What is a CMS?

CMS stands for Content Management System. Lynda.com describes a CMS as “server-side software that is designed to simplify the creation and maintenance of sites.” Basically, this type of system is built internally and allows for easy content management and modification as well as user uploads without extensive technical know-how. This makes a CMS perfect for sites that require regular edits, updates, and posts.

If the project calls for CMS management, there will most likely need to be a training process to teach the client the ins and outs of the workflow. This is the case for many freelance designers creating complex sites for clients who then need to hand over the management. A CMS is not always the answer to everything. Every project should be evaluated to see if this would really be the right fit or not.

As with any type of design software or framework, there are certain benefits and drawbacks that come with. The benefits of using a CMS have been stated before. They are easy to install, easy to modify content, and simpler in terms of technical skills (one does not need to know HTML and CSS to manage). That means you can update them yourself and don’t have to way on your design team to send out posts! Most of them have the ability to add tags, which allows for good search engine optimization.

On the down side, the systems need to be managed and updated regularly in order to stay secure. Again, you should evaluate your need for a CMS, otherwise your whole experience with it could turn into one big negative. Sullivan and Wolf Design offers some good insight into different aspects of a CMS and how they could be either pros or cons, depending on your situation.

There are three major web content management systems available today—Drupal, Joomla!, and WordPress.

Drupal, Joomla, WordPress logos

WordPress is currently the largest CMS, powering over 25 million sites. It’s designed with a blogging format and is easy to use. It uses categories and tags to organize content, and this also increases search engine optimization—a feature that is prominent in each of these systems.

Drupal on the other hand isn’t designed with any assumptions in mind. This allows for more flexibility, but requires more technical skills to manage.

Joomla! can handle complex sights and manage the heavy traffic that large sites can bring. However, it’s not as flexible as Drupal.

Each of these systems has a solid community behind them. You can learn more about the features Drupal, Joomla!, and WordPress here in order to make comparisons for what you are looking for.

I will soon be trying my hand at creating a CMS website through WordPress. One thing that I learned that drew me to WordPress was the availability of their themes. You can pick from tons of free themes that act as templates for you to adjust and customize as you see fit. I’ll let you know how it goes!


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