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Getting Started With Content Management Systems

The need to update websites faster to keep content fresh has been ever growing. Ever since the first business owner wanted their Web designer to update their website faster, content management systems have played an important role on the Web. Why does this matter to you? How do you know if your company is ready?

In this article, we will look at how to tell if your organization needs a content management system. We will also give you information on the abilities of content management systems to help you better understand what they can do. While content management systems may seem complex, their entire purpose is to streamline your workflow and make your life easier.

A content management system allows you to create, manage, store and edit massive amounts of content without any HTML programming skill. Because you are able to edit your content from any computer with an Internet connection, you no longer have to rely on third-party developers or companies to keep your website up to date. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Every company would like to reduce costs and increase productivity.

Also consider our previous articles:

1. What Is A Content Management System? Link

If you have never heard the term before, a content management system (CMS) is a Web-based solution that makes it easy for a company to manage website updates internally. For many companies, updating a website is not something to look forward to because it can be a lengthy and, over time, expensive process. Most companies search for easier means of accomplishing their goals. The solution that many large and small companies have found is a CMS. The easy-to-use application allows your company to control its online identity with little to no knowledge of Web design.

Do I Need a Content Management System? Link

While you know your business better than anyone else, if you answer Yes to any of the following questions, your company would likely benefit from using a CMS-based website.

  • Does your company update its website content frequently?
  • Does your website contain over 10 pages?
  • Do you constantly outsource simple website updates to third parties?

Although building your website with a CMS may not save you money up front, if you need to be able to manage your own content in a timely manner, you will certainly be cutting costs in future. You will increase your organization’s speed while reducing its effort. With a CMS accessible from any computer with an Internet connection, you will speed up the process of approving, publishing, and updating.

Knowing When you Need a CMS4
Some CMS’ have in-page buttons to speed up the process of editing content, while preventing users from accessing the admin interface.

Because a CMS has built-in organizational features, content is easier to find and nearly impossible to lose (unless you delete it by accident). You no longer have to spend a lot of time on simple tasks or duplicating your efforts. All of your content is created, managed, published and edited from a single location with very simple, easy-to-use tools. Because using these tools requires very little training, you can start managing your content almost immediately.

If you have identified your business goals and recognized that your website will play a role in them, you should begin the process of implementing your own CMS. There is no set list of requirements for a content management system because each organization has unique needs. Keep your requirements to a minimum, but be sure to allow for the future growth and demands of your company. Enlisting the help of a Web design and development company5 to assess your needs is a good idea.

2. Essentials Of A CMS Link

Three key elements that every CMS has, one way or another, are templates, content and meta data. Understanding how these three elements interact with the other CMS features is important: the template is the graphic wrapper of your website; without the actual content, you would have no need for a website; and the often over-looked meta data helps with search engine optimization.

Content Management System Template6
An example of a CMS theme that has the same look and feel on every page.

Templates control how your content looks on the page and are extremely helpful when you have to produce a lot of pages (10+). The template is a graphic wrapper that usually looks the same on every page of the website, regardless of the content. It makes your website’s look and feel consistent. When you want to change the template (say, the color or an image), you have to make the change only once and it will be reflected on every page of your website. Popular CMS’ such as WordPress7 and ExpressionEngine8 have many free or premium templates available online that can reduce the cost of and help you customize your system.

WYSIWYG Text Editor9
This is the typical layout of a WYSIWYG editor, which has features that are standard in word processors today, such as bolding, italicizing and justifying paragraphs.

Content is created, managed and edited independent of all other CMS elements. Content could be anything from the text on your “About” page to the photo on your company press release. All content is normally managed through a WYSIWYG editor (what you see is what you get) that has integrated photo uploading tools. This helps you create new pages on your website, manage and edit existing pages and assign pages to multiple areas without having to copy them.

Facebook Pulling meta data
Facebook does an excellent job of pulling an external page’s title and description meta data when you post a link to it on a fan page or wall.

