CMS (Content Management System) is a software (or application) that provides a framework to manage website content. Based on the requirements and expectations, CMS can range from a very simple application for managing few static web pages to a very complex application for managing dynamically changing pages, different kind of media files and electronic documents, managing users with varying authority and managing workflow.
What are the advantages of using a CMS?
Key Advantages of using a CMS are
- Template for Presentation – Use of template provides easy and quick way of making changes in one central place in order to change look and feel of whole site.
- Ease of Editing Content – Use of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing tool allows Non-technical user to create and edit content with ease.
- Use of Plug-ins/Extensions – Use of Plug-in simplifies extending the standard functionality of CMS such as polls, forums etc. Popular CMS typically have a great dynamic community of users creating Plug-ins for practically every use.
- User Access Management – CMS typically allows creating users with varied authority, so users can be given access based on roles and responsibility in the organization.
- Workflow Management – Workflow is sequence of tasks that needs to complete during the lifecycle of content such as creating content, approving and publishing by editor, archiving, deleting etc. Workflow can be created based on the need of the website and organization.
There are many more advantages of using a CMS. A good CMS can really simplify content life cycle and improve accessibility and usefulness.
Approach for choosing a CMS
With so many CMS around, it can get really confusing to choose the CMS that best fit needs. CMS selections should be done carefully. Here are steps Organizations or individuals should take while choosing CMS.
First step to take is gathering the requirements from all the parties and departments and ask questions? What kind of site you are looking for? Does it contain more static and eternal content (Portal) or dynamic and temporal content (Blog)? Do you have few users updating the site (Portal/Blog) or do you have huge number of user updating the site (Wiki)? Do you have specific purpose such as e-learning, e-commerce or hosting media files critical to your need? Gather as many requirements as possible and prioritize them.
Next step is to ask organizational culture related questions. Do you or your organization prefer to buy Software or Service? Does having your data hosted on somebody’s server makes you feel uncomfortable or do you like to have complete control over the software (Hosted CMS will be out of equation then)? Do you prefer free and open source software or do you feel comfortable with Propriety software?
Finally, Once you have all the requirements, you can narrow down your choice to a few software/applications and decide the one that best fit your need, is more cost effective or has better support, based on what is critical to you. You may want to test the software before committing. Few things to keep in mind while making the decision
- Even if you have never felt comfortable with Open Source Software, CMS community has produced few really great open source software that are as competent, if not more, as commercial competitors, examples are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Take a look at these software, number of great extensions/plug-ins and the community support before deciding.
- Keep the future in mind too. You may want just a blog now but may want to move to a portal based solution later, or may want to include a forum also. Popular softwares typically have number of Plug-ins and you can add lot of extra functionality. You can make WordPress (Blogging Software) behave like portal CMS. You can use Drupal (which is considered a portal) as blog. In fact, some of the top 100 technorati blogs use Drupal as blogging software. However, Drupal being a complex CMS will take lot of learning time while WordPress being the Blogging Software will be very easy to learn.