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Content Management Software, What does a CMS do?

Gravatar Image by Matthew Pearson

Many cms software reviews miss out one fundamental point. That is defining what a CMS system does! It is important that you understand the scope of what these systems do so that you can have an informed discussion with your CMS developers about what you need. Which is the purpose of this series of posts.

Some people assume that a CMS does an awful lot, they often can, but they may need tailoring and configuring to do those extra tasks.

CMS Basics

CMS software is created to allow a user or users to administer textual, image and other content. A content management system doesn’t necessarily update a website, it could push information out to printed media, pdf’s, mobile apps and retail shop tills. Our focus here will be on content management tools that push information out to websites, tablet and mobile apps or sites.

Content Types

At the heart of a CMS are content types, these could be of type blog post or perhaps new article. Content types are the building blocks of the content that you push out onto the web (publish). You may need quite bespoke content types to feature your products and services. So it’s worth considering what content information you want to publish.

Publishing Process or Workflow

One of the next important elements of a CMS is the publishing process. A system will provide you with a publishing workflow ( I'll be writing about this in more detail in a forth coming part of this series) to allow you to create a new content item (from one of your content types), add, save and publish content. Within this workflow it is often possible to save part complete work without having to publish it. Logically you can also unpublish content when it is no longer required and delete old content items.

Content Hierarchy - Categorization

The last core element of content management software is some sort of categorization or grouping of content items. These may be categories or some form of navigation. Often some sort of customization of categories within a CMS is required to suit a particular application.

A Blog is a good, well know example of a CMS. Yet it is a very specific implementation of a content management system. It is a type of CMS that allows a user (often a single person) to create Blog Posts. Blog Posts are the standard content type of a Blog.  These are saved and published into a list of Blog Posts, the category.

So to be clear a Blog is not a CMS in itself, it is a particular type or implementation of a CMS. A particular blogging tool may be very popular but won’t necessarily be the right CMS for your business. To work out what best suits your business you need to first understand the key elements of a CMS. For this reason I wanted to clarify the core elements Content Types, Workflow and Categorisation up front!

The next article in the series outlines some of the things a CMS does not do. This may seem a little odd, but I often find that people think a CMS is a store, a learning tool etc etc. The next article is a leveller, it sets some boundaries so we have a clear understanding, before we get into the bigger subject of selection criteria.

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