What is a “CMS”?

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bze--blog--cms_2A CMS, or content management system, is a software system that lets you create and control a website through a simple interface. This is a perfect solution for those of us who want to be able to manage our own websites without having to learn programming code. CMS systems have risen to enormous popularity, and have grown to include an incredible amount of functionality. If there is a certain function or feature you want your website to have, chances are there is a way to do it through a good CMS.

CMS systems have a “front-end” and a “back-end.” Imagine a beautiful toy store. It’s nicely arranged and decorated, but the shelves are empty. In the back room (back-end) there is a system of organization for all of the items that will go on the shelves. From the back room, items can be created, gathered, stored, and then made visible in the front-end when the time is right. This is basically how a CMS works. You choose a layout and style for the front-end, and then use the back-end to arrange content in the empty spaces provided by the front-end.

The three most popular CMS platforms are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. All three are free to use and have a wide range of capabilities. On these platforms, your content is organized in a database and is called up (or requested) by PHP programming in various spaces on your pages. Each has a back-end interface for the non-technical among us that can be used without the need for programming. All three are developed and maintained by a community of thousands of people. They are all “open-source” systems, meaning that people who want to develop additional capabilities such as add-ons, plug-ins and extensions are able to do so. Here is a very brief description of each:

WordPress  (www.WordPress.org)

WordPress is the most popular CMS by far. It started out as a system for blogging but has developed into a robust web design platform. It is widely known to be the most user-friendly of the three largest CMS platforms.

Joomla (www.joomla.org)

The second most popular CMS platform is Joomla. Although not quite as easy to use as WordPress, Joomla is still fairly simple and user-friendly. It has a wide range of capabilities and some consider it to be more solid and stable than WordPress for certain functions.

Drupal (www.drupal.org)

Drupal is the third most popular CMS and the most technically demanding. Although it can be used without any programming, it is geared more toward web programmers and developers. It is considered by some to be better than WordPress or Joomla for handling larger and more advanced websites.

My CMS platform of choice? WordPress. I like WordPress for the following reasons:

  • It is easy to install, learn, and use.
  • It has different administration levels and accessibility options which are helpful for collaboration.
  • There are loads of plug-ins available to add functionality and ease to different processes.
  • It is very SEO-friendly, meaning it has features to help you optimize your pages so they will be noticed and ranked by the search engines (learn more about SEO in Part 4 of this book).
  • There are loads of themes available. (Themes are chosen in WordPress to give websites their style and structural elements. Many are free, but some require a fee to use.)

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