What is a content management system?

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A Content Management System (CMS) simplifies the task of adding and managing content on a website. This article talks very generally about content management systems. For specific information about the Mainspring content management system, click here

The World Wide Web and all the techy stuff that goes with it revolves around information, or content. HTML, JavaScript, PHP, and all their cousins exist for one purpose; to serve up information like prime rib on a silver platter.

After the World Wide Web proved its usefulness it took about half-a-second for non-technical people to shout "Wait a minute! I don't know HTML, but I have important information, too. Web content shouldn't be the realm of technology people, alone." Meanwhile the technology people were thinking "Good grief! There's GOT to be an easier way to do this. HTML can be so time consuming."

And so the first content management systems appeared.

Requiring very little technical experience, content management systems deliver an easy way for people to add web content on their own. Content generally includes text, images, files (text files, sound files, video files, etc), navigation links, and feedback forms.

There Are Vast Differences Between Content Management Systems

There are literally thousands of content management systems. Some are basic systems for small sites and some are robust systems for huge, enterprise level sites. Some are easily applied to any type of organization, and some are highly customized to serve a specialized niche. And, of course, everything in between.

Differences in Content
At the most basic level a content management system enables users to add content to a website, and usually assumes only one or two people will be adding content to a site.

As a system becomes more robust it manages more aspects of content. It helps classify and organize information and aids in the logistical issues that arise when dozens or hundreds of people are responsible for adding content to a website. For example, a large organization might have departments and each department might be responsible for adding content to its own section of the website. There may even be a central administrator that approves all new content before it appears on the live website. A more robust system might also enable you to publish multilingual content, or automatically remove or archive out-dated pages.

Differences in Integration
Content management systems vary in terms of flexibility, such as the variety of designs they can integrate with or the type of organizations they can best serve.

Some systems require that design conform to very strict parameters, while other content management systems can integrate with just about any design. In the former case the designer must design around the system's capabilities. In the latter case, the system can be molded around a designer's capabilities.

It's not uncommon for content management systems to be built to cater to a specific industry. Often times an industry-specific system comes packed with modules (web applications) of particular interest to the industry in question. For example, a system specific to financial planners may come equipped with financial calculators. More robust systems tend to be generalized, and can be customized to suite the needs of any industry, though often for a higher price.

CMS Resources

In depth information about content management systems and cost can be found from the following resources: