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What is a content management system and Why do i need one?

By Polly Nelson
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2004

This article introduces content management systems and gives an overview of their features and benefits. It should be read by anyone unsure of quite what a CMS can do for them.

What is a CMS?
A content management system is a piece of software that allows you to edit the content on your website without having any web design skills.

In the first instance, a web designer creates a series of CMS templates which your pages are dropped into. You then use a simple interface to add, edit or delete the content on your pages. You can also quickly and easily create new pages yourself.

Why do I need one?
There are obvious benefits to installing a CMS. Your website need not change in style at all: it can simply be re-created in the CMS. You can then update it yourself as often as you like, without the need to call a web design company and pay for the changes each time.

If you update your website on a regular basis, and do not currently use a CMS, you could save a lot of time and money by implementing one. If you do not yet have a website and are about to have one developed, you should think very carefully about what you will be using it for. To stay competitive in this day and age, websites need to be far more than a static brochure. If you think you will be updating your content more than a couple of times each month, creating your website using a CMS is highly recommended.

If you do not update your website at all, you should be asking yourself whether you ought to start. If your customers see the same thing each time they visit your website, they will quickly stop visiting. A CMS will allow you to quickly and easily transform your website into an interesting and dynamic marketing tool.

What features do they offer?
A huge variety. Most CMS' are available in a few different versions with differing levels of functionality. Obviously the ability to update content is shared by all systems, but some other features that CMS' can offer are: access rights management and content approval; dual or multi-lingual functionality; dynamic site maps; e-commerce; email alerts; form creation and management; image optimisation and processing; meta-tag updating; search functionality; site security; standards and accessibility compliance; statistical reports; versioning...

This is not an exhaustive list and not all CMS' will offer the above features. However with such a wide variety of systems available, you should ensure you take some time to find the one that is right for your business.

What about pricing?
This will largely depend on the size of your website, the number of users that will be updating it through the CMS and the amount of functionality you require.

As a (very) rough pricing guide; CMS' suitable for SME's range from as little as £350 per user to as much as £30,000. For larger businesses, enterprise level CMS' start at around £30,000 and go right up to around £250,000.

With such a huge variety of systems and pricing; it is highly recommended that you look around and get some advice before purchasing one.

Where can I get one?
You can get in touch with the CMS supplier if you know which is right for you. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a software company or consultant such as us - we'll be happy to advise you on the best way forward. Happy updating...

This article is copyright Fire Without Smoke Software 2003. Permission must be sought from ( or for any reproduction.
About the Author
Polly is the research director for Fire Without Smoke Software Ltd (FWOSS).


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