What is a Content Management System?

The vast majority of websites you visit these days are built using a content management system. They use anything from WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and more to create websites and display content. And if you’re in the market for a new website, you’re probably going be using a content management system. So let’s talk about CMSs.

Content management systems have been a game changer on the internet in the last 15 years or so.

CMSs have allowed millions of people to create and manage their own websites without having to write any code. My own website is even built with one of the most popular CMSs: WordPress. And there’s a good chance that every site you visit today is run by a CMS.

So, if you’re looking to build a new website, the chances are pretty high that your website will be built with a CMS.

Over the next couple of videos, we’re going to take a look at a few of the major players in the CMS world: WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. We’ll look at the pros and cons to help you figure out which one will work for you.

But first we need to know what exactly is a content management system. So let’s get started.

What are content management systems?

So what exactly is a content management system anyway? According to Kinsta, a content management system is “software that helps users create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need for specialized technical knowledge.”

In short, CMSs help you build websites without having to write any code. Between creating and utilizing a database on your webhost and displaying that content using PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript, CMSs really do all of the work for you.

Basically with a CMS, you can pick different themes, add plugins to extend the functionality and even change up the menus. And for the content, you would do what you normally would do with a word document and then hit publish.

Obviously, things can get fairly complicated if you want them to. But at its core, a content management system makes it so much easier for you to build a website.

How they can help you and your business

So you’re probably wondering now how can a content management system help out your business?

Well as we’ve talked about, it really makes it easier to build a website. WordPress used to be famous for its “five minute install” so you could set it up on your web host and have it running in five minutes. And today, that’s even quicker with all of the tools web hosts now offer you.

Plus, you don’t need to worry about code really. You can create a website without touching HTML or CSS or PHP or JavaScript. Instead, you just need to be worried about the content. You can create posts and pages, hit publish and see them right there on the website without having to touch any code. It worries about the code; you worry about the content. Hence the name content management system.

Also, many CMS have plugins that can turn your website into an online store. WordPress has WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and many other ecommerce plugins, and I know the same is true for Drupal and Joomla. You can theoretically have an online store in under 15 minutes.

And because the code most CMSs are open source, when you download that code for that CMS, you “own” the code. That means you can take it wherever you want. You can switch web hosts at some point and it will still run fine, assuming you do other things correctly. That gives you a leg up over places like Wix and Squarespace. You truly own your website, which is so important if it’s the lifeblood for your business.

What about Wix/Squarespace?

So at the beginning of this video, I mentioned some of the most popular content management systems out there. But you’re probably wondering why I didn’t mention Wix or Squarespace.

The fact of the matter is that those aren’t exactly content management systems, or at least the ones we’re talking about. They’re more like website builders, where you build out each page as opposed to worrying about templates. They might have some sort of, like, blogging platform, but it’s usually a little bit less robust than the normal CMSs.

We’ll talk about them a bit more towards the end of the series, but I do have a few words of caution about Wix and Squarespace. They might be a good idea if you’re just starting your business and need a cheap website just to get your name out there. But if you’re looking to do anything bigger than that, I really suggest looking at getting your own website and using one of these CMSs.

What to look for in each CMS

As we go through each of the content management systems, I want you to look out for a few things might help you decide which one is right for your business.

First, make sure that the CMS easy-ish for you to use. After all If you can’t use one, then the CMS is kind of pointless. The point of a CMS is to make it easier for you to manage a website. So you should be able to use it with a couple of tutorial videos at the most.

Next, look to see what extensions there are for it. Are there plugins and themes that can help you extend the CMSs functionality? Can you add on to what it already does? You are going to want to make sure your website stands out from the crowd. So make sure you can do it with the CMS. You probably can.

Finally, I would highly recommend that you look around at the community around the CMS. All of the CMSs we’re going to look at in the next few videos are open source. That means, sort of in general terms, that they are built by the community. So look to see if there is a strong community and if it’s one you would like to be a part of.

What’s next?

So what’s next? Well, we’ll go through WordPress, Drupal and Joomla and see what they’re all about. We’ll see what features they have, what they do well, what they struggle with and how they can help your business. As I mentioned before, we’ll also talk about Wix and Squarespace, just to see what they’re all about. Then we’ll figure out which one works the best for your business.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about this, feel free to leave them in comments or reach out on social media. If you’re looking for more information about websites for small business, check out my website. There I have a host of blog posts, videos and other resources about topics that can help you, your business and your website.

So let’s talk about content management systems and find the right one for you.

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