Meta data plays a key part in search engine optimization (SEO). The great thing about a CMS is that it makes it nearly impossible for you to forget to add this information, thus helping your website’s search and index ranking on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Meta data contains such information as category, author, publishing date, title, brief description and keywords.

One great use of meta data is for automatically adding a title and description to links posted on social media websites such as Facebook. This not only saves you from having to retype this information but keeps your content relevant as well. This information can also be pulled by search engines and any other website where your website is listed, so make sure to put some thought into writing it.

3. CMS Features And Functions Link

Content management systems come with many standard features to help you create, manage and edit your content. In addition to standard features, additional features can be added to the flexible system framework. These additional features are often referred to as add-on modules or plug-ins. Because a CMS is very flexible, you can use it for a simple website with little content or expand the features to support a complex website with a lot of content. Here is a nice list of high-profile companies that use a CMS for their websites10, which will give you a good idea of how far you can expand these systems.

Standard Features Link

These features are what make your content management system so extensive and highly flexible. They allow you to publish, edit and organize content and manage members, and they contain a variety of built-in security features.

Content Management System Publishing11
With these straightforward tools, you can see how easy creating and managing your content is.

Publishing is made easy with the in-depth features of a CMS. Without any knowledge of HTML programming, users can create, manage and schedule content with ease. These powerful tools help free up time within an organization by streamlining the whole process. A user can create content, set the category (i.e. the section in which it will be published) and then set it as a draft for later review.

Once the content is reviewed, it can be scheduled to be published, say, seven days from then. Once you have reached that step, the rest of the process is automated. You can write and complete a week’s worth of articles ahead of time and take a vacation without having to worry about publishing new content, because it will publish itself (if you have done your part).

Typography often causes headaches for writers, especially if the writers are not HTML savvy, but the task is made easier with built-in text editors. With most CMS’, your text can be automatically formatted to produce XHTML-valid typography. This saves you the hassle of hand-coding every piece of content and leaves the “fun” bits to the system itself. If you paste disallowed characters, such as curly quotes, bullets or accents, from text editors like Microsoft Word, they will automatically be converted into an HTML-valid equivalent.

Another great feature that many CMS’ include is automatic linking. This feature saves you from having to manually link URLs that you add to your content. All of these features are useful because they make your workflow more efficient when you create a lot of content. And if you prefer to enter your own HTML code every time because you don’t trust the automated process, you have that option as well.

Organization is a key part of maintaining a website. With a CMS, all of the content is stored in one place, only once, and is accessible from any location with an Internet connection. Content can be saved in a number of states, such as draft, published and archived. So you can keep unfinished and finished content in separate places, with different attributes. This is especially handy if you like to write content ahead of time and want to be able to easily find it when it comes time to publish.

  • Draft: this is work in progress and is not visible to the public.
  • Published: content that is visible to the public.
  • Archived: previously published content that is tucked away in a safe place, away from the main navigation. Typically used with blogs.

Member management helps you control all aspects of your website’s users. As an administrator, you have full control over how many people can access your website and how much control they have themselves. This can be extremely useful for a large company, where many people (author, editor, publisher, etc.) are responsible for creating and maintaining content. You control how many hands are in the cookie jar at each stage of the creation process.

  • Administrator: has complete control over all users and access to all of the website’s administration features.
  • Editor: can publish and mange their own content as well as other people’s content, etc.
  • Author: can publish and manage their own content.
  • Contributor: can write and manage their own content but cannot publish it.
  • Subscriber: can read content, view and write comments, receive newsletters and so on, without being able to edit anything.

Build-in security measures give you one less thing to worry about. You no longer have to worry about session management, robots trying multiple passwords to hack your account or losing data when processing forms. Almost every CMS has different session management configurations, so you can set the preferences that fit your security needs.

