You know, I may be relatively new to Portland, but I get around a fair bit -- board meetings, networking events, and all sorts of meetings with clients and potential clients. It's neat to see where everyone's at in terms of their internet marketing and web presences (and, believe me, it ranges vastly!).
But, more than ever, people seem universally interested in Content Management Systems (CMSs). A CMS is, well, exactly what it sounds like -- a web-based system to help you manage your content. You've almost certainly heard of the most widely known CMS -- Wordpress. But, there are many, many others as well. For example, have you heard names like Drupal or Joomla? Yep, those are CMSs, too! (This site contains many, many articles on the Joomla! CMS -- our preferred one ehre at Marketing Portland.)
In a nutshell, just think of CMSs as web-based tools to help you author your own web site rather easily, without necessarily having to hire a full-time webmaster, and without having to know HTML, advanced coding, or even design. All of those aspects of your site are modularized with the CMS approach... For the HTML and design work, you just select a template designed by someone else (or design your own). The code part is all in the CMS itself.
From there, you enter content into what looks like a web-based form (and, by "form," I just mean the same way you enter text on other web sites). For a blog, for example, you would just type in a title, and then type in some text. Hit the Publish button, and suddenly a new blog article appears. Maybe you want to have different categories or different authors? No problem. Those sorts of things are all covered in your CMS control panel. And, of course, you can do things like edit old posts / articles / web pages, delete them, schedule them for later publication, add "tags", and on and on... They're actually pretty great tools!
In this post, I'll describe some reasons you may, and may not, want to have a CMS. For most people these days, you probably DO want a CMS. But, in my mind, I tend to view CMSs in three ways:
First, there is the Wordpress / Drupal / Joomla model. This is the most prevalent these days. Also included in this category would be some of the more obscure CMSs -- such as DasBlog, DotNetNuke, or the late up-and-comer Concrete5. This site was originally hosted on a Windows server, and ran the DasBlog engine for quite some time! (We've long since been on the Joomla CMS, though.)
Next up are the custom-developed CMSs. We actually run into these sorts of things from time to time (and have done a number of them ourselves as well). While the open-source CMSs discussed above are nice, they generally do need to cater to the masses, which can lead to quite a lot of code and, arguably, some unneeded complexity. (For example, one criticism I read somewhere compared Joomla to "swatting flies with a baseball bat." And, as critical as that sounds, it's true that clients need to sit down with their web gurus and discuss their needs before said guru can recommend a fitting solution. If you've got a four-page web site, my recommendation will almost certainly be different than if you've got a 2,000-page site.) In any case, custom-developed CMSs can range from elegant solutions to absolute messes. It all depends on who develops the site, and how well they commented their code. In some situations, it's easy to step in and take over. In others, it's almost better to scrap the whole site and begin again. (If you're not a programmer, it's not worth all of the time it would take me to get into the horror stories. If you ARE a programmer, then you're probably just sitting there nodding.)
Finally, there is the no-CMS option, which either means an old-school web site using just static HTML (yes, some people still use this model), or maybe an HTML site with some basic dynamic content (meaning, generated or pulled from a database), but no real CMS-styled interface anywhere. With these sites, there is no MS for the C, if you follow -- that is, there is no easy, web-based Management System with which you may control your Content. Unless of course you know how to run an HTML editing program and can manage to pull files from a server and get them back where they belong. You know, in an odd way, I sometimes miss doing sites like this. It just seems a little more freeing to not have to start with anyone else's framework design- or code-wise. And, it seems a little more artisan-like in some ways, as well. (Believe it or not, I tried pitching a static site to a Drupal user as recently as 2011, in fact. I thought it might be seen as a novelty and, somehow, Portland-esque. But they hated the idea. LOL.)
NOTE: This is now a fairly old article here on Marketing Portland. We recommend reading more of recent posts on Joomla, as we have since taken on this particular CMS as a specialty.