A guide to content management systems

If you’re looking to create a website for your business, then you’ve probably come across the term content management system, or CMS, in your research. That’s because a CMS has become an invaluable part of any effective web presence, and often forms an integral part of any online business strategy.

For a small business, a CMS can be an essential tool for staying on top of your website, making it significantly easier to upload content and keep it organised in a way that cuts down time and effort spent managing the site.

What is content management system

The big question for many people, however, is exactly what is a CMS and what does it do? At its most basic, it’s a computer application or programme that’s used to create and manage digital content. The programme allows you to upload, store, edit and remove content on your site, keeping it looking great and working efficiently for both you and the end user.

A CMS allows you much greater control over what you publish, and how you do it. Using tools such as format management, history editing, indexing and search, you can locate and present content in a clear and easy to understand way – both now and going forward.

The benefits of a CMS

One of the main benefits of using a CMS is that content editing is separate from the design and function of the site. This means that when you want to add new data, such as copy or images, you don’t have to interfere with the digital structure of your website. So, if web design and coding is not something that you’re willing to get involved with, a CMS keeps that part of the web process distinct.

Another major advantage is that different users can have selective admissions based on their roles. For example, a content creator or author can have access to one area of the site, with editors and administrators having wider access. You can select some users to have access to upload and edit their own work, while others have a more universal access. This is a great way of maintaining the security of your site, without having to hand out the keys to the castle. It also makes it easier to identify where errors or highlights occur.

Using a CMS is a much speedier process which is great for small businesses who can’t afford to spend too much time on their web presence. Features such as menus, headers and sidebars can be added without too much fuss. And keeping your content fresh and up to date doesn’t eat into your operating time.

CMSs are also very SEO friendly. You can include custom SEO page titles, and there is also support with metadata and URL creations. If you want to further optimise your content, there is a huge choice of SEO plugins available.

However, perhaps the biggest draw for a CMS is that many of the most popular options are free. The basic framework, which is often all that you require, is usually available to use for free. Charges only start when you use add-ons or premium services. But you can pick and choose the most suitable options to boost your site on certain areas.

Popular Content Management Systems

There is a big choice of CMS options out there. Because it has become such an integral part of web design and creation, there is no shortage of developers trying to get in on the act. There are specialist CMSs for specific areas of business but to start with, you may be better off going with one of the big-name players, whose size and coverage makes them a good starting option. Here are three of the biggest:

WordPress

Originally and primarily a blogging platform, WordPress has grown over the years to become the world’s most popular CMS. You will find thousands of themes for your site, and countless plugins to personalise your site. There is a huge community of developers and tutorials available to help you, and the dashboard is very user friendly.

Joomla

The next biggest CMS, Joomla is the CMS of choice for several major websites, including Harvard University. With hundreds of thousands of users and contributors, there is an active community so information is easy to find if you want it. There are also add-ons and plugins available, although not in the same numbers as WordPress.

Drupal

Another very popular CMS and often a choice for media companies. There are lots of handy tools for building sites and plenty of great ways to organise your content. There’s another active community with plenty of forums so you can find out everything you need to build and manage your own site. There is also a comprehensive choice of themes for your site.

How a CMS can help your business grow

As well as maintaining your site, as discussed above, a CMS can also help your business to grow. With the huge choice of add-ons and plugins available and more being developed all the time, once you have chosen your platform you can add and grow your website over time. As you become more familiar with how the CMS operates and have a clearer assessment of the direction you would like your site to go, you can access the wealth of information on how to make this a reality.

The large CMS communities mean there are plenty of options for using external assistance for growing your site, or you can do it yourself with the help of forums and tutorials. If you want to add an e-commerce section, upload images, add message boards or more, there are plenty of available plugins to make this possible.

As you can see, a CMS has rapidly become an indispensable tool for many small businesses looking to build and maintain an effective web presence. As CMSs develop and offer more options, this is becoming the go-to tool for small and medium businesses looking to streamline their operations.