With the built-in “multiple password denial” feature, you can make sure that multiple users cannot access your system simultaneously with the same log-in credentials. In addition, you can automatically lock out users after several incorrect password attempts and allow forms to be submitted only once. This helps prevent loss of data and attempts to hack your system via password.

Additional Features Link

You can integrate add-on modules, or plug-ins, into your CMS to add value, improve accessibility and increase functionality. With the right combination of features, you can create a website that fits your business plan and helps your company achieve its goals. While the number of additional features that you can add is endless, we will focus on the major ones here.

Integrated Company Blog12
GoMediazine is a great example of blog integration.

Company blog functionality helps keep your website fresh and can be a very useful marketing tool. While CMS’ have evolved into complete website solutions, they were originally intended to manage blogs. Most blogs were used as personal diaries or breaking news outlets. Adapted to business use, they can be very useful for letting customers and clients know about what’s new and exciting with your company. If you sell products, you can announce new items or sales. Some businesses, such as GoMedia13, use their blog purely as a community-building tool to publish educational information.

Integrated e-Commerce14
The Electrorack website is a great example of seamless e-commerce integration.

E-commerce integration makes the user experience on your website a very comfortable one. Being able to sell products and services from within your website would be ideal for any business. Some companies, including Electrorack15, have seamlessly integrated their e-commerce solution into their CMS. The user doesn’t even notice that they are jumping from one platform to another because the look and feel are so consistent.

Integrated Discussion Forum16
The DesignByHumans website has a great integrated user-based community.

Discussion forums are a complete community-building solution that helps your website’s visitors exchange ideas. Users can create topics, offer feedback on existing topics and interact with other users. How you use a discussion forum depends entirely on your needs. Design by Humans17 uses its forum to post company news and to let their artists and customers interact for free.

Integrated Photo Gallery
This website has a photo gallery set up on its system for album postings.

Photo galleries are used by millions of people around the world. Online photo sharing is becoming this era’s scrapbooking. With the increase in social media use, people can easily send everyone they know a link to their latest photo gallery. The Memory Museum can display photos easily through the customized gallery on its photography blog. Businesses can use this feature to showcase recent events or feature products. By organizing and displaying photos from within your CMS, you can have all of your content in one location.

Video Management Integration
National Geographic has an intuitive integrated video management system to help users view their video content through the Web.

Video management helps you organize, edit and distribute video content. You no longer have to upload videos to YouTube or Vimeo and then manage them separately. You can manage your video content just as you manage your website’s pages. You can upload almost any kind of video and then share your albums and videos on your website and on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and Digg.

CMS’ vary in the video management features they offer. But most let you upload multiple files at once (in batch) and automatically create thumbnails. Once videos are in the system, you can track viewer behavior as well as feature content based on popularity. National Geographic18 integrates videos into its articles and offers them separately for others to embed on their own websites.

Multi-Language Support
Apple offers extensive multi-language support and uses multiple URL extensions to differentiate content.

Multi-language support lets you offer content in multiple countries within a single CMS, allowing visitors to choose their preferred language. While most small companies do not need this feature, it can be helpful. The support features may not actually translate content (and if they do, they won’t do an accurate job), but they do let you feature content in multiple languages, which is extremely useful for corporate websites that operate globally. Because Apple19 operates in many countries, it offers its website in many languages.

RSS Feed20
RSS feeds typically show excerpts of content and images (if any), as shown above.

RSS feeds are a really simple way to syndicate the content on your website. With the explosion of RSS readers, which constantly check a user’s favorite websites for new content, RSS feeds have become essential. It does not matter whether you update your website daily or monthly, your readers will be sure never to miss an update. Millions of websites publish RSS feeds on a regular basis, and yours should not be an exception. With people’s attention spans shrinking along with their free time, letting users choose the content they want to read through an RSS feed is helpful.

Newsletter Management
A newsletter can be a great way to reach out to users who are interested in your content, especially if yours is designed as well as TV Guide Daily Scoop’s.

