Content Management System – Short Conceptual Explanation

A content management system or CMS is a software application that allows users to create, maintain, store and publish digital content. The term is related to both “Web Content Management” or WCM which refers to publishing on the world wide web and “Enterprise Content Management” or ECM which describes how large organisations use systems not only for their websites but to maintain all their internal documents as well.

Choosing a Content Management System

There are hundreds of different products available for both single users like bloggers to very large organisations who can take advantage of all the features that the systems have to offer. The main things to consider are the size of the project and the available budget because there are both proprietary and open source applications available. So a large organisation with complex needs will want to consider the paid solutions on offer from large providers like IBM and Microsoft. These will provide all the features and support that the company needs but at considerable cost. Smaller organisations who can’t afford the high end solutions might want to consider the free open source solutions available, the most popular being WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

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Features of Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems typically have two component parts commonly referred to as the “front end” and the “back end.” The front end part is the web site and the tools needed to create web pages and publish them. The back end is the usually some form of relational database where records are stored. The database allows new records to be created, existing ones to be amended or deleted and retrieved to be passed to the front end for viewing. All content management systems have some common features such as the ability to customise the look and feel of the site by installing themes and they allow multiple users and can control access permissions making collaborative projects possible. There are, however, differences between the packages that make them more or less suitable for different projects. WordPress is specialised towards blogging and some estimates calculate that more than a quarter of all the sites on the web are built using it. Joomla has all the features necessary for a small basic website whereas Drupal is more complex and better suited for larger sites; even the U.S. government has built sites with it.

Pros and Cons of Content Management Systems.

The biggest advantage of packages like the open source options is the ease with which they can be set up. Many internet hosting companies offer a one click install feature which will create a website and set up the database very quickly allowing someone with no coding experience to start publishing their content straight away. There are countless themes available both, paid and free, to change the sites appearance so it’s really easy to get a site up and running. The main disadvantages of content management systems is that they come with a lot of features that a project doesn’t really need, sometimes called “bloatware.” There is also a steep learning curve when it comes to customising the site and adding new features to it. It is a myth that they are easily maintained by non-technical people, the more complex they become the more they need the support of professional web developers. In general, content management systems are a good solution for straight forward sites but every site is unique and if the requirement is for something complicated then it might be a better option to develop it from scratch using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.