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CMS – Content Management System

CMS: Brief Explanation

CMS is an acronym, which stands for content management system, and refers to a software system that allows people to create, modify and manage digital content. The most common use for a CMS is to assist with the maintenance of a website, enabling users to easily post web content. However, content management systems can also be used to assist with work-based tasks such as enterprise content management, or digital asset management.

A CMS intended solely for the management of web pages is called a web content management system, or WCMS. These systems will usually allow new web content to be posted, including text, images, videos and audio, while automatically displaying this content to visitors based on an established web page template. Similarly, a CMS that is solely intended to assist with digital asset management is called a digital asset management system, or DAMS, and this will usually help with the management of work documents, pictures or contact information.

Examples of popular content management systems include WordPress, Joomla, SharePoint and Drupal.

CMS: Detailed Explanation

Generally, content management systems work by ensuring digital content can be created or modified, without the need for specialist knowledge. For example, a web-based CMS will typically help users to create, post, edit and remove web page content without knowledge of things like HTML. Most can be set up to permit a number of people to access the system, and work together, making the CMS an example of collaborative software or ‘groupware’.

Regardless of their primary purpose, the vast majority of content management systems are made up of two components: a content management application (CMA) and a content delivery application (CDA). The CMA is the graphical user interface and this is what allows users to create, edit and delete content from a website. Meanwhile, the CDA is the back-end service, which takes the information input by the user and uses it to update the website.

Perhaps the most obvious example of when a CMS might be useful is when a website has a significant number of different authors who publish content. Rather than teaching them all individually how to create and upload web pages, or having to have them send content through a webmaster, a content management system allows them to publish their article onto a site quickly, with the design template being automatically applied.

The use of a content management system can, therefore, be considered much more efficient than managing the creation, modification and publication of content manually, which can be time consuming and require knowledge of web programming languages. It is also a useful way of separating content and presentation.

CMS software is usually internet-based, although some businesses make use of internal content management systems, which are not available online and are instead hosted on their own servers. In most cases, a CMS will require at least one administrator, who will have the power to set permission levels for the other users of the system, such as deciding who can post directly to the website, or which staff have access to contact information.

Common CMS Features

The features included in a CMS can vary significantly, which is why it’s important to look for the best system for their particular needs. With that being said, there are some features that are common to almost all content management systems and these include:

  • The ability to create, edit, publish and remove web pages, blog posts, site content etc.
  • Account registration and maintenance
  • Group-based permission systems
  • Support for plugins, add-ons, extensions and extra components
  • History editing and version control
  • The ability to choose, add and modify web page design templates
  • Indexing and support for a search function
  • Online and integrated help features

Advantages and Disadvantages of a CMS

For most people, the primary advantage of a CMS is the ability to create and maintain a site online easily, saving time and eliminating the need for specialist programming knowledge. This reduces the need for coding, means that multiple users can upload new web content, and allows for greater collaboration between staff. In addition, most content management systems provide integrated permission and version control.

 

Support for web templates means that through the use of a CMS, it is easier to create web content that has a unified appearance, and templates can be changed quickly, without needing to edit each individual page. In terms of disadvantages, while specialist knowledge is not usually required, administrators will need to take time to familiarise themselves with the features. A CMS can be considered restrictive in that it will often only support a limited number of design layouts.

Popular Content Management Systems

There are a huge number of content management systems available, and each have their own unique set of features and functions. Examples of some of the most popular content management systems are listed below:

WordPress

The most popular CMS, it is now used by more than 25 percent of all websites across the internet, according to research by W3Techs. It is free, open source and especially popular with bloggers. It can either be used as part of an internet hosting service, or as a web server in its own right.

SharePoint

Web or cloud-based software, developed by Microsoft and especially useful for managing digital information within a business. Primarily used as a document management and storage system, it offers excellent compatibility with the full range of Microsoft Office applications and services.

Joomla

The closest rival to WordPress in terms of popularity, it is once again a free and open source CMS, used for publishing web content. Research from W3Techs suggests it is used by close to 3 percent of all websites on the internet, while notable features include support for search and language internationalisation.

DNN

Also known as DotNetNuke, it is free, open source and based on the Microsoft .NET framework. In addition to ensuring sites and webpages can be easily managed, DNN is especially noted for its use as a marketing tool, allowing marketers to measure the effectiveness of content and access all of their digital assets.

Drupal

A free, open source CMS, which can be used for an Internet site, blog, online forum or community website. The software is notable for its ease of use and range of features, while it is estimated that it is utilised by more than 2 percent of all websites on the internet today.

Conclusion

A content management system, or CMS, is an application which assists with the creation and maintenance of digital content. Most CMS software is used for web-based publishing needs, although systems can also be used for work tasks like enterprise content management, or digital asset management. Using a CMS can save users or businesses time and reduce the need for complex knowledge, such as knowledge of computer programming languages.

While the features vary from one CMS to another, they typically enable the manipulation of digital content, including creating, editing, posting or deleting digital content, which may be comprised of text, images, video content, and more. Many of the most popular content management systems are free, easy-to-use and come with extensive help features. Furthermore, the ability to add extensions, addons or plugins to systems like WordPress and Joomla can help to further increase functionality.


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