Newsletters/mailing lists are an extremely helpful feature, especially if you have a lot of users or want to expand your base. Many mainstream users still do not use an RSS reader, and some of them may prefer to receive your content in their inbox rather than by visiting your website every few days. You can integrate newsletters into your system and set the feature’s functionality. Usually, you will be able to manage subscriptions, create a template, compose the newsletter in a WYSIWYG editor, manage your archive and track open/click results.

Video Management Integration21
Google Analytics shows detailed information on your website’s visitors, at no charge.

Statistics/tracking is an essential feature for any website. To effectively run and market a website, you need to know as much as possible about your visitors. Analyzing whatever data is available prepares you to achieve company goals, focuses your marketing initiatives and converts visitors into regular users. You will have information on how many people visit your website, where they live, what content they view and much more. Google Analytics22 is one of the most widely adopted analytics programs that are available for CMS’. Its popularity is partly due to the immense amount of information it provides about your visitors for free.

Where Can I Find A Content Management System? Link

You know the size of your organization and how much you can spend on a CMS. These factors are good indicators of where to start your search. Actually finding one can be a daunting task, but if you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you can quickly weed out the options that don’t fit your needs. Finding a solution that helps your business achieve its goals is important. Many businesses, large and small, use all kinds of different CMS’ to manage their content. Start your journey by using the resources listed below.

Further Resources Link

Check out the following related articles and resources:


Footnotes Link

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Robert Hartland is a professional designer and photographer with over seven years of experience. He has worked on projects for top brands that include corporate identities, custom catalogs, trade show graphics, image manipulation, animation and website creation/management. He constantly pulls different elements he has learned, to use them to perfect a project, and accepts freelance work through his portfolio website Aether Design.

  1. 1

    LOL, using WordPress as an example of Content Management System? … #FAIL

    • 2

      Are you suggesting that blog engines aren’t examples of content management systems? Do they not manage content?


      Thanks for playing, come again.

    • 3

      WordPress is one of the best CMS’ out there. It’s been far more than just blog software for a long time now. Having a clue…#FAIL

      • 4

        Alexander Moya

        November 8, 2009 11:43 am

        I agree with Brooke, WordPress is an excelent CMS, with the right theme it can outweigh most CMS solutions out there, paid or not paid.

      • 5

        Brooke is right, for those who say that WordPress is not a good CMS, its just because you don’t know how to use the tools. The amount of plug-ins that are out there for FREE makes it even better to customize. One thing I think WordPress is lacking is the ability to create extensive roles beyond just the pre-set ones. There is a plug that allows you do to do just that called Rolescoper but still I believe this should be an integral part of WordPress. Anyway, YEAY for WordPress and YEAY for this article.

      • 6

        I’d also agree with Brooke here. WordPress is an amazingly versatile CMS system. It’s far more than just blog software. This baby can spit out portfolio sites, e-commerce sites, and so much more. By saying WordPress isn’t a CMS would imply that you don’t know what a CMS is.

    • 7

      Mark, wordpress is the most widely used CMS out there. Its a fact. I don’t want to ridicule you, but I guess your comment shows your ignorance.

    • 8

      Wow, I am surprised here… obviously WordPress is one of the most powerful CMSs around!!

    • 9

      Yes Mark. YOU are the one who FAILED. WordPress can do really lots of stuff. A few years ago I – beeing a joomla fan – was laughing when somebody mentioned WP. Now I prefer WP over Joomla in most of cases (except for the complex ones). Wp rox.

    • 10

      totally agree

      November 8, 2009 3:05 pm

      WordPress is a great CMS for one type of site and one type only. A blog, or something else very simple and conforming. Can it do more? yes of course. For anyone who wishes to try to hack it way beyond it’s framework, anything is possible. The latter must have a lot of time on their hands. Use the right tool for the job folks.

