What's a CMS?

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safariI remember years ago, a friend asked if I could help setup a web site. "Sure." I said. We put together a few static pages like you would a 5 page brochure. I think he bought me lunch in return.

Then the menu needed changed. Well this stinks," I thought. "Now I have to go through and change the menu on every page." Sure enough, I went through and made the change on every page.

Then I got smarter. I created 1 menu and included it on every page. But there was still a lot of leg work involved if something needed changed. How do I shorten the leg work?

Then my friend wanted to make changes and didn't want to bother me. So I gave him the FTP access. But he called frantic one day as the whole site didn't work. It was a misplaced semicolon in the code. How do I allow changes where a misplaced semicolon can shutdown the entire site?

Then my friend wanted a redesign. "Your kidding me," I thought. I have to go through redesign everything and then re-insert all the text and pictures. Again, a lot of work and I hadn't received a free lunch in quite some time. How do I redesign everything but not have to re-insert everything?

A CMS or content mangement system takes care of all of the questions above. Some people call it a WCMS or web content management system.

One big idea here is to separate out the design of the site with the content of the site.

This has great effects. I can make changes to the menu and it is automatically done on the whole site with little work. The CMS system does the work for me.

My friend can now edit his own content without bothering me. I don't have to worry about him accidentally shutting down the site with misplaced code. The CMS system does the work for me.

I can now redesign the site and the content remains unchanged. The CMS system does the work for me.

If any of the above sounds familiar, imagine what it would be like if your web site was on a CMS. All of the above would be easy. Your whole company could make changes to the web site with little to no technical training.

This is just a short explanation of what a CMS can do. Although I'm done with the free lunches. I learned my lesson on that one too!