A content management system, also known as CMS, is software used to build, manage, and edit the content on a website. It helps a user create and modify their website without any coding or technical knowledge.
For example, the image below shows the main interface of one of the most popular content management systems around – WordPress.
All the content you add is stored in a database, and a presentation layer displays it on your website, based on a template. Plus, you can have multiple collaborators working on the same website.
These features give you the freedom and flexibility to customize your website the way you want.
To better explain how a content management system works, let’s consider an example. WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems, powering more than 65% of websites using a CMS.
Now, let’s say you want to create and publish a piece of content on the web. Without a CMS, you’ll have to write a static HTML file and a basic CSS stylesheet – at the very least – before uploading it to your server.
Even when you want to update a piece of content, you need to download the associated files from the server, and modify the HTML code manually. This is much more complicated than using a CMS to do the same.
However, WordPress provides you with a user-friendly interface to write your content. In fact, in many ways, this interface is similar to MS Word, which most people are already familiar with.
The same goes for other tasks, like uploading and managing multimedia files. Without a content management system, you’ll have to use an FTP client or cPanel file manager to upload and modify images. But with WordPress, you can do all that with the built-in media library.
That’s not to say that a content management system is just for backend management. Apart from creating and publishing content, it also helps you customize how it looks and feels to visitors on the front end.
In fact, if we get a bit more technical, a content management system has two main components:
- A content management application (CMA): This part enables you to add and edit the content on your website (as we discussed above).
- A content delivery application (CDA): This refers to the backend operation that pulls and stores the content you add in the CMA, and then shows that content to people who visit your website.
The two systems work in sync to help you maintain your website with ease.
More than 66 million websites on the web utilize a CMS. This is because a CMS offers a number of advantages over other ways to publish and manage web content.
A CMS allows multiple users to log in and contribute to, schedule, and modify content on a website. Since it has a browser-based interface, users can access it at any time, from wherever they are in the world (providing there’s an internet connection, of course!).
Ease of Use
Good for SEO
The best CMS platforms offer plenty of features and extensions to improve your website’s SEO. Using these built-in and third-party tools, you can perform a number of SEO tasks, such as:
- Customizing meta titles and descriptions
- Configuring SEO-friendly permalink structures
- Generating XML sitemaps to be submitted to search engines
- Adding alt tags to photos
Following these best practices allows you to increase your website’s chances of ranking higher in search engines.
Most of the modern CMS platforms come with a good selection of readymade templates to customize the look and feel of your website. Some templates even add additional features to the website such as contact forms, social media icons, call to action buttons, and so on.
Choosing a pre-designed, responsive template ensures that your website looks presentable on all devices, without you having to tweak any code.
When it comes to creating a website with a CMS platform, there are scores of options to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular CMS examples.
- WordPress: WordPress is a self-hosted CMS platform used by millions of people to create their websites. It comes with an easy-to-use Gutenberg editor to write and change the layout of your content. Plus, you can pick from thousands of themes and plugins to customize your site’s appearance and functionality.
- Magento: Magento is a scalable, flexible, and secure CMS. However, it’s nowhere near as easy to get the hang of as WordPress. It lets you manage several websites for different countries, currencies, and languages — all from a single dashboard.
- Wix: Wix is an easy-to-use CMS, and is perfect for websites that require mobile optimization. One of its highlights is Wix ADI (artificial design intelligence) — a feature that learns how a user prefers to customize their website, and suggests changes accordingly. Wix also provides personalized SEO plans, SEO analytics, social tools, and more.
- Joomla: Joomla is known for providing plenty of features natively – without having to install third-party extensions or plugins. Its built-in multilingual support and advanced user management capabilities make it ideal for membership and social network websites.
- Drupal: Drupal is the CMS of choice for large enterprises and government bodies such as NASA. This is because it can handle large amounts of traffic and data. However, you’ll need to have web development skills to make full use of its potential. Apart from its native features, you can pick from thousands of modules and free themes that are compatible with the platform.
If you want to build a website using a CMS system, the typical steps include the following:
- Purchase a domain name and web hosting
- Install your preferred content management system on your server. Most hosting providers offer one-click installs of popular CMS software.
- Set up your CMS to determine the appearance and features of your website.
- Write and publish your first piece of content using the text editor interface provided by the CMS.
It’s a simple process, and will allow you to get your website up and running in a matter of hours.
Many hosts even help you with free domains for a year, and offer intuitive setup wizards, too – so you can quickly push your website live without any technical or complicated steps.
A content management system is a must for people looking to build robust websites without any technical skills. To recap:
- A content management system helps you build, manage, and edit the content on a website without any coding or technical knowledge.
- The benefits of a CMS include easy collaboration, few requirements around technical knowledge, SEO benefits, and pre-built templates.
- The major CMS platforms are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, and Wix.
- Building a website with a CMS platform is easy. All you need is purchase a domain name and hosting plan, and implement a few simple steps to customize the CMS to your unique specifications.
Considering the benefits outlined in this article, a CMS can surely help you grow your online presence. So pick one to get started with, and build a website you can be proud of!