CMS : What’s in it for me?

A CMS (Content Management System) is an application that supports the management (creation and modification) of digital content using a simple user interface. It supports multiple users working in a collaborative environment.

Most CMSs include Web-based publishing, format management, history editing and version control, indexing, search and retrieval. Such CMS typically has two major components:

  • A content management application (CMA) is the front-end user interface that allows a user, even with limited expertise, to add, modify and remove content from a website
  • A content delivery application (CDA) compiles that information and updates the website

Common features

Content management systems will often contain the following features:

  • SEO-friendly URLs
  • Integrated and online help
  • Modularity and extensibility User and group functionality
  • Templating support for changing designs
  • Install and Upgrade wizards
  • Integrated audit logs
  • Compliancy with various accessibility frameworks and standards

Advantages

  • Reduced need to code from scratch
  • The ability to create a website quickly

Here are the 3 most popular CMSs to use in your next project:

1. WordPress

Wordpress The PHP blogging platform is probably the most popular CMS overall. It’s a good platform for beginners, thanks to their good documentation and super-quick installation wizard. Five minutes to a running CMS is pretty good. The newest versions also auto-update the core and plugins from within the backend, without having to download a single file.

For those not familiar with HTML or other markup languages, a WYSIWYG editor is provided straight out of the box and a new user should be able to easily find their way around the administration section. WordPress also comes with built-in image and multimedia uploading support.

For developers the theming language is fairly simple, as well as the Plugin API. However WordPress is the best choice for beginners because of it’s ease-of-use, it works especially well for small to medium sized websites, blogs and smaller e-commerce stores.

For bigger sized websites WordPress won’t be the best choice. Its ability to handle really large amounts of content is affected and can create a slower experience. On the other hand the CMS system Drupal can support mostly anything from a one-page static site to something that has thousands of pages and simultaneous readers.

2. Drupal

Drupal Drupal is a CMS that has a very large community. Drupal is more of a pure CMS. A plain installation comes with many optional modules that can add lots of interesting features like user blogs, OpenID, forums, profiles…

One of Drupal’s most popular features is the Taxonomy module, a feature that allows for multiple levels and types of categories for content types. You can find plenty of Drupal Themes, which are ready to be customized and worked with. You can also grab Drupal Plugins.

Anyone considering Drupal should have at least a basic knowledge of HTML, PHP and other common web programming languages. You don’t need to be an expert, but being able to troubleshoot error messages and identify code problems would be a benefit.

Otherwise you’ll need hire someone with advanced knowledge of Drupal’s steep learning curve and this is typically a little harder (and more expensive). Whereas it should be much easier and less expensive to find someone relatively tech-savvy to help you make basic WordPress updates.

Also, unlike WordPress.com, there is no option to have a website hosted by Drupal itself. That means purchasing your own domain and hosting is required before getting started.

3. Joomla!

Joomla Joomla is a very advanced CMS in terms of functionality. That said, getting started with Joomla is fairly easy, thanks to Joomla’s installer which is meant to work on common shared hosting packages.

Joomla is very similar to Drupal in that it’s a complete CMS, and might be a bit much for a simple portfolio site. It comes with an attractive administration interface, complete with drop-down menus and other features.

The Joomla site hosts more than 3,200 extensions, so you know the developer community behind is alive and kicking. Like WordPress, you can add just about any needed functionality with an extension. However, the Joomla theme and extension community relies more on paid resources, so if you’re looking for customizations, be ready to pull out your wallet.

Make Your Choice

Everyone will say their content management system is the best. But your own unique scenario will require different capabilities, which probably makes one of these three CMS options the perfect fit.

Looking to get started quickly with a simple business website or blog? Look no further than WordPress.

If you have high hopes from day one that your site will grow significantly, requiring extensive features and unlimited customizations, take the plunge with Drupal.

If you need something unique like a social network or eCommerce site, Joomla might be the best bet. All three platforms are free.

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