What Is a CMS?

As mentioned previously, a content management system (CMS) is a software system that enables you to create, edit, and different types of documents These documents can include data files, audio/video files, image files, and most other forms of web content A CMS not only helps manage all this content (without requiring any technical knowledge of HTML) but it also defines different groups of users, each with different roles and responsibilities The idea is that more than one person in an organization can contribute to creating, editing, and managing content, whereas normal visitors are given limited access privileges— usually just permission to view the content In short, you can make an easily maintainable web site with the help of a CMS in which creating, editing, and managing content are simple tasks

In a CMS, the whole of the web site is contained within a database All links, articles, user information, images, and other parts of the web site are maintained by the administrator using that database This talk of databases may sound a bit scary, but all the web site maintenance is carried out using the Administrator interface—a user-friendly, menu-driven system that makes the task of updating or managing the content of the web site very easy The Administrator interface is accessed through the web browser and is simple to operate All the changes that you make in the Administrator interface are reflected in the database in which the content of the web site is kept

Making a web site from scratch is usually a time-consuming task that requires expertise to develop all the individual site parts The processes of coding and integrating these different parts are highly error-prone, and thorough testing procedures are needed before new parts can be added to a web site In a traditional web application, you might have several different criteria for modules that you want to add to your site, such as the following:

  • Login system: Provides a means of authenticating a user
  • Account Creation module: Provides users with a form to enter information, which is then stored in a database for future use
  • Forgotten Password module: Helps users who have forgotten their password or user ID
  • Popular module: Displays popular web site content or services
  • Banner module: Displays client’s banner for advertisement purpose
  • RSS Feed module: Syndicates the web site for others to read
  • Feed Reader module: Enables reading of RSS feeds from different web sites
  • Search box: Enables users to search web site content
  • Multilingual module: Makes it possible to implement multilingual facilities in a web site
  • Granting-and-Revoking-Permission module: Facilitates assigning permissions to users to allow them to view (or block them from viewing) certain information

In a CMS system, all these modules are already built for you and are easy to add to an existing site You just need to configure them and decide on their position and appearance in your web site Creating a web site is thus very easy—you can have it ready in a couple of hours Also, maintaining the content of the web site doesn’t take much effort; the configuration of the modules provided by a CMS and maintenance of the web content is all done with the easy-to-use Administrator interface

Why Are CMSs So Popular?

There are many reasons why people choose to use a CMS rather than creating a site from scratch in code, but I’ll run through a couple of the big ones You will always need to update your website to keep viewers returning to it, and a CMS makes this very easy For example, you may need to do the following:

  • Deliver new articles or information about your organization to visitors
  • Inform readers about any forthcoming events
  • Introduce new services or products

Besides this easy and quick updating, you might also need to add some extra features that do the following:

  • Allow users to sign up on your web site with different privileges
  • Add a shopping cart module
  • Add multilingual support to your web site
  • Apply different dynamic styles to your web site
  • Add a third-party module to provide extra features such as Google Maps or a search box

To deal with natural demands of webmasters, CMSs appear as helping hands because they store all the contents of the web site in a database and enable the webmaster to manipulate the database contents with an easy-to-operate, browser-driven Administrator interface So, in simple terms, using a CMS is a way to manage the content of a web site with the click of a mouse button instead of hours spent typing in code

CMSs are popular because they separate the web content from the presentation As a consequence, the content developer can concentrate on creating that content, and web designers can focus on giving that content a dynamic appearance by applying different templates (or developing their own custom templates) without interfering with each other Hence, the content development and presentation process can proceed simultaneously in a CMS

Note To compare the available CMSs and to determine which is best for your situation, see wwwcmsmatrixorg/

Source: Harwani B M (2015), Foundations of Joomla!, Apress; 2nd ed edition

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