A Comprehensive Guide to Content Management Systems (CMS)

A Content Management System (CMS) allows for the creation, modification, and storage of digital content, usually in terms of creating websites. The most popular CMS (by far) is WordPress, however, there are a lot of other CMS solutions available for use, each with its pros and cons. We’ll explain more about content management systems here and give some examples for comparison.

An Introduction to Content Management Systems

WordPress actually started out as a continuation of the b2 platform, which was created with an emphasis on blogging websites in particular. However, WordPress allows for so much more than that – there's a reason it’s the most popular CMS on the Internet!

As the name implies, a CMS allows you to create and, at some point, modify and publish digital content. More importantly, it allows different people to work on the same project by sharing, editing, and collaborating within the same file library.

An important thing to keep in mind is that there are actually several different types of CMS such as a Digital Asset Management System (DAM) for your photos or an Enterprise Content Management system (ECM) for a company’s emails and other electronic files. While they all seem similar on the surface, each one provides different functionalities to better fit your needs. We will be focusing more on Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) here, which allow for users with little knowledge of web programming to still create professional-looking websites.

How a CMS Can Be Used to Create a Website

The main selling point of a CMS is to simplify the life of a user with little to no expertise in programming or markup languages. Instead of requiring prior experience or a degree in computer science, a good CMS platform should make creating a website as easy as possible for its customers.

Let’s put it this way: when building a house, it’s important to lay down the foundation and the main structure of the building first before moving in with the grand piano. A CMS will take care of the essentials by ensuring the foundation is sturdy enough for you to then populate your site with your content and turn it into the face of your brand.

WordPress refers to this as ‘core functionality’ however, any CMS will allow you to expand on the core files that make up the website’s base by installing plugins or introducing your own code. While every CMS is different, there are some essential features that most share, which includes:

  • Extensibility and flexibility – Since the CMS platform will provide the base for your website, you can simply build on the foundation by adding new features that distinguish your site from others.
  • Permission control – Your website security should always remain one of your top priorities. Thus, a tiered publishing capability or a system that assigns different user access levels is crucial to ensure that people can only connect to what they need (and no more).
  • Multilingual support - With the continuing advances in the global market to connect to local economies, it’s no wonder that sites with the capability to serve clients of different languages and nationalities outperform those that only offer one language interfaces. That’s why most CMS platforms are available in numerous languages and are easily translatable.
  • Scalability – If your site does grow – either in content or visitors – you will need a CMS capable of scaling easily to match the new demands of your website.
  • Open API - An open Application Programming Interface (API) makes it possible for your site to access otherwise unconnected applications, allowing you to connect and use new features to your website without needing to hire an entire development team to design it for you.

There are many different ways to create a website, so why bother with a CMS at all? If you’re good enough, you can create one from scratch or simply use our Website Developer and let us take care of all the hard work. Before that though, let’s go into more detail before taking a look at some of the most popular platforms available today.

Why You Would Want to Use a CMS

First of all, Content Management Systems are reported to run over half of all websites, due in part to the fact that many of the most popular CMS platforms are free to use and utilize open-source technology to enhance their already impressive features.

A CMS allows for both experts and complete beginners to be on a more equal playing field. It enables a complete management of your site without the hassle of creating it from scratch. If you were to build it from the ground up, you would then have to make sure that it would be accessible and easily changeable by anyone else on your team. As such, a CMS automatically takes care of that for you, giving you full control of your site while making sure you’re not the only one who understands the complexities of your brand.

Whether or not you decide to use a CMS depends largely on the requirements, scale, and type of site you intend to create, as well as your level of expertise. However, we generally recommend a CMS as they both speed up and simplify the process of creating a website while still giving you a tremendous amount of control.

Content Management Systems You Can Use to Create Websites

While this is definitely not a comprehensive list, we find that the following are most often brought up as go-to solutions for creating a website.

