07 Feb, 2013

What is a CMS website?

If you're looking for a website for business or personal use then you will have no doubt come across the term Content Management System (CMS) website. So what is a CMS website? And what does Open Source or Proprietary mean?

A CMS website is a site that has been built using software that allows you, the client and owner of the website, to keep the content up-to-date without needing a website developer to update it for you. For example, if you decide you need to urgently update your website content online, and want to do it at 1am in the morning, then rather than risk the wrath of your website company by ringing them at said hour, you (or your staff) can make the changes and they'll be live on your website before your developer is even awake.

Open Source CMS such as Drupal™ or Joomla™ are developed openly in the software community and the modules are available for free use, there are no purchase costs or ongoing licence fees. The cost for creating a website using Open Source software comes from the time it takes the developer to assemble the modules, add a design and integrate any other functionality required.

Proprietary CMS has been developed specifically by software developers to be sold/licensed to clients. So there are normally purchase costs and/or licence fees for the continuing use of the software for your website. If you want to move to a different development company then it's usually unlikely that they will have the skills needed to work on proprietary CMS, or the permission to do so, which does mean you're somewhat locked into staying with the developer who created the CMS website initially.

Websites built using a Content Management System e.g. Drupal™ or Joomla™ need to be built by an expert in that discipline. Built correctly, by a competent developer experienced in the particular system you have chosen, this type of website can be as simple or complex as required.

Some developers only offer template CMS sites, while others will completely customise the build/functionality to suit your specific needs, including custom graphic design. You will need to decide what you want before you choose your developer, then make sure that he/she has the skills you need before giving them your project.

If you choose Open Source CMS you also don't need to be worried that you will be locked into using a particular CMS development company for the life of the website either, any competent developer in the particular discipline will be able to pick up the existing code and make changes, always assuming that a competent developer built it in the first place. Therefore, make sure any developer you intend to use has a portfolio of CMS websites for you to view that are currently live and in use.

With a CMS website you will be able to do almost all the content updates, including adding new pages and text/product changes yourself, using a simple web browser interface. The updating functionality is something that you should identify with your developer at the specification stage, making sure they understand exactly how much of the content you want to control, and thereby avoiding any nasty surprises once the project is completed.

We specialise in Drupal™ Open Source CMS websites, so if you have a project and you want to control the content yourself, why not contact us to discuss how a CMS website can work for you and your business.