CMS? Content Management System? What is it all about?

Why use a Content Management System?

A Content Management System (CMS) allows the separation of content, from structure and its presentation within a web site. On a technical level this is useful but for an organisation this creates a dynamic web publishing routine.

Content can be readily updated by multiple users and you can have different types of content which goes beyond having basic web pages. This extends web sites for blogging, social media engagement, forums, document download, FAQs, commerce and for many different uses. Rather than having a typical ‘brochure ware’ site you can tailor your online presence to support, develop and create new channels for engaging customers and developing your business.

Advanced features such as complex search, organic SEO and user log-in and bespoke features for different user types can be added.

With the recent developments in CMS features and frameworks you can also approach a CMS as an early stage development of your own Web Application.

Do I need a Content Management System?

The simple answer is yes, if you want more control of the content of your website.

So if you want to write stuff for your website the CMS will provide you with an interface to enable non technical people to write and update their own content without any technical assistance.

Also, it allows you to build a knowledge store. This can be very useful as a CMS creates a coherent method to collect information. That is useful for web publishing and for prospective Application development.

Having an awareness of what a CMS might do for your organisation is always useful.

Why OpenSource?

There are plenty of proprietary CMS solutions available. They come with varying levels of support, costs and vendor lock-in. OpenSource provides an alternative, and typically they come with a massive development community, a wide user group and plenty of advanced features and functions.

How do I choose a CMS?

It’s not that easy deciding what is the best option, as this will depend on what you want your  website to do now and in the future. So the first step is to have an understanding of the aim of the web site / application. It is not just a case of ‘just build it’!

It’s important to recognise the different types of users you may have on your CMS. They may have different skills and requirements. This adds another dimension as you may need to consider not just creating an interface for the ‘public; but also one for your content creators and editors.

You should also consider issues around customisation and developing appropriate functions and features, and how effective the CMS would be to deliver an appropriate and good value solution. There are many options, but for the purpose of this article Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal are good examples. These OpenSource and free to download.

Importantly, view your CMS choice as an investment, not a cost.

Finally, you need to consider the development cycle for a CMS to ensure that the choice is robust, secure and will provide an appropriate platform for the future.  For example, the massive increase in mobile-access to web sites is a key factor to get real value out of your investment in a CMS. Reaching into international markets is another, as is integration with tools such as Pardot or Hubspot, as these determine how you wish to collect and use marketing data. So integration with other tools and services is another important factor.

Wordpress

Wordpress is an easy-to-use blogging platform. It has an expanding array of themes, functional enhancements through plugins and widgets, Wordpress is widely used for website formats such as E-Commerce and magazine type sites.

Technical experience is not a requirement; as it is intuitive, relatively simple, and gives quick results

Wordpress’s main benefit is its ease of use, yet it is powerful enough for professional web designers to build websites which, with minimal instruction, clients can effectively use.

It is great for fairly simple web sites and provides blogging, yet as the site becomes more complex, its usability tends to get more complex for system users.

Joomla

Joomla is more complex than Wordpress but less complex than Drupal. It offers a middle-ground between ease of use and complex web site requirements.

Joomla offers middle ground between the developer-oriented, extensive capabilities of Drupal and user-friendly but more complex site development options than Wordpress offers.

It is designed to provide as a community platform, and comes with strong social networking features. It is possible to build powerful applications and there is excellent support in the Joomla community.

Joomla lets you build a site with more structure, flexibility and content than Wordpress offers, and better supports E-commerce, social networking and more.

Drupal

Drupal is a Content Management Framework from which you can build other systems – not just Content Management Systems. It lets you start with a simple site, and is versatile enough to expand as your requirements become more complex and grow on a grander scale.  

Content can be formed around Drupal’s powerful taxonomy. Its ability to tag, categorise and to organise complex content means it comes into its own with the need for complex data organisation.

By default, Drupal provides basic pages, blogs, forums, news articles and comes with a set of standard themes. It has a set of powerful tools which can be used by developers to build complex sites.  Content can be formed around Drupal’s powerful taxonomy. This gives the ability to tag, categorise and to organise complex content. Drupal also comes with robust multi-lingual functionality and the ability to collect and distribute marketing data.

In comparison with Wordpress and Joomla, Drupal requires considerably more technical expertise and experience to set-up but is capable of producing extremely advanced sites. Of the three, Drupal offers the greatest expansion capability, and the greatest scope for customisation.

Increasingly Drupal is being used by large Educational Institutions, Government, Publishers and by a multitude of commercial organisations.

Author: David Eccles, Verinote

First published on www.companyconnecting.com in July 2016

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