Content Management System (CMS) Basics
A website builder is software that enables someone with no computer programming
knowledge and no website design skills to be able to create a website with a look
and content tailored just for that person. The heart of any website builder is a
content management system, or CMS.
A website can be created without a content management system (CMS). In fact, most
small websites don't use a CMS. A website developer defines a web page by typing
the content — the words that are to appear on the web page — in a text
file. The developer applies tags — special sequences of characters —
throughout the file to provide the desired formatting. The formatting can be effects
such as adding bold or italics to text. This non-CMS approach to creating a website
is fine and dandy for a very small website that is meant to be static. A static
website is one that doesn't change. Once the look and content of the site is established,
the site is basically "done." If at a later date the website owner does want changes
to the site, making those changes can be time-consuming. The website owner needs
to manually edit the files that make up the website pages, typing in additions and
corrections, and making sure that any changes don't negatively affect the layout,
or look, of the site.
The purpose of a content management system is to make the initial creation of a
website easy, and to make future changes and additions to the website easy as well.
The CMS consists of an administration area that is a number of pages of the website
where the website owner can add, remove, or change the text and graphics that serve
as the content of the rest of the website. The website owner uses a username and
password to log in to the administration area (so that no one else can make changes
to his or her website), and then chooses a website page to work on. To add a paragraph
of text, the website owner simply types text in a text box. To add a graphic image,
the website owner simply clicks an Upload button to upload a graphic file from his
or her computer to the website.
To the website owner a CMS appears to be one thing — the pages of the website
that act as an administration area. There is, though, one other very important and
complex component to the CMS — a database. In general terms, a database is
something that stores data, or information. A phone book can be considered a database
in that it stores information — each entry, or record, consists of a person's
name, address, and telephone number. In computer terms, a database is a collection
of related information, or records, that are stored electronically. A database allows
for the fast storage, retrieval, and updating of the information it holds.
A CMS stores a website's content — the text and graphics displayed by the
pages of the website — in a database. Every time a visitor to the website
visits a web page, the visitor's web browser retrieves the proper content for that
page from the database, and displays that content on the page. If the website owner
uses the CMS administration area to make a change to a page, what he or she is doing
is making a change to the information in the database. Because every time a visitor
arrives at the page the page information comes from the database, any visitor to
the page will see the newly changed content.
To summarize, a CMS consists of an easy-to-use administration area that allows for
fast, simple updating of a website's content while hiding the technical details
of how a database stores and retrieves that content.