Most people who come to me these days looking for a website ask about a CMS. Many have simply been told by a tech savvy friend that they should have one but aren’t really clear on what it is or in some cases why they need it. So I thought this might not be a bad topic for today’s blog post.
Firstly CMS stands for Content Management System. It is basically a web program that provides a framework for creating a website and it’s purpose is to provide a means of updating the website without having to modify the code that actually makes up a website. In other words a CMS is designed to enable you (the manager of a website) to change the pages of your site.
“Okay, great” you’re thinking. “So I definitely want one of those. How do I pick one?”
Firstly there’s a lot of choice out there when it comes to Content Management Systems. There are a good selection of free ones (typically open source products) and some of these have become attractive options for users looking to setup a website with a small budget.
WordPress and Joomla are two free CMS’ that are widely used today and both have a wide range of plugins that purport to do most things you could want or imagine your website should do. Examples include plugins for managing and administering users, shopping cart systems, email marketing and a host of other things.
Whether you prefer one or the other may depend on whether you like your interfaces simple or busy, whether you’re a Windows or a Mac person or simply based on the type of website you’re setting up (and what you need it to do). My personal preference is WordPress as I think it has a nicer look and feel, is easier to use and simpler to setup and manage. It has been around longer than Joomla and in my opinion is a more mature product (depsite initial use primarily as a blogging platform). That said sometimes I do recommend Joomla to clients if I find it has better plugins for a specific application.
If you’re after a commercial content management system, there are plenty to choose from. ExpressionEngine and Magento are two that spring to mind. There may be advantages in choosing one of these over an open source system. For example business sites may demand a high level of support and will pay a premium for this.
We have used ExpressionEngine in the past and have found it to be a solid, stable platform for web development. Creative’s seem to like this system and it does have it’s merits. To my mind however, it is hard to justify paying money for something that you can get for free somewhere else.
At an Enterprise level products like Sharepoint and Lotus Domino are commonly used as CMS, though for most small to medium businesses these are probably more hassle than they’re worth. Free products like the Wiki Software popularised by Wikipedia has become commonplace in larger organisations and is often free to use, though it the time involved in setting it up and placing an organised structure around information can again be prohibitive for small businesses.
In summary if you’re choosing a CMS, prioritise your requirements and work out what importance price factors in. If it’s high on the list, there’s some great free options. If prompt support is higher, consider using a commercial alternative. It’s definitely worth factoring in what you need to do with your website while you’re choosing the platform because you may find one which is more suitable.
If you need help choosing the right Content Management System for your web project, by all means give us a shout.