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Content Management Systems

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Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems or as Paul Browning (Bristol University) and Mike Lowndes (The Natural History Museum) like to call them, Content Manipulation Systems are: “A Content Management System (CMS) is not really a product or a technology. It is a catch-all term that covers a wide set of processes that will underpin the ‘Next Generation’ large-scale web site.” (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue30/techwatch/)

Click here for CMS reviews and awards.  or you can see what Wikipedia says about CMS. Content creation and content re-purposing are fundamental aspects of CMS.

 

Advantages of Content Management Systems (CMS)

Content Management System (CMS) can be of tremendous value to businesses/organizations of all sizes. The benefits of a CMS are many but here are a few:

  • Separation of content, structure, and presentation / Maintain design consistency
  • HTML knowledge not required / No need for separate web design software
  • Distribution of content management responsibilities
  • Rapid updating of the website / Reduced webmaster backlog
  • Update the site from any internet-connected computer
  • Accountability for published content
  • Content scheduling
  • Centralized storage of content in a database
  • Reduced long-term costs
  • Version control
  • Syndication of content
  • Configurable access restrictions
  • Dynamic Content
  • Easy workflow setup
  • Platform-neutral
  • Search engine-friendly
  • Long term documentation scenario for historical facts/information. 

 

Let us now look at these advantages in more detail.

Separation of content, structure, and presentation / 
Maintain design consistency

In a typical CMS, content, structure, and presentation (design) are on 3 separate layers, independent yet connected. Changes to any layer can be made independently without affecting the other layers. For example, the design or navigation structure of the site can be changed without affecting the content at all. Alternatively, content may be added to the site and the design will remain constant from page to page.

Consistency of design is maintained because of the separation of content from design and structure (information architecture). As a writer adds content, (s)he has little ability to deviate in the content regions from the design constraints imposed by the designer nor make any changes to the fundamental layout of the site.

HTML knowledge not required / No need for separate web design software

Traditional web design requires knowledge of HTML or specialized software that writes the HTML while the designer uses the graphical interface (e.g. Adobe Dreamweaver) in order to create the page, thus limiting who is able to add content. A CMS, on the other hand, uses a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, similar to what is found in most modern word processing or publishing software. The content writer is able to format the content (within the constraints of the styles implemented by the designer) using a user-friendly toolbar. The HTML is automatically generated by the CMS.

Distribution of content management responsibilities

A CMS allows distribution of responsibilities. Some users will be designated as writers/contributors (the terminology will vary from system to system), others as editors/reviewers/publishers, others as administrators. Writers will be able to write content and submit it for review, but will not be able to publish the content live to the web. Reviewers will be notified when content is submitted and can decide if the content should be published or sent back for more work. Administrators have total control of the system and can publish any content directly.

Rapid updating of the website / Reduced webmaster backlog

In traditional web design, a webmaster has to upload all content changes. This can lead to a backlog when the workload is high. A CMS allows many users to be able to change content, and as soon as the reviewer approves the content it is live. Depending on the review process in place, updates can happen very quickly.

Update the site from any internet-connected computer

As long as internet access is available, an authorized user can update the website. Editing a page on a CMS site is a matter of navigating to the site, logging in, and making the desired changes. No particular computer or special software is required, just a browser (and most CMS systems work well with the various modern browsers).

Accountability for published content

CMS systems have built-in logging to track which user does what actions. Content must pass through multiple steps including signoff by one or more reviewers before it will be published. As a result, an audit trail will provide accountability for everything that is published.

Content scheduling

A CMS will allow content to be scheduled for publication and expiration. Time-sensitive material may be set to appear on a particular date and time, and disappear on another date and time. Some systems will allow the user to create an alternate version of a particular page and have the alternate version replace the existing version when desired.

Centralized storage of content in a database

Central database storage means that content can be reused in many places on the website and formatted for any device (web browser, mobile phone, print, etc.).

Reduced long-term costs

A CMS typically will cost more initially than a traditional website design, but the long-term costs tend to be less and more predictable. If a site has to be updated frequently, a CMS will pay for itself long-term over the costs of paying someone to make all changes.

Version control

A CMS allows maintaining different versions of content and determining when the content will be live. It also tracks previous versions that have been replaced and allows a previous version to be restored. If an error made its way onto the site, version control would allow the replaced version to be restored quickly while the error is corrected.

Syndication of content / RSS

A CMS is ideal for syndication, whether pulling or pushing content. Freshly updated content from another site (say, a relevant news site) can easily be pulled into your site or content may be syndicated for use by other sites. Most CMS systems have this RSS functionality built in for easy use.

Configurable access restrictions

In a typical CMS, users are assigned roles and permissions that prevent them from editing content which they are not authorized to change.

Dynamic Content

A typical CMS offers extensions like forums, polls, e-commerce applications, searching, events calendars, and news management.

Easy workflow setup

A CMS will offer different workflows to suit the various needs of the user. A workflow can be as simple as the process described above with a contributor and a reviewer, but it can become more complex with the ability to publish content internally (for use as an intranet for logged in users) or externally (for a public website). Content can also be kept private for access only by the content creator.

Platform-neutral

Many open-source CMS systems work on Linux, Mac, or Windows systems as well as working with most of the modern web browsers.

Search engine-friendly

A modern CMS system adheres to or exceeds web standards and creates valid XHTML and CSS, so search engines tend to provide high rankings to the CMS site.

In previous versions of CMS systems, the URLs created were not search engine-friendly (often including lengthy numbers and letters following a ? in the address). Modern CMS systems create (or allow the user to manually create) URLs that are friendly both to search engines and to web users. For example, an article with a title of “Content Management System Benefits” might end up with a URL of http://yoursite.com/content-management-system-benefits, an address that can be understood by search engines and humans alike.

Historical documentation

All organizations can benefit from a system that keep a historic perspective on the entity.  This can be accomplished in  few methods, but Net Easy recommends using a CMS for such documentation.  If aids in document management and structure and facilitates long term growth by various contributors.  For example: some people use a blog to create a diary of their life/organization.  However, this system does not necessarily allow multiple contributors, integrate well with CMS, allow for ready manipulation of large volumes of content should it be required, and several other issues. 

 

So who doesn’t need a CMS?

Martin Burns, in an article for Infomatics magazine, says that you don’t yet require a CMS if at least four of the following are true:

  • You have a small organization where web publishing is in-house, and can communicate exceptionally well with content creation
  • Your site is small and doesn’t update frequently in content or structure
  • Your online operation doesn’t perform any personalization
  • You don’t integrate content between the web site and retail outlets, call centers, email newsletters or other channels
  • You don’t need to manage specifications from R&D to customer support
  • You are not offering customers a community where they can contribute to a site
  • One individual has intimate knowledge of the entire site (and others have intimate knowledge over their own sections)

He adds that an organization should revisit the issue periodically to determine if the time has come to implement a CMS.

 

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