What’s a CMS? And Why Should I Care?
If you’re looking for ways to build or manage a website then you should definitely consider using a content management system (CMS) – especially if you’re a beginner! A CMS is a simple and convenient tool for building a website and managing its content.
The content is just the editable stuff on a web page that is put into the templates. Content primarily includes images, text, videos and files. The content of this blog post would be this description you’re reading, the video, images and anything else that’s in this web page’s template.
A CMS allows you to manage the content of a webpage or entire website. You can use ‘WYSIWIG’ editors (what you see is what you get) to delete, update or change existing content, like the wording of a web page, the images or files on it; or you can use it to create new content, such as web pages or blog posts.
The system is the nuts and bolts behind the scenes that enables the functionality of the CMS and changes to be processed. New changes using the CMS will need to be published in order to go live on the web. Beginners don’t really need to know this part in detail, but a CMS is like a tripod – take one leg away and it will fall.
It Makes Life Much Easier
As a web developer myself, I wish I’d have known about using a CMS to do all the hard work for me! What beginners should know is what headache is being saved.
Making Changes Are Easy
In order to change something – like editing the text on a webpage – all you’d need to do is:
- Log into your dashboard (yoursite.com/wp-admin if you use WordPress)
- Find the page to edit
- Edit the page using the visual interface
- Click save
If you’re a web developer like me, I would have to:
- Open an IDE (that displays website coding)
- Find the file to edit
- Trawl through thousands of lines of code to find what needs changing
- Make the change
- Save the file
And that doesn’t even include publishing the changes…
Publishing Changes Are Even Easier!
Publishing – or making your change go live on the internet – is a time-consuming nightmare for web developers who don’t use a CMS. Beginners who use a CMS can simply click the publish button on most CMS’s like WordPress.
For web developers to publish edited files to a website, they’d need to:
- Download an FTP client (like FileZilla)
- Install the FTP client
- Create FTP login details from their web hosting provider (to access the web server)
- Open the FTP client program
- Log into the web server
- Find the files to upload to the server from their local machine
- Navigate to the directories on the server where the files should be uploaded to
- Upload the files
So Why Bother?
You may be thinking why do web developers sometimes not use CMS’ and go through the hard way of uploading files using an FTP client? The answer is that it really depends on the website in question: if it needs advanced designs and functionality or is a website that’s not often changed, a CMS may not be necessary. But if it’s regularly changed, a CMS is likely to be used.
Take my website for example. I have a blog and a main website. I use the WordPress CMS to manage my blog having configured my custom stylesheets rather than using a pre-built theme, and use an IDE and FTP client to manage and control my main website.
But A CMS Can Be Limiting
Beginners should know that using a CMS to build a website from scratch may require choosing a pre-built template and just replacing the content with their own. Making a website look exactly the way you’d personally want it to to the fine pixel requires coding knowledge.
But with thousands of templates to choose from with libraries satisfying the needs of almost everyone, this is rarely a problem. And new website owners who want additional functionality can use plugins to achieve this – for instance, if you wanted to add social sharing buttons, or an email signup form, or contact form to your CMS website, a plugin can be easily and freely downloaded to provide this functionality.
So Should I Use A CMS?
In my humble opinion, in most cases I would advise using a CMS, especially if you’re a beginner. To summarise, use a CMS if:
- You’re a beginner: you can build and manage a website without learning to code!
- You’re on a low budget: if you don’t want to spend much money then using a CMS will achieve a low cost
- You want control: avoid paying a developer to change or add new content when you can just do it yourself whenever you want for free
- If your site isn’t complicated: if you don’t need special advanced functionality tailored to your business then a CMS will be more than adequate
Remember that adhering to web principles is more important than having a technically advanced website. Search engines like Google promote quality content over almost everything!
What’s The Best CMS?
The best CMS software depends on your personal preferences. You could use:
I’d personally recommend WordPress due to it’s beginner friendliness and intuitive interface. If you don’t know what to use, you could watch my video tutorials about how to use a CMS to build a website.
The main points you should take away are as follows:
- There is no 1 best way to building a website
- Using a CMS may actually be much better than paying a developer to make a website, as long as you’re smart
- Quality, not quantity! The reason blogs tend to do well is because the authors focus on the quality of the content, which search engines love
- Adhere to the principles – they stay the same! Learn how to create good quality content
- Using a CMS is very easy
Thanks for Reading
Thanks so much for reading this entire article! I hope it gives you a good insight into whether or not you should use a CMS.
If you’re serious about using a CMS, why not grab my free CMS guide that explains everything you need to know about website building and using a CMS? It contains video tutorials and I’ll also give you a checklist.
It would be great for you to comment so I can find out if you found this helpful, or if you have any pointers. Please share this article so others can be guided by it.