      I’m not going to get into vain arguments and name calling, but I’ve got to say… it never fails to amaze me how much wordpress has the design community by the balls (sorry girls, but even you too). There’s a lot of ignorance out there, frankly because a) many people don’t want to put in the effort to learn something a little more complex and b) some ignorant bloggers who don’t know what they’re talking about but willing to make strong statements. After you’ve experienced frustrations because of a) you’re going to quickly discover b) to confirm your suspicions. You can believe them, can’t you? After all, all bloggers are “supposed” to be a pundit of their subject right?

      I’ve used several CMS for years, and I can tell you that you’re all working way harder than you need to if you use wordpress for anything more than a blog or cookie cutter basic site. And yes I know about its plugins. And lastly yes, I know and agree that the bottom line is a system needs to be easy for the customer to use. The biggest myth of all is that WordPress is easy for a client to manage. Very true if it’s a blog… but not so true at all if you have to install a 1000 plugins and hack your template to pieces to get different layouts and menus then the system allows. And even then, your clients still need you to make all the changes that aren’t supported in the back end. So think a little more before joining the crowd. Cheers everyone!

    • 12

      @Mark you Fail, WordPress Rock !

    • 13

      Have you guys ever looked at WP code? (poetry, lol) You can’t be serious at using WP as a CMS, it’s great for quickly setting a blog when you know nothing about web dev, but that’s all.

      • 14


        We’re web designers/developers, We look at code all day long. We are serious, and is one of the most widely used Content Management Systems out there, if not the most popular. Frankly i’m surprised to find people not aware of this.

    • 15

      Adolfo Tavizón

      November 9, 2009 11:01 am

      WP was a blog plataform, now its big and robust enough to be considered a CMS, maybe the guys at WP need to make that part clear

    • 16

      Wow, Mark, but you regret posting that! I have to agree with your critics, WordPress is a great CMS! It might not be the same TYPE of CMS as say Joomla or Drupal, but it is a CMS.

    • 17

      Oh Mark! Fail!

    • 18

      Well, you are developing your personal sites, try to use wordpress as CMS for a proper site, there is just too much work to use as cms, when other cms’s can do it faster, lighter, better!

    • 19

      Only child developers are using wordpress as cms…. I mean wtd dudes? Have you even tried other cms before? wordpress is a blogging system

      • 20

        Robert Hartland

        November 10, 2009 12:06 pm

        Everyone has their preferred systems for each clients need. There are many blogging systems and CMS’s out there that can be utilized for small budgets and make sites easy to manage for the user.

        If you are creating a CMS for a global newspaper publisher you would not use WordPress, but another solution. Personally, I use an open source CMS created by my company that is only used for our clients and not public use.

        There are many valid CMS systems that did not make it in this article, but still work great depending on the clients need.

        Every opinion is has it’s own angle and every angle holds it’s own merit. This article was meant to help inform, not cover CMS globally for all uses of all kinds.

    • 21

      Joshua Sortino

      November 11, 2009 7:12 am

      Mark, I used to doubt the power of WordPress. I would laugh at designers building websites on the platform. However, once I tried it, I understand why so many are WordPress enthusiasts.

      WordPress is great for building small (and sometimes medium) websites. It can be quickly deployed, and there are thousands of plugins.

  2. 22

    Cool, it’s nice to have a list of cms! thanks!

  3. 23

    Floris Fiedeldij Dop

    November 8, 2009 11:34 am

    Excellent read! Keep the good stuff coming. SM is still a daily browse for me, and poking my friends constantly .. ” they have an article for that “

  4. 24

    Exactly what i needed to know at this time.
    Big Thanks & Great Work.

  5. 25

    ExpressionEngine all the way. It’s not as easy to set up as a WordPress page and not for people who just want to use an existing template but it can do just about anything out of the box with very few plug-ins. It’s ideal for designers who know how to code and want a lot of flexibility because it doesn’t box you into anything.

