Content management system, (CMS) what is it and what can it do for you?

Divi WordPress Theme

CMS - Content Management System(s)

What is a content management system and what can it be used for?


When researching how to build your website you will often come across the acronym CMS or, in other words content management system. So the question is: What is it?

A content management system is a set of software elements (applications) that enable us to build, manage and update our internet websites. Your chosen system provides all the tools and features we need and enables full control of all these processes. It lives on the web space you have rented from your hosting company and will need to be installed to be installed before use.

Most systems come ready for use straight out of the box and are easily installed using the functions available on your hosting package. It can have extra bolt ons (we call them plugins) to extend the basic functionality and make it a better fit for your requirements.

Once installed you will need to spend a little time getting familiar with the layout and the essential elements of your content management system. I urge you to play with it, see what you like and what you don't. Don't worry CMS is a robust and it is unlikely to break.

 

Webmasters do not need to be technical experts, but they do need to know how to drive their system, so it's worth setting some time aside for this.

It is not necessary to be familiar with web programming to use a content management system

Examples:

  • WordPress
  • Joomla
  • Drupal

There are many others but I would expect that one of these would be ideal for your purposes. All of these are totally open source and so there is no payment involved.

Features that most systems provide:


You are provided with a wide range of features and these can be extended by the use of plugins.

As a minimum they will include:

  • A user friendly editor to draft, maintain and publish content such as posts and pages
  • Ability to create and manage users with various levels of access such as editor, administrator, and author. This allows collaboration on articles between contributors. As a new website builder you will probably need only one user to start with. This first user is already provided with administrator privileges
  • Ability to add plugins that expand and extend the usability of the CMS
  • Use of a wide range of free and premium templates that can be personalised to suit your requirements
  • Regular software updates
  • Version management

Extending your content management system with plugins


You will be able to build your website using the CMS just as it comes

but wonderful and mainly free plugins are available to provide even more sophistication

 

What is a Plugin?

Plugins are pieces of code written by 3rd parties to extend the functionality of a your system. Plugins fulfill a particular purpose when added to a CMS. Generally plugins are free.

There are literally hundreds of these and you can find them easily within your CMS control panel by going to "add new plugin": and entering a keyword to search for in the search box.

Some examples are:
  • Backup and Restore
  • Anti Spam
  • Contact Forms
  • PDF & Print

Learn more about CMS and plugins

Evaluating and installing a plugin

After you find the plugin you require should satisfy yourself that it is both current and popular.
 
You can check this by:
  1. Date of last update. Over 6 months is not a good sign
  2. Has the plugin been tested with the latest version of your CMS. It may take a little time for plugin providers to catch up with the new version of your CMS but it should be within a month or two
Popularity can be checked by the number of downloads. I generally like to see in excess of 1000
 

What is a Widget?

So, install your chosen system and have fun with!

More jargon...

Plugin - A block of code that you can add to your site to provide a useful function

Widget - A block of code you that adds useful content and features to the widgetized areas of your website such (such as sidebars, footers and cells)

Application - A program (or group of programs) designed to provide the end user with a suite of functions (i.e. editor, backup, Image gallery)

Editor - A word processor like way of entering and formatting content

Template (or theme) - A collection of files that provide the unified graphical design for a website

User - A role taken within your CMS.  The Administrative user can to create and manage all other users giving whichever privileges are appropriate

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