When Tim Berners-Lee developed the world’s first website at CERN in 1990—using a simple Unix-based browser—do you suppose he had any idea how expansive the Web would become? Today, thanks to the seemingly infinite number of content management systems on the market, people can easily design, build and maintain new websites without relying on major IT expertise. The content management system (CMS) concept has truly allowed the Web to “be fruitful and multiply” by making custom web development accessible to almost everyone.
Advantages of Using a CMS
I tell our clients that by building their website(s) with a CMS instead of HTML, they enable themselves to do the following:
- Quickly update and publish content without relying on an IT department.
- Edit content using a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” (WYSIWYG) interface that’s similar to using a word processing application.
- Input content into pre-set templates that give a website a unified look and consistent navigation.
- Assign privileges (provide entitlements) so that anyone they desire can create content while still limiting the ability to publish that content to a select few.
- Create content that’s easy to index and search, which improves SEO (actually, SERP).
Open Source vs. Proprietary
Both open-source and proprietary CMSes have advantages and disadvantages. An open-source CMS like WordPress or Drupal lets you launch your website without paying licensing fees. You’ll also get many resources to customize your site, and you’ll be supported by an active developer community.
A typical proprietary CMS doesn’t require as much configuration or customization, and you can easily deal with content management tasks right out of the box. At the same time, a proprietary CMS, in addition to costing more upfront, gives you less flexibility to personalize your custom web development.
Five Great CMS Options
Five of the most popular CMSes in use today include:
- WordPress. The go-to CMS for blogging.
- Drupal. For straightforward websites that include modules like user blogs and forums.
- Joomla! Tons of flexibility, but you’ll pay in complexity and you’ll pay for add-ons.
- Alfresco. Excellent for big enterprises.
- ExpressionEngine. Great proprietary system.
My recommendation is to develop your content strategy first. Then pick the content management system that makes your strategy easy to implement and maintain.