What is a Content Management System?
A Content Management System (CMS) is software most commonly used to manage a website or blog. The purpose of a CMS is to remove the need for hand coding when updating content on web pages or blog posts.
Common features of CMSs
CMSs don’t do anything that anyone with a little bit of technical knowledge could do themselves, but they make it a lot quicker.
Most CMSs feature:
- Text editing
- Image uploading
- Metadata editing
- Automatic URL generation
These features are the nuts and bolts of updating content on a website and every CMS should have them, however there are many more advanced features peculiar to particular CMSs or that can be added with plug-ins.
Some web development agencies develop a bespoke CMS per client in order to meet their specific needs better than with an off-the-shelf CMS. This is particularly common when building sites for e-commerce clients where product and shopping functionality have to be integrated with content management.
Advantages of using a CMS
For the technically minded, using a CMS is simply a time saver. Hand coding takes time and a good CMS does all the coding for you.
For the non-technically minded, it makes content creation and updating not only possible but as easy as filling in a form. A CMS allows you to create a new page or modify an existing page simply by inputting text into a box or uploading an image and using menu options to specify size and location.
It can also allow you to add advanced functionality to your site that would otherwise be impossible. For example, Drupal features OpenID integration out of the box, so you already have the kind of advanced user management typically found on larger sites.
Popular Content Management Systems
Most people can get by with an off-the-shelf CMS, and if you do have specific requirements, some of these can be modified to meet them (WordPress in particular is incredibly flexible).
Probably the most popular CMSs available are:
WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are all free, but ExpressionEngine doesn’t cost much (licenses start at $99.95).
You’d be surprised at how many sites are powered by WordPress and Drupal. Unless you have very particular requirements that can’t be met by third party plug-ins (most of which are also free), there’s really no need to shell out for an expensive CMS.