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What Is a CMS? Why You Should Use One?

Isn’t it great that you no longer have to learn coding to create your website and start publishing content? It’s all thanks to the CMS. But what is a CMS? It’s a system that makes launching a website more manageable, even for beginners.

So there’s no need to understand what makes your website tick. The CMS offers a simplified dashboard through which you can manage your content effortlessly. You can create portfolios, open an online store, or start a blog and easily reach out to your target audience. 

Let’s dive deeper and tell you everything you need to know about a CMS.

What Is a CMS?

In short, it’s a platform that helps you build and manage your website even if you have no idea what coding is. Thanks to the user-friendly interface, you can create and publish content in no time. 

But there’s more to it than that. You can also use it to customize the appearance of your website with ready-made templates or add functionalities with the available free extensions. And all this comes without you writing a single line of code. Plus, all the team members can use the dashboard to do their tasks. 

What Does CMS Stand For?

The CMS acronym means “Content Management System.” In essence, it’s easy website building without any technical knowledge requirements. 

Now, let’s see what the different CMS types are and how it all works. 

CMS vs ECM vs WCMS

These are all types of software that manage content, and here’s how they differ:

  • CMS (Content Management System) is a platform for building, managing and saving content. It works better with structured content, like database records and documents, and it’s the precursor to the ECM.
  • ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is an enterprise level CMS that manages both unstructured and structured content. It includes security, strategies, and software for effective operations. 
  • WCMS (Web Content Management System) is in many ways similar to ECM but solely for web content, like managing product pages on online stores. It includes collaborative authoring and a publishing tool. 

How It Works

But first, let’s go through it again — what is a CMS? It’s a management system that helps you to publish content on your website. 

Now, if you genuinely want to understand how the system works, you should know the basics of creating a website. All websites start from an HTML code that describes the building blocks of your site, like the text, images, and navigation bars. Imagine it like a wall of text with special characters that contain the full instructions. But a wall of text doesn’t sound quite visually appealing. That’s where the CSS comes in.

CSS helps to style all those HTML elements so that they can look pretty to your visitors and suit your brand colours. The final touch is JavaScript, which helps make your page more interactive. For instance, we could add buttons’ functionalities and play an audio or video on the website. After we finish coding, we upload the HTML file to the server, which will add it to the database.

Making Changes Without CMS Technology

Unfortunately, whenever you need to change your website or content, you’d need to get the files back from the server and code everything you want to do

Not to mention that you should always check whether you’ve broken something or made an error while adding the code. Now, when you’re ready and sure that your code will be working correctly, you once again need to upload the files to the server. Can you imagine going through that process every time you want to change a button? 

It’s not an easy job. Programmers spend years gaining this website development experience, but not everyone can do that. And that’s where the CMS steps in. It takes away the long process of coding and uploading files and creates a simple dashboard where you can build your website.

All you have to do is select the CMS you want to work with and install it. Then, the dashboard will give you complete control over your website. That’s where you can select the design, colours, fonts, and all other features. Best of all, you can directly write posts and publish them without any hassle.

CMA and CDA

Website managing is so much easier with a CMS. But you should also know about its two main components:

  • CMA (Content Management Application) is the graphical user interface (GUI) through which you can build, design, change, and remove content, including text and images. 
  • CDA (Content Delivery Application) offers backend services that allow delivery and support management of the content after creating it with the CMS.

CMS Installation

Now, you might be wondering — Is WordPress a CMS? It certainly is, and one of the most popular ones at that. The CMS installation depends on the software you select. So let’s take the WordPress installation as an example:

  • Firstly, you have to download the WordPress package and unzip it.
  • Then, you’ll need to make a database for it on your server.
  • Upload the WordPress files to your preferred server location. 
  • Access the URL in your browser to run the WordPress installation script. That’s the URL where you uploaded the files for WordPress.

That’s it! You’ve installed your WordPress content management system, and you can start building your website. 

On-Premises vs Cloud-Based

You’ll need to decide whether you want an on-premises setup or cloud-based CMS. Let’s look at the primary difference between them:

  • Cloud-based: It’s useful for smaller firms as it offers complete functionality at an affordable price without upfront investment. Moreover, the cost is usually under annual or monthly subscription, covering updates, support, and training. Also, some providers offer improved agility and scalability. So a cloud-based CMS saves money and time and gives better flexibility.
  • On-premise: It allows you to get a vendor license and install the software on your own servers. The CMS tech provider is only responsible for updating and maintaining it. The rest is up to you — from security to installation. But it will cost you more than the cloud. On the plus side, you’ll have more control over the system, which is ideal for larger businesses. 

Why You Should Use a CMS

Content marketing stats show the benefits of using the latest in CMS development. For instance, around 18% of marketers prefer WordPress over its competitors. CMS is a highly popular means of creating content and reaching out to the target market.

Here are some of the main reasons why you should use a CMS:

Simplified Content Management

Content management systems have truly revolutionized the web development process. You no longer need much technical knowledge to publish and manage the content on your website. It’s all very straightforward. 

Easy Updates

CMS always makes website updates a breeze. Website owners don’t have to pay a designer for every little change they want to make. You can redesign the look of your pages and change your blog post structure in a few dashboard clicks.

Ready-made Templates 

Most CMS platforms offer a wide range of pre-designed website templates that you can personalize according to your needs. Whether you’re creating a blog or an ecommerce site, you’ll have all the tools at your disposal. 

Besides, you can select the right template for online store creation on any device. Ready-made templates make redesigning your website straightforward, faster and save you time in the process. 

