Well, funny you should ask. A CMS is a web application you run on your web server to help facilitate creating a website. A good CMS should be flexible, unobtrusive and help you to make a great site. It should provide you with tools to help the layman keep track of content, while letting more experienced webmasters handle look and feel. It should also provide tools to make repetitive things less repetitive. Like, for example, News entries.
► Allow for a large number of people to contribute to and share stored data
► Control access to data, based on user roles. User roles define what information each user can view or edit
► Aid in easy storage and retrieval of data
► Reduce repetitive duplicate input
► Improve the ease of report writing
► Improve communication between users
Many people using existing CMSs just assume that this is how all sites are updated. But without one, the above example would involve manually changing several existing pages (the homepage and archives), and creating a new page from scratch for the story itself. Then if you wanted any other page to link to the release – such as a list of latest stories in the sidebar of pages – you’d have to change all those manually as well.
A CMS drastically speeds up these cumbersome steps, and decentralises the site updating process, freeing up the technical people (assuming you have any) to do other work. And it means the people who know the content are the ones who can update the website.
How long is a piece of string? You can get a CMS for nothing, or spend up to several hundred thousand euros. It really depends how complex your site is, and what you need it do. What’s often overlooked are other essential costs: training, customisation, and ongoing support.
Not necessarily. The sales staff of the large enterprise content management vendors might be slicker, and their list of features longer, but to our minds the 80/20 rule applies to CMS very strongly: most people will only use the the most basic features most of the time.
A CMS that does the washing up and doubles on sax might appeal to the IT department looking for a single solution to keep the marketing department off their backs, but if it confuses people and never works well, it’s not worth the money.
A simple (and free) system like Wordpress or Drupal might well be all you need, even for a relatively complex site. And affordable paid solutions like ExpressionEngine, MovableType or CityDesk offer even more functionality and flexibility without what could be huge amounts of unnecessary expense.
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