What is a CMS

It's funny the things we take for granted in the English language. For example, "Are you free tonight" is, to British people, a phrase with obvious meaning. To a non-native however, it could be a very confusing question!

It occured to us recently that the same is true in any industry. There are terms, phrases and acronyms that are obvious to those in the know, which are completely opaque to those who aren't!

"CMS" is one such acronym. We confidently suggest that every website built these days should be a CMS website, but if you don't know what one of those is, how will you know whether you are getting one, or even why you should?!

So what is a CMS then?

CMS is an acronym that stands for "Content Management System". A content management system is described on wikipedia as:

"...a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content on a web site as well as maintenance from a central page."
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_management_system]

In a nutshell, a CMS should make managing your website easy. It should make the process of creating new content, and editing (updating, deleting or archiving) existing content, a simple task that anyone can do with minimal training. It should mean that you don't need any knowledge of web design, or programming skills, to manage and maintain your website.

The primary benefits of a CMS

There are lots of benefits to a good CMS system, but to highlight some of the key ones:

  • Creating new content is quick, easy, and painless, and can be instantly available to visitors
  • Updating content can have an immediate on what visitors to the website see
  • It makes your site more consistent in structure, content, and appearance
  • Navigation is made easier
  • Your website will become more flexible
  • Authoring of content is no longer restricted to those with technical expertise
  • Content duplication becomes an avoidable problem
  • Your site can grow - and at a pace that you dictate, rather than finance dictating
  • If you are prepared to put the work in, your maintenance costs are almost zero

It sounds too good to be true

I know right?! That's why we say that all website developed these days should be CMS websites. There's really no excuse for a company claiming to be a web design company to not be developing in a CMS, unless they haven't kept up with current technologies, in which case, stay away from them!

If a CMS website is designed and developed correctly, then it will serve your company faithfully for many, many years. It may undergo redesigns periodically, but you should never have to start over with content!

What do we mean by content?

For a content management system to make sense, we first have to understand what we mean by "content". In this context,  content refers to a peice of information that you wish to convey to your audience. For now, how we convey this information, and what that information looks like is not important.

Content in this contect could therefore be an image, a video, pdf files, audio... essentially any digital content - that is, content that can displayed and understood by your audience.

A worked example of a CMS in action

For the purpose of this example to help us anwer the question "what is a CMS", let's assume that the information we are trying to convey is text.

Jeff the tea boy is asked to write his best efforts on why people should use an accountant. He's not the best with the English language, but he's got some good ideas. Jeff's been given permissions in the CMS to create, but not publish, new content. So Jeff has a good go at writing an article.

Having given it his best shot, Kath takes over. Kath is void of ideas, but is a genius with words. She takes Jeff's article, and turns it from a spelling disaster and English teachers worst nightmare of a grammer peice, into a masterpeice that Shakespear would be proud of.

Kath's version of the article now passes to the department head, Beth. Beth has no ideas, and is pretty hopeless with language, but is a sharp business mind. She likes some of Jeff's ideas, has questions about others, and some, whilst really bright, cannot be delivered by the company. Beth takes a hatchet to Jeff and Kath's article, and passes the decimated content back to Jeff to try to better explain the ideas Beth doesn't understand clearly.

This process repeats a few times until Beth is happy, at which point the content is passed up the change to Carl. Carl has the final say on all things that get published on the website. As the content has already be agreed by Beth, Carl is happy to let it go after reading it through. Carl's job, therefore, is simply to decide where in the website structure the article belongs, and to set it's status to "published".

The point of this example is to highlight that within a CMS you have the capacity to have multiple people working on a single peice of content (although it's inadvisable to work on it simultaneously - not many CMS's will cope with that). It also tries to highlight that different users can have different rights and roles within the CMS, thereby protecting the workflow of content to ensure quality control.

Have we answered your questions?

We hope that this brief article, and twee worked example help to answer the question "what is a CMS". If you have any further questions, or suggestions on how we could improve this article, please let us know via the contact page: here.

If you'd like us to help you realise the potential of your website by moving you onto a CMS then please get in touch! We'd be delighted to get involved. Please call us now on:

 > 01530 888 510

...or use our contact form here to get in touch.

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