If you run a business in this day and age, you need to have an online presence. The recent downturn of the High Street has been a stark reminder of how people’s shopping habits have changed in recent years; everything we need can now been found online and delivered to our doors with a few simple clicks on a laptop from a comfy sofa in front of a nice warm fire. If you want to succeed in modern business you need a website – but getting one has never been a simple task.
Fortunately, we now live in an age where everything is much easier, an age of ‘Content Management Systems.’ The demand for websites has never been higher, and coding everything by hand is no longer a quick or easy enough method to cope with the surge of people wanting to get online – many of whom are not familiar with HTML and CSS, or simply do not have the time to learn it. What content management systems offer is the chance for everyone to become a developer and website publisher, they have also revolutionised the web design and development industry by making everybody’s lives a little bit easier!
What is a content management system?
A content management system (CMS) is a system used to, as the name actually implies, manage the website content of a website. A CMS will generally consist of two elements: content management application (CMA) and content delivery application (CDA). The CMA is the part that lets you create, customise, modify, and remove content from a website without the help or expertise of a web designer and without the knowledge of HTML. The CDA element of the system takes the information and uses it to update the website.
CMS’s are loaded with features that allow you to create a unique website for your business. Different systems will come with varying features, but most will offer web-based publishing, revision control, format management, indexing, search, and retrieval.
Best content management systems
Basically, if you are looking to create a full-featured, fully customisable website for your business, or personal pleasure, you should use a content management system to do it. Nevertheless, there are many options out there, so which one do you choose?
Most CMS software is free to use, which is great, and some notable programs include SilverStripe, dotCMS, concrete5, and MODx. Each of these CMS’s are worth taking a look at, but when it comes to the best content management systems on the market, the choice comes down to just three: Drupal, Joomla and WordPress.
The fact that Drupal can be scaled for use with a personal blog or a mega-corporation makes it the go-to CMS for many wannabe web designers. Like many of the content management systems out there, Drupal is open-source and is powerful and flexible enough to benefit any business.
The functionality and customisation options that come with Drupal are excellent with well over 6,000 different add-ons to help you create a unique website. The CMS is also helped by its fantastic, and very active, community, which helps evolve and grow the software. If you’re focus is firmly on blogging you may be better served by looking at one of the other CMS’s we’re about to mention; that being said, the features and OpenID support are available for blog creation.
The only real area in which Drupal falls short a bit is its lack of freely available themes, although, there is by no means a shortage if you are willing to pay.
Joomla is used by millions and millions of websites around the world, including the likes of MTV, eBay and Harvard University, and boasts over 35 million downloads since it was launched in 2007. The reason for it being the number one choice for so many people is that it is fit for pretty much any purpose. The customisation features of Joomla are outstanding and there is a vast range of options within the easy to use admin area that can really help your website stand out.
Some people may find that there is a lack of high-quality themes available with Joomla, although the thousands of extensions make up for this. The active community is one of the best around and the support for newbies is top class.
User authentication can be done using OpenID, Google and several other clients.
WordPress is my personal favourite and the CMS of choice for almost a quarter of new websites. Some famous names that use the WordPress content management system include The New York Times, TechCrunch, CNN, and the BBC, and it’s clear to see why. WordPress is quite simply the best CMS in the world, featuring more themes and plugins than you could ever dream of, allowing you to customise your site to meet your demands. Whether it’s a small blog that you want, or a fully-fledged e-commerce site, WordPress has you covered, and a vast community, along with numerous tutorials, will guide through every element of website creation and development.
If you are in need of a website, your journey should start and end with a content management system. As someone creating a website for the first time, my recommendation would be to use WordPress, but feel free to experiment with some of the others too; after all, they’re free, so you can only gain!