Published On :20 July,2012
What is a Content Management System (CMS)?
A 'Content Managemnet System' or CMS is actually a software, which is used for manipulating attributes like text, audio, images on a website. The primary aim of a Content Management System is to offer a systematic medium using which HTML pages can be maintained and distributed for effective viewing. Every CMS is backed with a database that offers important tools necessary for the development of a website. For instance, plug-ins for providing shopping carts on e-commerce portals, banner advertising, opinion polls, news letters and many more.
There are two basic types of CMS available that are Open source CMS and Proprietary/Enterprise/Commercial CMS.
Open source CMS are software that are available to the user for free and the source code can be altered by the user as per his will and needs. The only reason why such tools are preferred or even exist is due to support from large communities who check for bugs, add new features, updates to it. On the otherhand, a Commercial CMS is pretty much similar to that of an Open source except the facts that it is not available for free, which is why you will have to buy it and you cannot access the source code.
Essential Features Of An Effective CMS
The CMS market is expanding at a rate which can not be calculated without a possible hitch and this growth is leading to increased expectation and stiff competition in the market, the result of which will be increase in the number of options available to the end-user. With the culmination of next-gen portals like Wikis, forums and other blogs, there has been a huge shift in the paradigm of website functionality and navigation. Corporates today don't wish to own a sales promotion website rather they wish for is a website that can indulge a customer and assist in retaining him. Situations were a bit tough ten years ago as there were ample web projects, but there were not many options to go with when it comes to choosing an appropriate CMS.
From A Consultants Point Of View
Let me tell you some 'good to knows' compiled from my own experience and knowledge. If you are dealing with a website that is catering enormous information to a wide range of audience then, WordPress is your best bet. However, if you are planning a product catalog, which later on maybe converted into an E-commerce portal then you should go for Magento or OS Commerce. If your e-commerce platform will feature multiple stores then Magento is a better option. If you are in plans for Classifieds then E-Classified is for you, whereas forms is best with PHP-BB.
How Do We Choose An Open Source CMS?
Now, coming to business let me list down some important points that can help you decide the perfect open source CMS for your website:
Functionality To The Core
Many of my counterparts and people around me think of CMS as a tool that can assist them in creating, editing, deleting and to some extent organizing web pages as per will. Considering all Content management systems can do this, the core functionality aspect is purely taken for granted by them! Well, it's high time you wake up because such sheer functionality, that too in an instinctual manner is not guaranteed. If you don't believe me then you are free to browse for blogs that categorize posts based on dates and categories automatically, instead of allowing the owner to manage his posts himself. To some this type of functionality can be simple and effective but to some avid bloggers such functionality is another reason to get frustrated.
The 'Editor' Within
'Editor' is like a window through which a content on the website is amended or edited however, I feel that Editors are also one of the most ill-conceived features within a content management system. Majority of the open source CMS we have today have a WYSIWYG editor, which allows to format content using basic features like font, color etc. However, with time people have moved on to better practices that has assisted in saving both the quality of the website design and content.
There were two major issues with WYSIWYG editor and the first one was about offering too much power or liberty to the content provider to alter the design as per his will. Repeated changes to the appearance of the web page resulted in undermining of the web page design and brand consistency. The second issue was that the level of design control offered to the content provider will result in the CMS mixing design and content altogether.
However, modern editors allow users to decide on marking-up elements like headings, links, lists etc. without deciding on how should they appear on their web page. Go for a similar editor or any other CMS solution that does not offer the user the liberty to decide the appearance of the web page. One should also make sure that the editor of the CMS is able to manage additional features like images, downloadable files.
Internet is a collection of networks, networks that have millions of websites and all these websites have one major factor in common, the 'Search' box. Major set of users visiting a given website prefer to search the content using the search box, which sadly many of the CMS fail to offer. Here are certain important parameters to consider while assessing search functionality in a CMS:
When the number of content providers on a website increase, so does your responsibility as a website owner to manage them. This means you will require a content management system that supports permission over who can edit the content and who cannot. However, the level of permission you wish to impart need to be specified, for instance whether a user is permitted to edit an entire page or certain sections. If you have more than one member who manage the content on the site then, you will be needing a CMS that support 'multiple roles'. In case of much larger level enterprise, one will need a CMS that consists of a series of checkpoints or gateways to make sure that the update is approved before going live.
Presentation is an aspect that defines the customization of your website content, which in my opinion should never be driven and dictated by technology itself. I have seen users discussing their atrocious experience concerning the inflexible presentation that the CMS offered. The main reason behind such mishap is that certain CMS developers adopt improper methodology to create systems that produce abhorrent codes. Such mistakes and improper practices affect accessibility and flexibility of the way in which the CMS presents and retrieves the content.
Increased User Interaction
User interaction or feedback is considered to be one of the major stepping stones towards success and also one of the major paradigm that supports constant improvement. This is why one should make sure that his CMS offers such functionality or support the plug-ins that offer such functionality. Some of the major functionality required for hosting public interaction include forums, ratings and comment section. You will have to make sure you CMS supports all of these! Besides that, you will also have to think about the tools offered by the CMS that will help you in communicating with customers. These would also include managing user accounts on the website, reset passwords and also managing user information.
Multi-Tasking & Multilingual System
Evolution is an ongoing anomaly and also a process that can never be predicted, which is why having a CMS that can manage more than one website at the same time is just what you need. Flexibility is always an added advantage, especially if you wish to target a much wider audience. Similarly, Internet is a global phenomenon in which you may be targeting a domestic region at times, which is why you need a CMS that supports the respective language specific product. Of course, society is not a single concept but a multicultural host, which is why multilingual feature will offer you a thick edge over others.
The above-mentioned features will prove to be a great support in your decision making however, you should also take into account important issues like Support, licensing, training, security etc. Moreover, like I mentioned before future is something highly unpredictable and unaccountable, which is why you should consider you business mission and vision before going for a particular open source CMS.
Maneet Puri at present is a Web Consultant and CEO of Lexolution IT Services. With an impressive technical background he has been offering dynamic software solutions to clients all around the globe. His area of expertise include Software Consulting, Custom CMS Development, Database Modeling and deploying applications specifically tailored for the needs for his clients.