About Content Management Systems

What is a Content Management System?

cmsA Content Management System (Acronym: CMS)  is a program running on a Web Server (the machine hosting a web-site) to make managing the content of a web-site easier and more user friendly.

In 99% of cases a content management system has a database back-end where it stores all data and settings of the website. This type of system is primarily used (in smaller websites) to allow non-technical users to add, edit and otherwise manage the website’s content. This is generally done through a web interface which looks similar to any standard forms on a web-site. Some content management systems allow you to edit the contents of pages through a program installed on your computer such as Windows Live Writer – this is more common amongst content management systems designed for running  a “blog”.

How does it work?

Generally a Content Management System has lists of data (like tables in an excel workbook) saved in a database. Through a form-based webpage the user can view, edit, add and delete entries in these lists which is saved to the database backend. When a visitor attempts to view a section of the website, the system fetches the list or details of entries and displays them in a format specified by the web developer through configuration of the Content Management System.

What is very important to know and realise is that the user can not change the entire look of the website through a content management system to anything they want. There are things that can be changed through modules such as “themes” but these are generally limited to font types, colours and a few images. If the website was not developed for certain content to be editable they simply will not be and a qualified web developer or web designer will still have to make these kind of changes.

What are the benefits?

There are a multitude of benefits to having a website designed using a Content Management System some of which have been outlined here below, however like everything else, it also comes with its own set of challenges:

Pros   Cons

icoallowWebsite can be maintained by untrained staff such as the marketing and sales department of a company.

icoallowSince a Web Designer or Web Developer doesn’t have to be involved in standard basic changes to the website’s content and these changes can be done in-house this ends up costing the website owner less.

icoallowMaking standard content changes or additions goes much faster as the CMS takes care of most styling, resizing and formatting of elements such as images and text.

icoallowContent Management Systems generally come with modules and functionality built-in for more advanced functions needed in some websites such as online-shopping and user accounts used in sections such as public forums.

 

icodenyInitial web site design and development costs more as the job is more complicated, has higher-skilled requirements and the working hours can be a lot more.

icodenySince a CMS works with structured data it is often challenging to make unique individual changes to certain items or pages on the web-site. If a CMS is set to show Products in a Catalogue in a certain format, to make one particular product look different is not that easy. Major changes to design and general “Look and Feel” must also still be done by a qualified or knowledgeable web designer / developer.

icodenyAs a CMS-driven website can be edited through a web interface, there are security concerns and the website application itself can be hacked by a malicious person on the internet.

Are all Content Management Systems the same?

tclogoNot at all. There are a wide variety of free versions available online that anyone can use such as WordPress or Joomla. Some companies (such as ourselves) also develop their own. Tyrmida has developed “Typecast” that we use in most of the websites we develop ourselves. The only reason why we have done this (and some other companies do this as well) is that it is easier to create custom modules and sections specifically required by our clients. We are not limited to working with a system designed for and developed by someone else. There is also the problem that websites developed with freely-available online Content Management Systems generally look alike.

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