1. WordPress

We’ve already talked briefly about the site so we wanted to go a bit more into detail here. WordPress is by far the most popular CMS, with a nearly 60 percent market share and reportedly running 31 percent of all websites on the internet. One of the main reasons it has become so popular is that WordPress has remained an open-source and community-run project since the project launched in 2003, a key factor that has served them well in the field.

WordPress prides itself on requiring next to no prior experience to create websites. It designs features to make sure that practically anyone could install it, build a site, and start adding content and new features within minutes. The vast number of plugins and site themes available for its customers make WordPress an enticing option.

However, its popularity does come with some downsides. For example, while the WordPress development team works hard to keep the core platform secure, the site is a frequent target for bots and attackers that constantly look for new vulnerabilities to take advantage of. Poorly coded plugins or themes can also create security issues if you’re not careful.

Overall, WordPress is the most popular CMS for a reason: it’s a simple solution that offers a lot of power and flexibility for those wishing to get more involved with the technical aspects. It’s also completely free to download and available as a one-click installation from our web hosting packages.

2. Joomla!

The word Joomla! actually comes from the Swahili word “jumla” which stands for “all together,” referring to the platform’s large open-source community. As opposed to WordPress, Joomla is a slightly more developer-focused CMS; however, its user-friendly interface is still highly available.

If you’re unsure whether WordPress offers the level of control your website will require, Joomla’s huge user community regularly creates extensions and themes that help boost the platform’s core functionality and flexibility.

Considering the additional complexity of the CMS, the majority of websites that rely on Joomla! tend to be larger businesses or professionals. As such, it might not be the best option if you have little prior experience with website development.

Another drawback is Joomla’s steeper learning curve - if you’ve primarily used another CMS in the past, the transition might be difficult at first. However, developers find the idea of more freedom and flexibility than WordPress a suitable enough compensation.

For those interested, Joomla! is completely free to download. It’s also offered as part of our web hosting packages and Softaculous licenses as a one-click installation.

3. Drupal

Next up in terms of CMS complexity is Drupal. Released in 2001, it is the most technically complicated and advanced CMS on this list. An ideal choice for developers who want full control over their sites and less technical guidance, Drupal is best suited for advanced and ambitious websites.

Its extreme versatility lets developers create almost any type of site with very few limitations. Drupal has been recognized as one of the most powerful CMS available, with both strong security and fast loading times straight out of the box.

Because of this, Drupal is great for enterprises with a development team on hand, a need for consistently high speeds and reliability, and the budget to match. Agencies, marketers, even governments and universities commonly use this CMS platform for extensibility in the form of modules and themes.

Drupal is entirely free to use and based on open-source technology. Both Nuagerie and Softaculous offer it as a one-click installation like the others but be warned that it will require some time to understand. However, the level of complexity and freedom the CMS offers it can definitely be worth it.

4. Magento

Our fourth content management system is actually most well-known for its distinct focus on e-commerce. While WordPress’ WooCommerce remains the most popular choice, Magento is still one of the most used platforms for creating online stores.

The main difference between the two is that while WooCommerce is an extension bolted on to the WordPress platform, Magento has been built from the ground-up to be a complete e-commerce framework. This means it was created to make setting up a store, managing products, and providing navigation as easy as possible - for both large and small businesses. Of course, Magento still boasts plenty of extensions to enhance your store further, giving you the customizability a good CMS should offer.

If you’re not looking to start an e-commerce site, however, Magento won’t be for you. It is an excellent choice if you want a standalone solution completely separate from WordPress, but for regular website creation, another CMS might be a better fit.

Magento is available as a free, open-source download. However, it also provides several paid solutions, including Magento Commerce and is offered as a one-click installation with our web hosting packages as well.

If You Build It — Use a CMS

The rise of Content Management Systems (CMS) has allowed for highly sophisticated platforms to take the hassle out of coding every aspect of a website by hand. These systems allow you to create and publish content much more easily, while also extending your website’s capabilities to suit your unique requirements.

If you still have questions about the different content management systems, feel free to contact us by opening a new support ticket or use our live chat feature to talk with a live operator.

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