What is a content management system and why do I need one?

The terms content management system and CMS are everywhere on the web. But do I need one for my business? Here is a guide to CMS (and ten reasons why you might need one).

Typo3 page editor makes editing and adding content as simple as using a wordprocessor

The terms "content management" and "content management systems" (CMS) sound like the kinds of phrases that a librarian or information specialist might use. Certainly, content management can encompass, for example, the procedures and technologies that allow a major publisher to track and manage the stories filed by its editors and journalists. But for most of us, content management just means the ability to add and edit our own stories/pictures/pages etc on our web site, and a content management system (CMS) is the web system that allows us to do that.

A web page produced by a content management system is essentially no different to a web page built by a traditional web designer, in that it is still an html page. The difference is in how that html page is built. Web pages used to be constructed a page at a time by a designer who would embed formatting tags, links etc into the html page to get the desired effect, and then upload the pages to a webserver. The text was mixed up with the formatting tags, and sometimes web code, to create the page. When it came to update the page, the designer would pick their way through the mass of text, tags and code and make the change. The operation took specialist skill and time, and so meant that even making a small update to a page could be expensive and time-consuming. Consequently, frequently the updates were not made.

In a content management system the text is stored, ideally without formatting, in a database. If you imagine text stored in a spreadsheet with columns for title, introduction, bodytext you are beginning to get the picture.

So how do you get from a spreadsheet page (database) to a finished web site? That is what the content management system does: database columns in, web page out. The CMS does all the work, tagging and formatting, and generating all the interactivity required and producing the page. It's all automatic.

Now, instead of requiring knowledge of html and web technologies, all that we need to do is to type (or copy and paste) text into the "spreadsheet"... except it is even easier than that. The CMS provides a nice easy page editor (looking much like the typical wordprocessor editor) that deals with storing our text in the database. Creating a web page using a CMS is just a question of editing text in the page editor, then saving the page. No skills required, other than a bit of keyboard use: the CMS does all the work.

Advanced CMSs (such as Typo3) handle everything required in a rich content web site in the same similar way.

Anyone who has ever blogged, or added an entry to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc, or put a product up for sale on eBay and similar sites will have experienced the simplicity and instantaneous results of a CMS. In those cases, the look of the page is determined by the requirements of the service. For a CMS web site (with a skilled CMS integrator like Accentika Internet) the look and feel of the web site can be exactly as you want.   


Ten reasons for businesses to switch to CMS

Here are ten reasons to switch to a CMS (with the support of a CMS developer such as Accentika Internet to keep your site looking good and fully operational).

  1. New pages can be added and existing pages can be edited instantly
  2. No html skills are required to update pages
  3. No "web design" fees are incurred in editing/creating pages so small changes can be made frequently to keep site topical and synchronised with marketing programmes
  4. Adding and updating pages improves search engine rankings
  5. No limit (apart from hosting limits) on the number of pages you can have on a site
  6. New businesses can modify a web site to reflect rapid changes in marketing messages that frequently occur in the early months of trading
  7. Additional functionality can be added quickly and cost effectively by extending the core CMS engine
  8. Access to pages and files for download can be controlled
  9. Image handling allows raw pictures to be uploaded and automatically processed for display
  10. Separation of text from web code and formatting enables content easily to be repurposed

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