Content management systems – what are they?

Content management systems (CMS) can be a huge timesaver for your business. They can free you from a web designer that takes forever to edit your site, and give you the tools to make changes on your own time. They can also provide you with interesting functionality that’s more difficult and more expensive to add without a CMS. Some examples:

  • You hire a new senior employee and want to add their picture and bio to your executive staff page right away. No problem with a CMS, but it may take awhile if you send this task out to your developer.
  • You’re an active Twitter user and want to show your latest posts on your website. With a CMS, this is usually as simple as installing a free plugin (i.e., clicking a few buttons) and adding a new widget to your site. Without a CMS, not quite so simple.
  • You want to add (insert software here: gallery, rotating quotes or testimonials, contact form, etc.) to your site. Easy as locating a plugin with a CMS, but more time-consuming without one and most often will require a developer’s help.

As with most things website-related there are also some downsides:

  • Typically it will be more of an investment up front to build a CMS than a non-CMS site, especially if you want a custom look.
  • Many CMS need you to perform regular software updates. Fortunately, this usually involves clicking a button.
  • Finding the right plugin for any given task is often not that simple because (1) there are usually many plugins for any given need and (2) you have to make sure your plugin will work with your current version of the CMS. It often comes down to trial and error.
  • Sometimes plugin developers quit working on a project and there are no more updates for your plugin. You have to be flexible enough to realize that eventually you’ll probably need to find another plugin when your current one is no longer working well with your up-to-date CMS.

How does a CMS work?

Basically, it’s a web application with two parts: (1) a database that stores your website’s content and (2) a server-side scripting language that retrieves and ‘serves’ the content to your web browser. It has an administration area where you can make changes to your site that might include:

  • Changing or adding any type of content (text, images, video) to an existing page.
  • Publishing a blog post.
  • Adding a new page or new section to your site.
  • Adding other functionality (like a list of recent tweets or a photo gallery)

My site is small, can I still get a CMS?

Sure – we can help with CMS for all sizes of sites, just ask. These can range from simple solutions for websites of just a few pages, to more complex ones for sites with hundreds or thousands of pages. When you chat with us, we’ll let you know the available options.