What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

Content Management Systems (CMS) like Joomla and Wordpress have now become the tools of choice for creating and maintaining websites. So what exactly is a CMS, and how does it work?

Old style "Conventional" websites stored each page as single HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document, complete with content and formatting, in a similar manner to a word processing program.

Modifying those pages usually required some knowledge of an HTML editing program, and/or some understanding of HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and the ability to upload amended files to the web server. This often made anything more than very basic editing quite difficult for the uninitiated.

The rise of Content Management Systems transformed this, making it easy for non-technical website owners and editors to manage their site content.

A CMS is a software package which runs on the web server, providing a browser based interface for you to easily add and update the content of the site.

Although the final output is in HTML, same as those old conventional website, the process of generating it is different. Instead of single 'standalone' pages, the layout and formatting of the page is applied using standard templates (or themes), populated 'on demand' when a user visits a page.

A CMS has many benefits:

  • by storing text in a database it becomes much easier to add and edit content, allowing your site to grow as needed
  • it helps you organise content into a logical structure, allowing you to move it around and re-organise it as it grows without having to rebuild individual HTML pages
  • provides more control over your content: when, how, and to whom it is delivered.
  • you don't need to call on the support of your web developer to make basic changes as content can be easily managed through a simple web-based interface
  • Splitting the layout and formatting from the content makes it relatively easy to update the entire look of a site without the task of changing individual pages: change the template and the new styling is automatically applied across the entire site.

A CMS system also normally provides a framework to support and integrate more advanced functionality through additional plug-in components like e-commerce, document management, support forums, etc. into the site

If all this sounds complicated, it need not be - a good CMS provides a straightforward interface that is simple for inexperienced users to understand and use without any need to know about how the data is being processed in the background.

Some are better than others in this respect, and one of our main criteria in selecting the Joomla CMS as our first choice is its very simple and easy-to-use administration interface, which can also be configured for cater for administrators of differing levels of knowledge and experience.