In modern websites, business owners are no longer limited to manually editing HTML files and knowing a fair amount of code to put new content up on their website. In the past, you would have to edit various html files individually and (hopefully) consistently to keep your website fresh with new content and images.
Then came the advent of the WYSIWYG editor – What You See is What You Get. This editor allowed webmasters to create pages in a similar way that one would create a normal MS Word document, merrily bolding and changing font sizes as they pleased. For a while this was the extent of website editing until it was integrated into software packages that started taking care of all the files and code that were used to make up websites – Content Management Systems.
Some of the major content management systems that started popping up early in the new millennium are
They all work in a similar way – organising content and displaying it consistently on a website. Our preferred CMS – WordPress – came about around the end of 2003 as a branch off of the “b2” blogging system. It has since grown into a full blown Content Management System (CMS) offering much more than just the ability to post blogs. So what exactly is a CMS?
A CMS is a framework on a web server designed to make it easy for anyone to create, update or add content to their website. This framework works very similarly to an operating system on your computer with programs such as word processors allowing you to create documents or presentations. It’s that simple! Of course there are many variations of CMS’s with varying levels of complexity but essentially, any program that makes it easy for you to create and manage content is a content management system.
Let’s take WordPress as an example to explain a CMS in a little more detail.
Once you install WordPress, you have a very easy to use tool panel or “back-end” to create and manage your content. WordPress as a program takes care of where all your content is stored when you create it and organises it for you to find it again when you need to edit it later on. It also contains all the programming to insert the content into the front-end of your website. All WordPress websites work the exact same way just as all Windows computers work with data the same way.
The framework that WordPress is built on is what is known as “Open Source” which means that anyone who is interested can contribute to the code of the framework. This also means that additional functionality can be added to the CMS via plugins. These plugins are like additional programs that you purchase for your computer to do additional tasks your operating system can’t do. For example, adding Microsoft Excel allows you to edit spreadsheets much better than MS Word would have done.
With WordPress, you can create blog posts, pages and other content types depending on your theme set up and/or plugins. This is your content. You can also upload media such as pictures and videos to your site using WordPress and access it all within the user interface.
To edit your content, WordPress provides a built-in WYSIWYG editor that saves and retrieves the content you created previously. With this editor you can change font sizes, colours, bullet points and many other features of your content – much like a word processor like Microsoft Word.
WordPress uses themes to change the look and feel of the website on top of its framework. This is sort of like changing your desktop background on an operating system except you are changing the look of almost every element. The framework underneath is the same, it is just being presented differently.
As you can see, content management systems aren’t all that complicated. They work very similarly to other systems that you have been using for a long time already – just on the web!