A Content Management System (CMS) allows you to easily update text, images, and other media on your Web site without having to write code. Whether you’re updating quarterly reports, product details, or your daily online journal, a CMS makes changing your site’s content quick and relatively easy.
A CMS is server-side software used to change the text and images contained in predefined templates. Most come equipped with standard editing tools to add hyperlinks, images, and basic text formatting like bold and italics or bulleted or numbered lists. While not as robust as stand-alone word processor software, a CMS can be used to compose original documents.
CMS software runs the gamut from enterprise-strength — and costly — products such as Vignette Content Management; these are only suitable for very large-scale sites. On the other end of the pricing scale, open-source CMS applications like Drupal and Joomla! are free to use. But you should be aware that formal technical support will cost you. But if you can’t find answers on their community forums, they do have robust user-generated support communities. Blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Moveable Type, are really simple content management systems.
Most CMS packages can be installed by anyone who knows how to “FTP” into their server file structure. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, you can pay a Web firm or contractor to install the CMS package for you. It’s important to note that while a CMS will allow you to take control of your site’s content, text, images, or similar items, making substantial changes to the design, layout, or architecture are often beyond their scope. Unless you have a good amount of technical knowledge or enjoy a challenge, large-scale changes are best left to a professional designer or Web developer.
For tips on hiring a Web professional, check out Simple Steps to Finding a Web Designer.
The CMS you choose will probably built on PHP and SQL, and use Cascading Style Sheets to control layout and design. If the last sentence made absolutely no sense to you, you’ll probably want a professional to install and implement your CMS for you. As you write that check, console yourself with the reminder that, once the system is in place, updating your site’s content will be easy.