Content Management Systems

This post is an attempt to explain Content Management Systems (CMS) to people new to the term, or possibly unaware of what CMS means in terms of website design and development. It is a pretty straightforward term, as that a CMS is a website where the administrator of the site can manage the content through admin panels, or some sort of input form (as opposed to working directly on the page, writing in raw HTML).

There are a number of CMS packages available “off-the-shelf”, and completely open-sourced, as in, there are no mandatory sign-up fees, or monthly payments to worry about. Any decent hosting service these days will have easy-install packages available to quickly launch a blank (or standard) version of these packages. Now, that sounds easy, but there is a lot of work usually involved from that point on to get your new site to look like you want, and do what you want. But once configured properly, appropriate and functional for your business or organization, a website should be very manageable in terms of deploying updates of timely and relevant content.

Of the many content management systems, the most popular are Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, not necessarily in that order. Drupal and Joomla have been regarded as full-fledged CMS packages for quite some time. WordPress is now widely recognized as such, but is later to the game that the other two. WordPress began as a much simpler blogging software. But with the addition of static pages, navigation menu systems, and categorical post system, began taking on many of the characteristics of the more recognized CMS packages.

WordPress is generally recognized to be easy-to-use. Conceptualized as blogging software, it was designed to easy to use by the general consumer, not web professionals. It needed to be used effectively by writers, who may know there way around a word processor, but have not the faintest clue of web design and development. But as WordPress has gained so much in functionality from its early days, its ease-of-use has remained.

In contrast, the other CMS packages, Drupal and Joomla, were designed to be content management systems from their origin. Designed by web developers for other web developers, these systems interfaces tend to be on the “geeky” side, often confusing, not nearly as intuitive as WordPress.

But regardless of my personal preferences toward CMS packages, there is no denying that every package mentioned above is well-represented in the world of website design and development, as these systems are used by large corporations and small mom and pops alike. For instance, many of the online magazines are built using these systems, since they were all originally designed to categorize content, exactly what a magazine does. But that is not all, with plug-ins and possibly additional features custom-written by programmers, CMS packages can be modified and molded into almost anything you can imagine.

Another advantage of using these systems is that they are open-sourced, that is, basically free. You will always encounter developers trying to sell different plug-ins or specially designed themes for these packages, but the underlying structure is always free for anyone to use. And there are many free plug-ins and themes as well, so you don’t have to spend any money on these things if you don’t really want to. But if you do end up spending money, it is usually not very much, and it most likely is a one-time fee. I will very often shell out a few bucks for a desperately needed feature, but never do I sign up program where I will be charged regular fees.

In comparison to these open-sourced CMS packages, there are many advertised content management systems that are proprietary, developed and controlled by a large corporation, that require some sort of regular, ongoing payment. Though small, this fee will continue until the large corporation has made quite a tidy sum from you, and from everyone else enlisted in their program. These systems are limited to the software developed by the corporation, whereas the software developed by Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress are literally worldwide communities, all working in the common language of the internet to provide unlimited possibilities. You may even work with your own developer to create a brand-new plug-in feature, if you can’t find the one you need, or does exactly what you want. But even this expense will be a one-time deal.

And that is where Outward Image can be of assistance in getting your website project off the ground, and helping your business grow. We can discuss what type of content you need to manage, and work out easy-to-use solutions to allow you to manage it efficiently. We can discuss useful features, and you will be aware of all the costs right up front. And once its done, you should be able to manage it yourself for its life, for free, except for hosting and domain name fees, of course.

Though the cost of the initial development of your site may seem expensive, it is truly a minimal cost in the life of your business, and considering the benefits of a well done site can bring to it, the real expense becomes even smaller. So the right question may not be, “can I afford an effective website for my business,” but rather, “can I really afford not to have an effective website for my business.”

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