What is a Content Management System?

What is a Content Management System?

A Content Management System Primer

"Content Management System" is a catchphrase that's still catching some serious wind out there on the web, but not everybody understands what it is or why someone would want one. This short article will help you wrap your mind around the concept of a content management system.

To Understand "Content Management System", You Should Understand Content

"Content", in terms of the internet, consists of information of some sort. This information can be visual, audible, or textual. News articles, photographs, movies, and radio shows are all forms of content.

Where Does the "Management System" Come In?

Content on the web can be "managed" by simply constructing web pages by hand or with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web page editor and uploading it them to web sites. When a web page needs to be altered in some way, you just open up the web page file, add the changes, and upload the new file.

But, when you start trying to manage a lot of content that way, mistakes and inconsistencies between pages will start to creep in. Also, it takes a significant amount of open up your web page editor, find the file you're looking for, change it, save it and upload it. It may not seem like much effort when you're working with just a few pages, but imagine working with thousands of pages that way.

A Quick Definition of Content Management System

The Definition of a Content Management System

A content management system is a software tool used to manage content through an interface layer. In practical terms, this means that instead of going through the process above to manage web page content, instead you would visit your web site, click a link to the content you're looking for, edit the content via a simple form, and click another button to save the changes.

Following are some of the benefits of using a content management system:

Index creation is automated with a content management system

The meaning of an index here is a list of hyperlinks to pages with related content. For instance, you can have an index of news articles or blog entries. Such indexes are usually used to help visitors navigate or browse through a web site.

If you don't use a content management system, every time you add content, you also have to alter the index. If the index is created as a static page, then you also can't give visitors the option of searching the index or ordering it in different ways (like by date added or alphabetical order). With a content management system, an index can be created automatically, erasing the potential for mistakes and saving time.

You can use a content management system to populate templates

Sounds boring, but this is a really useful tool. Imagine you have 100 articles - a reasonable number - and each one is a separate web page file. You can use tools like "includes" to manage the layout of all the pages, but what if you need to make structural changes to the page. For instance, you need to add in a new meta tag to all of the articles for indexing purposes?

Without a content management system, you would have to open, edit and save every file, upload them, and hope you didn't make any mistakes. If you did use a content management system, you would only have to edit a single web page. Have over a 1000 articles? You'd still only have to alter that one page. Sweet, huh?


I discussed just a couple of good uses for content management systems in this article, but there are many, many more. I use them in nearly every web site I build, simply because they make content management much easier and cleaner. If you have more than a few of the same type of page on your web site (articles, news, jobs, etc.) then consider using a content management system in your site site.

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