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What is a content management system?

Rich Dean, Creative Director

By Rich Dean on

Supersonic Playground Ltd

The majority of websites online today use some sort of content management system (CMS). If fact, it’s fair so say that a content management system forms the backbone of any successful website, but many business owners are unfamiliar with what they are and what amazing benefits they can bring to their businesses. Get the content management system right, and it can make managing your website a pleasure. Get it wrong and it can make a website unusable.

While this article is not meant to be a definitive guide, it is intended to give anyone with little or no knowledge of content management systems enough information to make an informed choice.

How they came about

To get started, it’s worth taking a little trip down memory lane to see how and why content management systems came about. In the early days of web design, websites were mostly ‘static’, in that the site’s pages were coded entirely by hand by the web designer or developer. This was great for small websites, but it created problems when it came to scale. Having lots of repetitive elements that were entirely created by hand led to errors and inconsistencies, and also made the site impossible to maintain. And as web pages need to be created using specific coding languages that pretty much only web developers understand, this meant that every time the website’s owner wanted to create new content, they had to employ the web designer instead of being able to do it themselves. All in all, it was a pretty inefficient process.

“A content management system is layer between the website and the website’s owner”

Content management systems were designed to not only give the website’s owner control, but also to save the sanity of the web designer. Put simply, a content management system is layer between the website and the website’s owner to allow them to publish content themselves.

How they work

With a content management system, instead of hand coding entire pages, the web designer creates a series of front-end templates that connect to the content management system. The website owner logs in to a user-friendly interface akin to Microsoft Word to create the content. As well as storing the content in a database, the content management system injects the content straight into the front-end templates to create the website’s pages dynamically.

With nearly 20 years of development, content management systems are now highly evolved and capable of handling even the most demanding of tasks. For beginners, there are basic CMSs that provide an ultra low barrier of entry and allow you to get a site up and running in minutes by using pre-existing themes. For more advanced requirements, there are feature-rich and robust systems that are designed for enterprise-level scalability and bespoke functionality. Below are some of our picks from the best of both camps.

Best CMSs for beinners

  2. Squarespace
  3. Tumblr
  4. Blogger
  5. Wix

Best CMSs for advanced users

  2. Joomla
  3. Magento
  4. Expression Engine
  5. Drupal

At Supersonic Playground, our CMS of choice is WordPress. We love it! WordPress is one of the most widely supported content management systems and the most popular blogging platform in the world, with an estimated 60 million websites built on it.

But it’s far more than a just a blogging tool. While it’s great for beginners, it also offers an amazing level of flexibility and customisation with highly advanced features. We choose WordPress because it allows us to design bespoke solutions that are tailored to our client’s needs, and for the client, it has an interface that’s intuitive and super easy to use, so it really is a win-win all round!

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