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Web Development – Content Management System Comparison

A web content management system is a system that allows publishing, editing, modifying content, site maintenance and the storage of html webpages from a central administration page. A good content management system should take care of the functionality of your site, leaving you free to concentrate on the design of your page and its content. In theory, using a CMS should make the web creation and administration process far easier, but many users are put off initially by the complexity of actually choosing a CMS. There are a huge number out there, and it can be difficult to know what you're looking for without prior experience. In this report, you'll find out exactly how to identify your needs and choose among the various CMS options available.

Step 1 – Analysing Your Needs

Here are some questions you'll need to ask yourself before you go about choosing a CMS ;

  • Who is going to be using the CMS?
    If you are the sole owner of your business and are going to have to be using the CMS yourself, you'll need something that you'll easily be able to use. You should look for one that's particularly easy to install and comes with good user support, because you may have to ask questions. If you have an IT department which is already pretty competent at using various computer systems, you shouldn't have to worry too much about the complexity of the system. You also need to bear in mind the number of staff who will have to have access to the CMS and ensure that your chosen system has the capacity to allow that number of users. Most good CMSs will allow you to control each individual user's access to certain data, so you don't have to worry about a disgruntled member of staff having the ability to log in and address the world from your homepage!

  • How complex are your needs?
    If you're intending to build a large website with various complicated features, you'll need a full-featured CMS. These can, of course, be more complicated to use than some of the more simplified versions designed for simpler sites. If your page is only going to be a small business website run by a team of a few people, there's no need to become embroiled in a needlessly complex system. However, if you do foresee yourself expanding and your needs becoming more complex in time, this is also an important factor to consider.

  • Is backend or frontend more important?
    The term 'backend' refers to the administrative side of a CMS, while 'frontend' is what the site viewer actually sees. While some systems focus more on design standards, and provide some really beautiful webpage templates, other content management systems are designed more on the side of simple usability and slickness of the backend system. Generally I would advise you to always privilege ease of use over design if you are a sole trader with no experience with content management systems. However, in saying that, even the most complicated of CMSs can be mastered eventually by anyone with a little bit of time and dedication. I do emphasise 'eventually,' though.

Step 2 – Organise Your Content

Because content management systems use databases, it's important that your data is organised in the form of a database before you attempt to enter it into a CMS. That means you should have categories and subcategories, and most likely even tags and abstracts for your documents, pictures and other content, so that you'll know exactly how to organise it, and it will be searchable. This can be time-consuming, but it really does make the whole process a lot easier from here on in, so organise your data well. This is the last time you should ever have to do it!

Step 3 – Features to Look For

Generally, all CMSs offer a combination of the following features ;

  • Building: A good CMS should allow you to build a site in a matter of hours, without any programming knowledge whatsoever. The interface should make this intuitive and easy to do, including any extra features you want to include. Some CMSs come with templates so that each site doesn't have to be built from scratch. These templates can also be customisable.

  • Administration: Most CMSs these days allow multiple users with different levels of privilege. The best ones allow for each individual user's privileges to be customised, and will also provide a platform for internal messaging between users.

  • Search & Organisation: Because content management systems aren't just about building websites, but also about storing all of your related content, they can involve a huge amount of data. This should be clearly organised into different categories and should be searchable.

  • Usability: A good CMS will be simple and easy to use, both in terms of its backend interface and frontend viewer experience. Its administrative interface should be clearly organised and labelled, so that you know exactly what you're doing. Users should also know exactly how to use your sites intuitively; they should be well-organised along a hierarchical structure and have an easy-to-use navigation system.

  • Collaboration: Because so many sites are now based on the idea of viewer interaction, it's important that any good CMS provide full support for this. Users should be able to comment on blogs and articles, but also most importantly, site administrators should be able to control who posts and remove any offensive posts. The best content management systems offer support for user registration, so that your viewers can become 'members' of your site.

  • Workflow: It's extremely useful to be able to have certain users whose posts have to be approved before being published. Many business owners feel uncomfortable having their employees posting directly onto their public website before being able to review it. It also means that a draft post can be send to an editor for final revision before it is posted.

  • W3C Compliance: Sites created by a reputable CMS should be fully compliant with the current standards of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Extra Features

In addition to these main features, Content Management specialist Drew McLellan, over at, has specified eight specific extra features that are important to look for in a CMS ;

  • Clean URL design
  • Data feeds
  • Data stored in open format
  • Customisable and accessible administration interface
  • Search
  • Multi-site support
  • Multi-language support
  • Caching

I would argue that data feeds, an open format, a customisable interface and a search function are the most important of these suggestions.

A data feed or RSS feed is a way of condensing your content and delivering it in a condensed version to your subscribers. Generally this is only necessary for sites that are updated frequently and whose main focus is on content, rather than on promoting a product or service. However, it's always useful for your CMS to be capable of producing a RSS feed, should it become something you want to do in the future.

Having your data stored in an open format means that it can easily be taken from your CMS and used elsewhere. It's important to remember that just choosing this CMS now doesn't mean it will be the only CMS you'll ever want to use. Technology moves at an incredibly fast rate in the world of the Internet, and even the best CMSs available now could quite easily become out of date in just a few years. If your data is stored in a format that can only be used by that specific system, you'll have a time-consuming process of file conversion ahead.

A customisable interface is a great way of removing those parts of the interface that you don't need and paring it down so that it becomes simpler and easier to use. CMS are all about ease of use, so the ability to fully customise the interface to your own needs seems essential to me.

A search function is incredibly useful if your site contains a large amount of content that you need to sift through, but even if your site is currently quite small, I'd argue that it's necessary. After all, you don't know how large your site will grow to be in time. Not having a search function means having to laboriously look through folders , which nobody likes to do.

However, choosing a CMS is an individual process and it's all about exactly what fits with the needs of your business.

Step 4 – Search the Web

Now that you have a good idea of the features available, as well as the features that you are specifically looking for, you're ready to begin your comparison of the various content management systems out there on the web. It can be an arduous task, so as a quick tip, Webdesigner Depot found that the best five CMSs are Drupal, Wordpress, Radiant CMS, Magento and Silverstripe . The most popular are Drupal, Wordpress and Joomla. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're suitable for your specific needs, so remember to look carefully at all the features available and what other users have said.

Zanity Web Design & E-Commerce

On the other hand, if you don't have the time or resources to devote to learning a complicated content management system, Zanity can deal with the creation and management of your website for you. This includes search engine optimisation, social media marketing and online reputation management. For sites that truly reflect your brand identity, contact Zanity today.

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