Understanding CMSs

What is a CMS?

Let’s get the acronym out of the way first. CMS stands for Content Management System. As the name implies, it is a system that helps you manage your website content better. This content can be in form of information pages, portfolios or photo galleries, news updates or blog posts, services information, product description pages, online stores etc.

Depending on your requirements a CMS can be simple or complex. If you are looking for a website with just a few pages and not many updates per year you may be able to do without a CMS as a simple html file is much quicker to access by a browser than the dynamic data structure that a CMS needs.

Types of Content Management Systems

There are basically two types of CMSs – those which work on a database and those which do not. There are definitely more complex systems out there but I do not want to unnecessarily complicate this article. I also do not want to go into this way over my head because I don not have an experience with the more complex systems out there. I have a design background and am not a programmer so I keep away from the systems that require an extensive amount of code understanding from the web developer/designer.

Simpler flat-file CMSs

Those CMSs which do not need a database are what we call flat file content management systems. These store the content and other settings in xml, txt or other such files. The best feature of these CMSs is that if you ever need to change your webhost, you just need to copy all the files from the old to the new server and the site is ready.

Database driven Content Management Systems

Then there are content management systems which work on databases like SQLite (which allows you to move from one webhost to another by just copying the database file along with the other files just like a flat-file CMS), or they need MySQL, MSSQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL etc. which are a little more complex to move. These CMSs are advisable only if you need a large or complex website with a lot of dynamic features and needing regular updates. Websites for global organisations and large companies, online catalogs, portfolios and e-commerce websites etc. come under this category.

How does a CMS manage your website content?

Any CMS used two methods to manage your content – core features and features provided through add-ons (also called plugins, extensions, modules or components)

Core features could include page management, blog or news management, media management (images, videos, files etc.), user management, theme and plugin management, website settings etc.

Add-ons like plugins and extensions build up on the core features provided by the CMS by adding on to and improving their functionality and in many cases provide extra features not present in the basic install of the CMS. These could be more creative ways of showcasing your products with slideshows, stylish image or video galleries with special effects, contact form, call to action modules, animations, adding memberships to basic user management etc… the list could go on.

Does my website need a CMS?

It depends on your requirements. If you are running a one-pager website, or a small website with less than 10 pages, do not need to update information regularly and do not need a blog or news updates or any other such dynamic features, you are probably better off without a CMS. Otherwise a CMS may not just be highly recommended, it might be a necessity.

If you still have any questions about whether or not your website needs a CMS, feel free to contact me.

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