Content Management Systems - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Posted by Jacob Ball
A Content Management System is a great way of being able to manage your own website, to your own schedule.
One of the questions that I often get asked is 'What is a Content Management System, and do I need one for my website?'.
To put it simply, a Content Management System (or you may hear it referred to as a CMS) is a way for you to add, edit and delete content from your website, through an Administration area, using your standard web browser (for example, Internet Explorer, or Google Chrome).
The types of content that you might want to manage are Latest News articles, Blog posts, Photo Galleries, basic product information, Staff Profiles, and other general content pages like the Home Page, Contact Us page and About Us page.
The main benefit of a CMS is that it allows you to edit your content at ANY time, from anywhere (if you have an internet connection!). This means if, for example, a staff member leaves, you can update your website that day, rather than waiting for your web developer to make that change for you (and you avoid any associated costs with the update). Got an exciting piece of news? Put it on Facebook, tweet about it on Twitter, and blog about it on your own website! Some CMS's can even automatically post to Facebook and Twitter for you!
A good CMS should also make it EASY for you to manage the various pieces of content throughout your website. If you have a page for products, for example, a good CMS can structure the entry page for each product into simple fields that clearly relate to that particular product. That way, there's no confusing sections to worry about!
There are a few points that should be taken into consideration when deciding on a CMS.
Firstly, there are quite a number of different CMS solutions around, for example Wordpress, Joomla, ExpressionEngine and MODX (my personal choice), just to name a few. They each generally have their own strengths, weaknesses and 'ways' of doing things, and it can be useful to visit each one to get a 'feel' for them, before deciding on a particular solution for your website.
Some can be harder to integrate into your chosen design - if you're looking to integrate a unique design that's not constrained by the CMS, then MODX is a great solution.
Secondly, there can often be a higher cost (initially) to purchase and integrate the selected CMS into your design. This is usually offset by the ongoing savings you'll create by managing the website content yourself, rather than asking your web developer to do it each time.
If you don't think you'll be updating your website very regularly, then a CMS may not be the right solution for you.
When you use a CMS, you'll need to log into an Administration area (or Manager), to be able to edit your content. I cannot stress how important it is that the administration area be easy to use and understand, otherwise you'll get frustrated and confused by the interface, and you won't end up editing the content at all!
Another thing to be wary of is custom-built Content Management Systems. In the unfortunate event that your web developer closes down or simply disappears (it does happen!), then there is usually no-one else that knows the custom system well enough to continue maintaining and improving it.
If, on the other hand, your CMS is provided as open source software, where many thousands of developers around the world have access to it, then it can become a simpler matter to find someone else to take over.
I hope this answers some of your questions and concerns about using a Content Management System - if you'd like to know more, or if you have any feedback, please leave a comment below!