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What is a Content management system (CMS)? A person creating content management system using his laptop

What Is a Content Management System? Here’s All You Need to Know

What is a content management system? In simple terms, a content management system, or CMS for short, is a platform that enables users to create, manage and modify web content.

With a CMS, there’s no need for you to know or understand coding. You won’t need to have specialised technical knowledge of HTML and CSS to perform content management tasks. You’ll have access to themes and plugins for your website without necessarily knowing the technicalities of what’s going on beneath the surface. To put it simply, with a CMS, content management is made easily accessible to all.

What is a Content Management System?

A CMS can also be described as a collaborative platform with a collection of procedures designed to manage workflow. This means that users with access to a CMS platform can create, edit, collaborate, report, distribute, inform, archive and publish content as required. A CMS has a graphic user interface (GUI), which makes content management tasks relatively simple and user-friendly.

If you’re a blogger and have used a platform like Wix, Tumblr, Blogger or WordPress, you’ll already have a fair idea of how a CMS works.

What is a Content Management System? An infographic about CMS' by Small Business Sites.

Advantages of Using a CMS

A primary advantage of using a CMS is that it allows you to manage and update content easily without any IT technical know-how. However, a good CMS also provides the following benefits:

  • Adaptability: You can add functionality and initiate design changes without the need for coding work.
  • Access management: A CMS enables you to manage access permissions for authorised users. For example, freelancers with access to your system may be able to write articles but not publish them, as these need to go through editing and quality control first.
  • Media management: There’s no need for you to work with your webserver to upload photos and embed videos. However, some CMS systems limit free use for uploading photos; you would need to upgrade to be able to embed videos.
  • Version control: Any changes or edits done on your site are viewable and recorded.

Core Components of a CMS

A content management system comprises two essential parts: the content management application (CMA) and the content delivery application (CDA).

  • CMA: This part of a CMS is where you carry out content management tasks. This is where you’ll see buttons to use for adding images and modifying digital content. You can also get a preview of the new or revised content here.
  • CDA: This is essentially the publishing tool in the back-end that ensures the content you uploaded or saved in the CMA is properly stored and visible to people who visit your website.

These CMS components work together and make content management an easy undertaking.

Essential CMS Features

As with most things, no two CMS platforms are the same, which is why you’ll have to make a choice based on the features you need. For example, if you need a CMS that is primarily geared toward achieving digital marketing goals, systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla immediately come to mind.

Below is a list of critical CMS features you need to consider:

1.Security

Like websites or networks, CMSs are subject to cyberattacks the moment hackers discover weak points in a system. As cyberattacks grow in sophistication, hackers can take over entire websites and control access, as well as content and how it appears online. Thus, the right CMS should take care of giving users security updates every time they discover vulnerabilities.

2.Multilingual functions

If your company has international operations, you would need a CMS with multilingual functionality. This means that non-English speaking users should be able to access your website with high quality translated content that is localised for better comprehension. This is where you’ll see websites that enable users to select a country or language from their menu.

3.Tools for search engine optimisation (SEO)

Content such as blog posts, landing page content and product descriptions needs to be optimised for search engines to increase your website ranking for keywords relevant to your business. This is why it’s important for your CMS to have SEO-friendly elements such as the following:

  • Page title and metadata customisation
  • Built-in drop-down navigation in the CSS
  • SEO-friendly URL assurance
  • XML site map creation functionality
  • Compulsory alt tags
  • Support for fast page-loading times

4.Omni-channel content distribution

Beyond the usual PC, laptop, tablet and smartphone, the CMS you use should be capable of formatting content for the internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR). Doing so will enable your brand to stay ahead of the digital marketing curve.

5.Efficient customer support

An excellent product or service is virtually useless without the necessary high-quality, responsive customer support. So in selecting a CMS, carefully research your prospects and go over user reviews and discussion boards regarding the platform.

6.Integration capabilities

To address the changing needs of users, a good CMS needs to enable seamless sharing and must be component-based so publishers can deliver a touch-enabled rich experience for all types of screens. With seamless integration, monetisation can go native to become part of the CMS.

7.Responsive design

The right CMS won’t require you to have a mobile version of your site as it will have a responsive design that can readily adapt to any device (and even IoT). With a responsive design, each viewing experience is easily adapted to the device and screen size. It also helps optimise your website through the implementation of responsive rule sets.

There are several content management systems on the market. Outside of WordPress, which is a self-hosted CMS platform, other well-known content management systems include Magento, Squarespace, Drupal, Joomla, TYPO3 and Wix.

Now that you know what a content management system is, do you need it?

The decision to use a CMS instead of building your website from scratch boils down to certain factors:

  • Your website has a complex page structure or will feature a lot of pages.
  • You’ll be updating marketing materials periodically.
  • You want to include a lot of extra features such as a calendar, sidebar feeds, live chat, etc.
  • You don’t have a strong design and CSS background, so you’d rather use a readymade CMS template.
  • CMS users need a WYSIWYG and web-based login to access the content.
  • You have time to learn CMS, but have none for learning HTML and CSS.

If you need help deciding if you need a CMS or not, you can always consult professionals that specialise in web design. With just a few specific details, they should be able to advise you on your best alternative so you can start building your website soon.

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