What Is a CMS?

All You Need to Know About Content Management Systems

If you need to create a website for your business, event, or portfolio, you are probably hearing the word CMS pop up during your research. That’s because a CMS, or content management system, can be an important part of creating your website. In this article, we go over what a CMS is, the pros and cons of using one, and the top 3 most popular content management systems.

At Fit Small Business, we use the popular WordPress platform to run our site. Our guide on how to make a WordPress website will help you get a site like ours up and running in just a few easy steps.

Regardless of which CMS you choose, you’ll need to buy a domain and hosting before you can create a website. We recommend Bluehost, which offers a domain, hosting, and website builder for $7.99/month. However, right now you can click here to get started with Bluehost for just $2.95/month.

What is a CMS?
A CMS (Content Management System) is a computer application or set of similar programs that can be used to create or, as the name suggests, manage digital content. This is done by adding, editing, or deleting content that is to be published on a website.

What Does a CMS Allow You To Do?
Most CMS programs include web-based publishing, format management, history editing and version control, indexing, search and retrieval. By the nature of a CMS, the program supports the separation of content and presentation. CMSs are capable of creating and editing content, and allow you to administer users and assign different permissions to each.

Pros and Cons of Using a CMS
When deciding whether or not a CMS is the right fit for your website, consider the following pros and cons:

Pros

  1. Content Editing is Separate from Design
    Your content editing is separate from the design and functionality of the site, so users that aren’t technically trained can add, format and edit their content on the website without having to fiddle with design and coding.
  2. Selective Access Permissions
    Every user can have selective access permissions based on their roles, such as author, editor, contributor, administrator, etc. You can choose to allow some users to add and edit their own content while giving others universal access. This helps to maintain security since contributors can have restricted access.
  3. Speedy Updating
    Site updates are quick and effortless when using a CMS. Even when using the administrative interface, components like menus, headers, footers and sidebars can be easily (and quickly) updated.
  4. SEO-Friendliness
    CMSs are very SEO-friendly. They can include custom page titles as well as metadata and adjustable URLs. Helper plugins are also available if you want tips on how to optimize your content.
  5. The Most Popular Options Are Free
    And here’s the best part, the basic framework of most CMS programs are free. In that case, you only need to pay more for further customization options, such as a premium design or extra security.

Cons
Since we have covered the advantages of CMSes, it’s only fair that we look at the disadvantages as well.

  1. Security Risks
    There are hackers out there who could figure out how to break into the CMS platform. However, this can be avoided by taking extra security precautions, such as implementing two factor authentication.
  2. Difficulties in Design
    Design wise, it can be a challenge to transform your site into the exact way you want it. However, the correct amount of expertise and skill should be able to overcome this obstacle without much effort, though this might require extra funding on your part.
  3. Lagging Issues
    CMSs tend to store aspects of a page separately, then they assemble everything when you request a page. This could lead to some lags, but can be mitigated by using strong and effective caching.
  4. Functionality Limitations
    There are also functionality limitations. There are some processes that a CMS cannot handle without having to rewrite code. This will only affect you if you have special functionality needs. Don’t forget to look up what you need to accomplish to check its feasibility.

3 Top Content Management Systems (CMS) for Your Business
Here’s a list of 3 of the best CMS programs and how they hold up against each other.

  1. WordPress
    The first is WordPress, the most popular content management system (and what we use here at Fit Small Business). While this is primarily a blogging platform, plenty of non-blogging websites have come up from WordPress, from simple multi page brochure style sites to shops to full-fledged social networks.

In WordPress, you’ll find thousands of themes for your site, not to mention the various plugins you can use to extend your site’s functionality. It’s clear why this is a popular choice for people who want to make their own sites.

WordPress is free to download and has a huge community of developers and lots of documentation and tutorials. You can also learn how to create a WordPress website with our step-by-step tutorial. WordPress offers thousands of plugins and specialized themes, allowing you to to create almost any kind of site with its user-friendly dashboard.

Bluehost offers an easy one-click WordPress installation, and with our exclusive Fit Small Business offer, you can get started for just $2.95/ month (regularly $7.99/month). Use the domain search widget below to choose and register your domain with Bluehost.

  1. Joomla
    The next top CMS is Joomla. Prominent companies like MTV, Harvard University and IHOP use this for their websites. It’s also suitable for back end networks too. Citibank uses Joomla for just that purpose. This CMS had been used for everything from inventory control systems to your everyday run-of-the-mill websites.

With over two hundred thousand users and contributors, Joomla has a long development history as well as a very active development commission, so if you need tutorials or info, you can easily find it. If you need add-ons and plugins for this CMS, that’s also available.

However, Joomla isn’t as user friendly and does not have as high quality themes as WordPress.

  1. Drupal
    Drupal, which is another very popular CMS which has been used by a number of high profit companies including the New York Observer, Popular Science, MIT, Sony Music, Fast Company, and many others. Drupal has plenty of features for building internal and external sites as well as a ton of tools to help organize your content.

Drupal has a very active community with a number of forums, and even face to face events. There’s even community generated documentation that is constantly being improved and updated. This documentation has all you’ll need to know about installation, building sites, modules, and so much more.

Drupal can be overkill for simple sites with its large amount of features. There is also a lack of quality, free themes, so you will probably have to purchase one if you want your site to look nice. Lastly, the theme system is fairly complicated compared to the likes of Joomla and WordPress.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a theme?
A theme changes the design of your website, without messing with the mechanics of the site. A good theme will give your website a polished and clean look, that will impress your website visitors.

What is a plugin?
Plugins extend the functionality of a website. While a CMS cannot do certain things on its own, such as have a pop up display on your page, or collect email addresses from site visitors, you can download plugins with this type of functionality. Since there are thousands of plugins, your CMS has almost unlimited capabilities.

What is two factor authentication?
This gives your website an extra layer of security. By using a second factor besides your password to get into the back end of your website, you make it harder for hackers to access your site.

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