What is a Content Management System?
Do You Need a CMS for Your Website?
A few months ago, I was sitting in a client meeting with a client and a few efelle team members. A few minutes after mentioning that we would train our client on how to use our CMS, the client asked “What is a CMS?” It occurred to all of us - most people outside the web world don’t know what a CMS is!
We all sometimes forget how much jargon exists in every job. There are acronyms, slang, and abbreviations for things we get used to. At efelle, you might hear us throw around sayings like “Slack that to me!” “I’ll add it to Basecamp,” and “Conduct an SEO Audit and implement the findings in the CMS.” To most efelleians (and potentially other tech companies) all these were straightforward ways of saying something. Today, we are going to share about one of our most frequented terms: a CMS.
A Website Content Management System, or CMS for short, is a computer program that allows you to manage the content for your website. CMSs started as computer programs that ran on your personal computer. Nowadays, most are web-based programs that run either as a Software as a Service product or one that runs on your company’s web server.
Let’s look at a visual. In simplistic terms, a website is built using code. If you don’t have the CMS as a middle-ground to update your website, you’d need to know how to code to make those changes. As you can see, here’s the code of a website (upper left), the CMS (upper right), and finally the front end that the user sees (bottom middle). The CMS creates a sort of container for things to be updated much easier as if you’re updating a word document. In a way, it bridges the gap for those who don't know code but want to be able to update their website.
Why Do You Need a CMS?
If you’re looking to build a website for your business, we’d recommend using a CMS. Knowing code to make website adjustments requires a whole different skill set, and oftentimes requires you to hire an in-house developer or you’re paying a company a monthly retainer to slowly make updates to your site. And even if you have an in-house developer, that means that only one person can update your website. A marketing team member won’t be able to make any new changes on the fly or quickly update something; you’ll always have the burden of going through someone else.
With a CMS, you’re able to make these changes much easier, allowing your business to be more adaptable and overall more efficient.
A CMS usually has these features built-in:
This is a way for your team to be able to see everything under one spot. This can include analytics about the site, as well as easy access to other portions of the website, making it easier for the user to find where to edit.
A WYSIWYG Editor
Another piece of jargon: this stands for “What you see if What you get” and it means that the user should be able to add and edit content on the site and be able to choose the style of the text and add images using an interface instead of typing in HTML commands.
Allow only authorized users to make changes to the parts of the site that they have access to. More sophisticated systems keep logs of what changes were made by what users and allow users to revert back to previous versions.
The layout and style of different pages on a site vary, but they often follow a pattern. A CMS will allow a user to pick what template the page should use and present the content using the layout that they selected.
There are hundreds of programs that meet these requirements from rudimentary to extremely sophisticated and specialized. When selecting a Content Management System, you should consider several factors:
Functionality: Find a CMS that has the functionality that you need and want, but be mindful of too many extra features. The “extras” will cost you money in licensing, implementation and complexity. The additional complexity will make it harder to make changes later.
This functionality could be anything from connection to eCommerce to a login to a fully custom design.
Support: Content Management Systems are just software that runs on a computer. Software can sometimes have bugs or require updates based on the ever-changing world of the internet.. When selecting a CMS, be sure you know who is supporting the CMS. Who will make those updates? Who will answer your questions? Who will train your staff on how to use it?
Cost: Some CMSs are open source, which means there is no licensing fee for using it (but often no support), others have a one time fee to purchase it and another to support it, and others wrap the website hosting, support and licensing into one fee. There are pros and cons to every approach, just make sure you understand the cost and what is and is not included.
It would be hard to review every content management system out there for this article, but here are a few that we come across often.
Originally started in 2003 as mainly software for running a blog, it has morphed into the world’s most popular content management system. It is free to use, easy to get started with, extensible, and supported by many developers. WordPress’s popularity has made it a hacking target, which can expose sites to unauthorized changes and access to personal information if proper site maintenance is not performed. It also lets developers make some unwise choices, which can make site administration difficult for less savvy users.
Started in 2001, it also is open source (free to use) and widely used, though not as popular as WordPress. Drupal is extremely powerful and as a result, more complicated than WordPress.
We began building FusionCMS in 2007 because we couldn’t find a system that was powerful enough for us to use and easy enough for our clients to use. We built our own. In 2015, we built it again from the ground up with some new technology that was then newly available. In 2020, we’re in the process of releasing version 6, which will be the first release that is open source. We’re leading a community of developers who are excited to develop on the platform.
If you’re considering a website redesign or new build for your website, consider a CMS and what needs you may have that can be achieved. If you’re unsure, reach out to a trusted agency that can help guide you through the process.
Ready for a Website Redesign?
Is your current site hard to update? In need of guidance on what CMS to use? We’re here to help. At efelle, we use our 15 years of experience to help guide you through the entire website design process and ultimately help you reach your marketing goals. Fill out the form below and let’s get started.