25 July

Content Management Systems

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

The web pages we view online are a collection of different types of markup, code, data and content interpreted by a web browser. Even a simple set of paragraphs has markup (HTML) that tells the web browser where paragraphs begin and end, where the headings are, and so one. Most website also have markup telling the browser where menus are, what colors should be used and even interactive codes to create all sorts of useful behaviors.

The issue with all these different tools being used together is keeping everything organized and functional, not just for the end user but for the developer. Even a capable developer doesn’t want to have to do laborious repetitive coding for basic functions if it can be avoided. Never-mind having to reverse engineer all of that work anytime a website needs a reboot.

Thankfully, most modern websites are built around a content management system or CMS. A CMS is a website framework of sorts. More than just a template, however, a CMS has – along with normal web pages – a backend where administrators can log in and manage site content via an online interface.

Do I Really Need a Content Management System?

The advantages of using a CMS are enormous. Imagine a basic website with 15 or so pages. Say you want to change a menu item. On a standard HTML website you would have to modify every single page through an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to reflect the change. On a CMS powered site, however, you would make the change by logging into the backend of your site and changing a menu option.

Perhaps you have a site with a single page. Even then, a CMS can be hugely beneficial, allowing you to update your page easily and quickly without having to access an FTP and upload updates directly. Additional features such as the ability to quickly preview edits or schedule posts make a CMS almost indispensible for even the most basic sites.

Sounds Easy, Can Anyone Do it?

A CMS doesn’t take all the work out of web development. Here at Streetbee we find that most basic sites still require around 30 or more hours to get running. We still use HTML on most pages, and directly edit CSS and PHP files, both through the CMS interface and the FTP. While we don’t build everything from scratch, it’s still essential to understand how a website functions underneath.

Which CMS Should I Get?

There are a number of options when it comes to choosing a CMS. WordPress is currently the most popular; however that doesn’t mean it’s the best. A CMS should be selected based on your specific needs.

Generally speaking WordPress is amazing for most common sites. It’s really versatile, and our personal favorite CMS. That said, there are many instances, especially when site needs become very specific where WordPress can quickly become a terrible choice.

For those instances Joomla and Drupal are respectively another step up in complexity and versatility. While not as easy to use as WordPress, they allow developers more control over structure and design.

Anything Else?

If you’re just learning about content management systems, there’s a lot to know. Check out WordPress.org to download and demo WordPress (you’ll need a hosting service or offline server software such as MAMP or WAMP). Joomla can be found at Joomla.org and Drupal at Drupal.org.

Or of course, you could always hire Streetbee to setup a website and marketing plan for you. ☺

-Sean Miller