In my last post I said blogs were an excellent content management system. A couple of people asked me to elaborate. What is a CMS and why are they a good thing?
What is a CMS?
A CMS (Content Management System) is simply a computer software package that makes it easy to create web pages. In the old days to create a web site you would need knowledge of HTML (HyperText Markup Language), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and some other geeky stuff.
Content Management Systems, sometimes also called Publishing Systems, came along to allow non-geeks to do the job. Initially they were bespoke-built for purpose, tailor-made to fit the exact need. Expensive generic CMS packages such as systems from Vignette were released and adopted by big websites, often they were ludicrously complicated and enefficient but still better than doing it the hard way. These were snidely labelled “consultantware” as rather than a team of webmonkeys you needed a team of consultants to get the best out of them.
Over time those products improved, cheaper alternatives were introduced, and some of the nastier aspects simplified. Many smaller companies though still avoided them because their needs were modest. Only larger organisations needed the multiple layers of procedure, checkpoints, version control, “work flow”, etc. Smaller outfits were quite happy to use Frontpage (shudder), Dreamweaver (smaller shudder) or cheap and cheerful ASP/PHP homebrew/open source setups.
Today there is a big overlap between low-end CMS and modern Blog packages. It is hardly worth making the distinction in most non-geek discussions of the topic.
Why should I use a CMS?
If you are not using a CMS then you might be missing out on the following benefits
- Easy – using a CMS is easier than edit and upload, you don’t need mad geek skillz just the same level of technical proficiency required to use Hotmail etc
- Fast – just type … that’s it
- Consistant – by using page templates all that you alter is the content, it keeps things nice and easy for you and your reader and cuts down on bugs
- Reactive – need to change the copyright notice in your footer? One change reflected instantly over thousands of pages.
Blog as CMS
Particularly in the case of Drupal and WordPress, software seen as just for blogs make excellent CMS systems. Drupal even has some workflow and version control features and WordPress has plugins to make it easier to make backups. With both you can change the front page to a more traditional website feel rather than the sea of news blog style.
The biggest benefits of using a Blog package as your CMS are price (free!) and ease of use. If you can blog you can create a traditional site and vice versa. Add to that the hundreds of free templates available that can be tweaked endlessly. There are tons of people willing to help you do it too. No brainer.
With Blog packages, the days of HTML geekery and FTP’ing changes are over. If you are not using WordPress or Drupal as your website CMS I would take a good long look now.