A content management system or CMS is a platform that allows users to easily manage a website’s content through a graphical interface. Also referred to as an admin panel, this interface may have many other options including themes, plugins, and user management, as well as offering tools for monitoring and promoting the site.
Many web-based CMSes use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor to allow less technical users to insert text, images, videos, and other types of content. The content will then be displayed using templates built into the website’s theme.
Themes are commonly used in CMSes to create a layout and define a basic set of functions for a site. Most platforms offer free and paid themes as well as support for custom themes.
Content management systems can be further customized by using plugins. Most plugins focus on altering a website’s functionality for a specific purpose (although you may see some design changes as well). Many platforms offer free and paid plugins that can easily be downloaded and installed from their admin panel. If your site has more specific needs a plugin can be edited or created by a skilled developer.
Most websites require a team effort to manage and sometimes your team isn’t all in one place. A CMS allows for multiple users to have admin access to a website from any location with an internet connection. They may also provide other options such as managing user roles, privileges, profiles, and groups.
A CMS is easy to use, cost effective, and highly customizable. These features make content management systems one of the most widely used types of platform to date. Whether you need an informational page or an eCommerce store the right CMS can provide a flexibility and uniqueness unmatched by other types of websites.
A couple of examples
WordPress is a very popular platform that can be used for almost any type of website. The WordPress community provides many plugins and themes and your site can be completely customized by a developer. This blog (in case you didn’t guess from the previous image) was created using WordPress and a custom theme. WordPress can be downloaded and installed in your hosting space for free.
Magento is one of the most widely used eCommerce platforms available. It is a very powerful and flexible platform using extensions and themes for customization which can be downloaded from Magento Connect or custom made by a developer skilled in CSS, PHP and XML. Magento offers a paid Enterprise Edition but also offers an open source Community Edition that can be downloaded from their website and installed on your own hosting account for free.