Extensions and Plug-ins

Built-in features and add-ons help you add new functionalities to your website, allowing you to optimize its performance. For instance, you can use them to: 

  • Create your XML sitemap
  • Optimize your images and include alt text
  • Improve your SEO 
  • Customize meta descriptions

But the list here is endless. Let’s look at the popular CMS integration features that help website owners the most. 

Common CMS Features

These are the tools that enhance your website in both appearance and performance. Content management would be a struggle without them. 

Website Dashboard

The ideal CMS for you will provide a simple, user-friendly interface for building your website. All CMS platforms have a dashboard you can log in to and make changes to your page. But pick the one that you find the easiest to work with. 

Content Editor

CMS web development platforms have a content editor that allows you to write and publish posts on your website. Thanks to it, you can add images and videos while previewing how your post will look before you press “Publish.”

Customizable Themes

The ready-made themes make the lives of website owners so much easier. Most CMS platforms offer many free templates, and we advise you to take advantage of them if you’re just starting. Still, if you want a professional website that’s fully optimized, consider purchasing a premium theme. In any case, you can change the colours, fonts, and layout of your website via the CMS web portal. 

Plug-ins and Extensions

Most platforms will allow you to install plug-ins that extend your content options. 

Think of them as the apps on your phone. You can put them on your website to add new features. For instance, you can add an extension that displays your Twitter feed or a contact form.

How to Use a CMS

What is a CMS but a system that handles the backend and gives you a user-friendly interface to change your website design? You don’t have to worry about the code, database, or infrastructure. The CMA and CDA take care of it all. 

Your only task is to learn how to work with your content editor efficiently. For instance, you should know how to change the font and colour of your text, add images and links, and insert tables and CTAs. Essentially, everything involves dragging and dropping elements without coding.

Research and install the best plug-ins that will make your job easier or change the permalink structure from your dashboard. You won’t know it, but the CMA assists you in making all these adjustments. 

As soon as you’re ready with your changes, the CDA steps in to apply the code and put the content on your website. That’s what happens when you click “Publish.”

You’ll find many subscription-based and free CMS hosting options available for enterprise and personal use. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  1. Joomla

It’s an open-source and free content management system that’s created on the MVC framework. Joomla is PHP-driven and provides blogging tools, searching, RSS feeds, caching, and language translation support.

  1. WordPress

Arguably, WordPress ranks as the most popular CMS platform worldwide. It’s an open-source and free WXCMS based on MySQL and PHP. You can use it on a local computer as its own server or in the cloud. It offers high customization with numerous free and paid themes, along with plug-in options. 

  1. Backdrop CMS

Drupal offers this open-source and free CMS, and it’s best for medium-sized and small businesses. The Backdrop provides all the essential content management options that you can extend using multiple modules. 

  1. Wix

Wix has both paid and free plans, along with 24/7 customer support. Its CMS tooling includes adding custom code, a wide range of templates, enterprise-grade security, third-party integrations, and team collaboration tools.

  1. Magnolia

It’s a headless, open-source CMS, allowing integrations with multiple marketing technologies, like automation tools, analytics, and CRM systems. Its features include digital asset management, optimization, and personalization. 

Which CMS Platform to Choose

The right CMS platform depends on your needs and website goals. Here are a few things to consider before making a decision:

Determine Your CMS Vision

Firstly, you have to answer a few crucial questions about why you want to create a website with a CMS platform: 

  • What are you hoping to achieve? 
  • Do you already have a website? 
  • What problems are you facing? 
  • Is your current CMS not giving you the results you were hoping for? 
  • What CMS features do you need? 

These questions will help you map out your CMS web design goals.

Understand CMS Features

Once you’ve decided what you want to attain from implementing the CMS and your website goals, you can start looking for the platform that aligns with your vision. When researching, ensure you go over the features of different platforms. Determine if they are what you need to achieve your goals.

Consider the Cost

Read the fine print. It’s essential to find out the overall price and any additional fees you might have to pay to avoid unpleasant financial surprises later. 

Calculate Your ROI

CMS is undoubtedly an investment, so it’s crucial to work out your budget and calculate the ROI.

After examining all these factors, comparing CMS platforms, and determining your price range, you’ll be ready to find the best CMS backend for your business. 

How to Build Your Website With a CMS

Creating a website with a content management system is incredibly easy. While the process might slightly vary between platforms, it generally includes the following steps:

  1. Start by purchasing the domain name and hosting for your website. You need to decide the domain name carefully as that’s how users will remember your business and type it in their browsers to open your website. The DNS server translates what they write in the browser into an IP address that will lead them to your website. 
  2. Once you have the hosting and domain name, you can install the CMS on the web server.
  3. Next, customize the appearance and functions of your website through the CMS web portal. You can use free or paid templates to find the design that suits your goals. 
  4. Finally, begin creating content, adding images or videos, and making different web pages directly through the CMS interface. 

It’s not as challenging as it might sound. 

Conclusion

Utilizing a content management system to create and maintain your website can help you grow rapidly without the hassle of learning how to code or hiring developers. It makes the process time-saving, efficient, and affordable. Plus, it gives you more control over your own website. 

CMS keeps all your web content safely stored in one place, supports team collaboration, offers extensions and templates for customization, and allows quick and easy updates. 

So, what is a CMS? It’s a system that helps with every step of website content creation. Now, it’s time to get started and create an effective website that impresses your target audience.

About the author

Terry Stancheva

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