Content Management?

After finishing another Content Management System, or CMS,  for a client, I decided to write this article to help people understand what a content management system actually is and describe exactly how useful one can be.

So what is a Content Management System?
Basically, it is a web based application enabling site owners or administrators to add, edit, update and maintain content on their website without the need to know HTML or other programming languages. If you can type a Word document and know how to file it in a specific folder then you can use a CMS.

Many customers call me asking about the cost of websites and what's involved with getting a site online. Invariably, they ask how easy it is to add content at a later stage. Unfornately, for people with little or no knowledge of HTML, the task of updating a website can be a daunting process. If your thinking "What's HTML?" then you fall into this category.

Customers often come back and ask me to add this and that to their site after the site has been online for some time. A new range of products, a new link on the links page, etc. And I would not be surprised if their were more who want extra content but don't call because they might have to pay for it to be done. Doesn't it make sense to pay a developer to build a site for you that you can maintain yourself - and only have to pay for it once? Unlike a traditional website which is simply a structured collection of static pages, a CMS is an organised collection of articles sorted into Sections and Categories. These articles are stored in a database. As a user views the website, pages are dynamically generated based on the users selection.

Adding content to a CMS is as easy is this;

  • log into the administrators area using an ID and Password
  • select "New Content" from the menu
  • select a Section and Category to publish your content
  • start typing.

Generally a Section or Category will have a link in the main menu and your new content will appear as a selection on the very next page. Alternatively you can usually link your new content directly to your menu if you require.

You can also set start and end dates for your articles. Great if you are having a special for a month. Create an article detailing your specials. Link it to the Main menu and publish it on your front page. Set the expiration date for the end of the special. Even if you are too busy to remove the article, it will automatically 'unpublish' itself.

There are many other features. Like the ability to specify different users, each with different passwords and different levels of access. Create parts of your site which can only be viewed by registered clients who have to log in first. Upload images to your site directly from your web browser. And because the adminstration of your site is entirely web based, you can administer your site from any location in the world.

Now, there are many Content Management Systems available, some cost many thousands of dollars and some are free.  The CMS that I use and highly recommend is Joomla. The good news is Joomla is Open Source. What that means is that Joomla! is essentially free software developed by the very people that use it. Potentially, anyone can contribute to the development of Open Source software. The benefits of Open Source is that there are a plethora of addon components and modules just waiting to be downloaded and bolted on to your site. From scrolling news feeds to calendars to advertising banners. There is a HUGE online community of people to call on to help if needed. And due to the fact that the open source "community" is so large and active the product is undergoing constant development and improvement.

So, if it's so easy then why would I need a web developer?
Managing a CMS is designed to be easy. Setting one up on a web server and customising it to suit your requirements is the difficult part. Unless you want to use the standard template that comes with the CMS, "out of the box" so to speak, you will need a web designer with knowledge of 3 technologies (HTML, CSS and PHP) to build a custom template. Your template is the shell or container in which the information is displayed. Often to get a specific look or functionality this means editing the core program files.

To find out more or if you would like to discuss setting up a CMS for your business then contact me here.

john-pitchers-avatar smAbout John Pitchers

John Pitchers is co-founder and lead developer at Joomstore where his primary role is the design and development of Joomla websites. He is also the developer of the FocalPoint maps extension for Joomla. John has been building CMS based web sites since 2004, originally working with Mambo before it forked into Joomla. When not writing PHP, Javascript or CSS you'll find John carving up the hills around Baldivis on his longboard (long before Walter Mitty made it famous).

Find out more about John on his About.me page and . Follow John on Twitter.

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