A content management system (CMS) gives those of us who aren’t programmers the power to create and publish website content. This front-end application translates complex code through an interactive, easy-to-understand interface.
CMSs have become more and more popular over the last decade for two major reasons: They allow you to update your site on your schedule and, of course, because they can save you lots of money in website maintenance.
If you’re having a site developed and you plan on updating it regularly, it’s a good idea to get a CMS hooked up. It might cost a little bit extra, but it could cut thousands of dollars in maintenance costs down the road, with extra benefits to boot.
Tetley’s parent company says their CMS not only saved them over £250,000, but also greatly improved the user experience. With more power over the site, their marketing team was able to keep content fresh, which kept visitors coming back for more.
But before you get too excited about the superpowers of a CMS, it’s important to understand that it is not a design and development tool. Each CMS has its own limitations. They’re for website maintenance, not overhauls or enhancements.
Here are some common characteristics of your everyday CMS:
They’re seriously simple (non-techies rejoice!)
Can you edit an MS Word document? Good. Then you can probably use a CMS. Change text, add pages, insert links and upload pictures — all without having to call “the web guy.”
A CMS makes updating quick and easy. If you find an error, you can fix it right away. If you need to respond to your shareholders, you can publish a statement as fast as you can write it.
Some sections of your website, like header images, contact information or navigation menus, appear over and over. Imagine the hassle of going through every page and manually changing each instance.
Content consolidation allows you to edit repeating information or images in one place. The change is then reflected everywhere. For instance, when the footer file is changed, every page containing that footer is automatically updated.
Version control is your built-in safety net
Versioning allows you to create and store different versions of website content and switch between them with the click of a mouse. Versioning also allows you to easily archive older content without deleting it. For example, you could change the content on some pages of your site to promote a sale, for a limited time, and then revert back to the original version after the event has passed.
Go with the workflow
There’s no I in workflow. This tool helps separate content writers and reviewers by enforcing an approval process for content prior to it being posted on your website. For larger organizations with multiple writers and editors, an efficient workflow is critical for the timely dissemination of new content.
For anything other than a static brochure-type website, a good, easy-to-use CMS is a critical component to your Internet presence. It allows you to update your website on your terms, giving you greater control over what your visitors see and when they see it. The best content management systems allow for easy configuration and extensive functionality.
For smaller, less technical implementations, the CMS might hook into every aspect of your website. For slightly more complex applications, the CMS can often be modified to create additional functionality to serve your needs. Even for larger custom web applications, a good CMS will be a key component in helping you manage updates and maintain an audit trail.
WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal are the most popular of the bunch and, best of all, they’re free. Here at Urban Lighthouse, we analyze each client’s specific needs in order to determine which CMS is right for them.
There’s a lot to consider before committing to a CMS. We recommend you speak with your web expert of choice, define your needs and explore the options before making a final decision.