall we?

So, what is a CMS?

Basically a content management system is software which allows you to take control of the content and material on your website.

Giving you access to a control panel or dashboard – essentially the behind-the-scenes part of your website – you have the facility to relatively easily add, delete, edit and upload new content to your site.

This can be particularly useful for many website owners who are keen to add regular new content to their sites.

How Do They Work?

A CMS acts as a way for the user to communicate with the server upon which a website’s database is stored. In so doing it provides a way to send or upload new information to the database without having to log directly into each individual file. This makes for simple changes and additions to be made to your website from a single location.

Perhaps the simplest example of this would be with regard to maintaining a blog. A blog uses straightforward content management which enables the user to log-in to the admin (back-end) area of the site, click on the module to add a new post which will open up a word processing software that is linked to the website’s database.

You write your article in the word processing module and click submit (or publish or whatever term your particular CMS uses) and that blog post is now live and published on your site.

What Types of content can you manage?

Perhaps the greatest advantage of a CMS is that you can manage pretty much all of the content you wish to share and publish on your site; with each component separated into different types that you can file and call upon as you need. These include:

  • Written content / blogs / articles
  • Images and photo galleries
  • Videos
  • RSS Feeds
  • Testimonials
  • PDFs and other documents

Most of the more popular Content Management Systems allow you to easily upload any of these types of content through a simple click and attach format, filing them on the system so that you can upload them to any page, post or other component part of your website.

In other words, a chance to create new pages and other areas of your website without the need to continually go back to your developer to delve into the depths of your site and add new intricate coding.

What are the popular Content Management Systems?

There many different content management systems in use across the world, some of which will likely be familiar names to you.

  • Wordpress – Far and away the most popular CMS in the world, Wordpress is a powerful system with an easy-to-use dashboard for quick content management. Originally created as a blog platform its growth in use and versatility has seen it become the go-to CMS for websites of all sizes. Allowing for a combination of pages, posts, galleries, thousands of themes and all manner of different media Wordpress websites can function as brochure style business sites to dynamic, ever changing magazine style sites.
  • Joomla – Another hugely popular global CMS Joomla has become a favoured option for commerce style websites who require new content in line with promoting new product lines, deals and general retail offerings. Whilst it doesn’t have the versatility that Wordpress has in overall design it still represents a solid, dependable and relatively easy to use system for its users
  • Drupal – The oldest of these grand systems Drupal is, similar to Wordpress, a very powerful system which can be developed for multiple uses. Generally seen as SEO friendly it can be used for anything from simple blogging to multiple paged informational sites. On the downside, it is less intuitive (and not as easy to navigate) as newer platforms such as Wordpress and doesn’t possess the versatility offered through the plugins that Wordpress possesses.   
A word of warning, however. These systems are 'open source' software which means that the coding behind the software is freely available. While this is a positive aspect making these systems flexible and low cost, there is also a downside as anyone with a malicious intent and knowledge of this software can exploit its vulnerabilities.

If you need any advice or want a recommendation for a web design company to speak to just give us a call on 01256 636214.

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