What is CMS – Managing Web Content

What is CMS and how has it changed the way websites are built and managed? Simply put, a Content Management System (CMS), which is commonly known as a Web Content Management System (WCMS), enables authors and editors to manage the content lifecycle from inception through to publishing, consumption and archival.

Most WCMS implementations use a repository or database to store all types of content and information assets, which are then called upon and displayed based on a series of predefined templates. What is CMS in terms of post-implementation requirements? A good WCMS will still require some technical knowledge, but the scope of the project will determine exactly what is needed. If you are a small company building your first website, for example, the question of “what is CMS and what can it do for me” may require a very different answer to the one given to a large company implementing a global Intranet.

What is CMS?

Small projects that use open-source platforms such as WordPress or Joomla usually require limited technical skill except tocreate or implement a public-facing website template, perform necessary upgrades or add new components. Larger enterprise solutions often require a stand-alone, custom-built website application as well as a support staff that that may consist of an architect, one or more developers and other types of WCMS professionals.

How WCMS Came to Be

As recently as fifteen years ago, asking “What is CMS?” would have brought on some blank stares. Companies that wanted to build a website were forced to hire tech-savvy programmers who would crunch HTML to create sites that were mostly made up of static pages. Once the sites were built, even the smallest changes or additions had to be hard-coded by a programmer. These sites, which were little more than web-enabled brochures, began to lose their luster as the need for transaction-oriented commercial websites, Intranets and Extranets began to grow.

‘In the early days of CMS, companies built their own custom Web Content Management Systems that enabled the creation of dynamic websites allowing users to add, edit and control pages without the need for technical programming knowledge. As the word spread about these systems and the general public began inquiring about what is CMS, some enterprising companies saw a growth opportunity and began to market their systems to the general public, spawning a new industry and making custom dynamic websites a reality for even the smallest of businesses. Instead of asking “what is CMS,” companies became more focused on “where can I get it?”

What Is CMS Today?

Today’s WCMS have a variety of built-in tools and run on several different platforms, but they share some similar characteristics.

  • Content is generally created around specific topics of information and is then tagged to allow for dynamic surfacing of it based on the resulting metadata.
  • Pages are organized in structured and sometimes dynamic hierarchies.
  • Nontechnical users can publish and edit webpages easily via the system’s interface.
  • The system’s publishing engine allows the pages to be assembled for page consumers.

Many WCMS implementations have three to four specific workflow processes, including publish, delete and compliance, and some even enable collaboration between users or come with built-in social tools to help engage a site’s visitors.

A small company that asks “what is CMS” may get the same basic answer as a big business, but the route to selecting and implementing a system may be different. Whether a company is considering a small open-source platform or a custom enterprise solution, there are a number of systems available that eliminate the need for anyone to have to build their own CMS from the bottom up.

What is CMS in terms of scalability? Basic web content management systems are well suited for small businesses or groups looking to implement a basic website, a brochure-type site or small Intranet. Midrange WCMS systems can accommodate enterprise-level Intranets or websites that require more interactivity or that will contain microsites or subdomains.

Large businesses are especially well-suited for the more complex WCMS scenarios. These systems are designed to accommodate global Intranets, multichannel publishing, complicated e-commerce systems or sites that are fairly standard but much larger than a normal website.

What Is the Right CMS System for You?

Unless you are a blogger with a passion for WordPress, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing a WCMS. What is CMS in terms of costs and benefits for your business? Contact us today to find out how we can help you choose the right system to fit your budget and requirements.