  6. 26

    Timo Weisshaar

    November 8, 2009 11:59 am

    I Think webEdition ( is one of the best cms in the open source range.
    I like joomla too, but the gui in webEdition is easy and good for all the different editior knowledge.

  7. 28

    Not sure I agree with:

    “Meta data plays a key part in search engine optimization (SEO)”

    P.S. Joomla is the biggest pile of poo around and the most unusable. :o)

    • 29

      “Meta data plays a key part in search engine optimization (SEO)”

      Many search engines use meta data and even Google use it (as part of much wider criteria). If you use meta data correctly, it can be valuable for SEO – bad meta data doesn’t help and can even hinder.

      • 30

        Robert Hartland

        November 10, 2009 12:12 pm

        While meta data does not currently play as large of a role in SEO as it has in the past, it is still nothing to ignore. Adding incorrect meta data can actually hurt your site listing. You can read more about this from Google.

        “Meta tags are a great way for webmasters to provide search engines with information about their sites. Meta tags can be used to provide information to all sorts of clients, and each system processes only the meta tags they understand and ignores the rest.” -Google Meta Tags (

    • 31

      I have had bad experience with Joomla as well. I had fun with it and found it very useful, but the backend is frustrating for clients. Would be better if it was simplified a bit.

    • 32

      “Joomla is the biggest pile of poo around and the most unusable.”


  8. 33

    Nice article, the link to expression engine tagged page is broken though ..

    (SM) Thank you, Rajesh. The link is updated now!

  9. 34 is not a valuable source for comparing systems: WordPress Version covered: 2.2.1 !!!

    Pleeeze – remove that link! This is neanderthal!
    Your sincerely

    • 35

      I agree with eliZZZa. The information on CMS Matrix is outdated which makes it rather useless to compare CMS. Also, I don’t think the question here is wether or not to use a CMS. The question is which CMS is the right tool for the job and if the answer is “it depends on the project”, how many different CMS do you need to learn, do you want to learn? Looks like most CMS users have their favorites so I kinda given up hope to find real objective comparisons. I guess it’s a matter of choosing what you like and run with it. All CMS Matrix shows is that there are so many CMS out there to choose from.

      Note for aspiring CMS developers…don’t make it any harder on us than it allready is…don’t roll out “another” CMS, instead, choose your weapon and make it better by developing plugins for the major CMS out there.

      • 36

        Robert Hartland

        November 10, 2009 12:15 pm

        I agree, it may be a bit old. It was important to include a comprehensive list in the article, even if it may not be recent.

        If anyone has a more recent comparison that is comprehensive, it would be great to look over and add into the article as a replacement.

  10. 37

    Great article! Think i can use some stuff :)

  11. 38

    Michael S Tyne

    November 8, 2009 2:46 pm

    Ever looked at Unify by ?

  12. 39

    Design Informer

    November 8, 2009 2:49 pm

    I love WordPress and it is an excellent CMS.

    Expression Engine is awesome as well!

  13. 40

    I work with a few CMS systems and not considering WP just because of it’s origins as a blogging platform (which is what I consider to be the root of a lot of the anti-WP sentiment hereand elsewhere) is silly – if all a small to medium size business needs is to have editable pages and keep a blog, with a few plugins to add functiionality, then WordPress is perfect (and more importantly from their perspective, free – once they’ve paid for a nice custom theme of course).

    I love Drupal but the back end is simply daunting to many, even with hand-holding. Our job is to make it as easy as possible for the client to run their own show.

    Have used Expression Engine a bit and am dying to get more practical use out of it but wish 2.0 would come along first.

    Plus there are plenty of lightweight (eg Perch) and less well publicised CMS systems worth trying. I think use WP but get a handle on a couple of others too. As always, it’s about picking the right tool for the job.

    Joomla is poo though :)

  14. 41

    Just wondering what you all make of Contribute by Adobe? I’ve used it once before and found it a relatively good CMS solution for a medium sized website… and very easy for my client to use.

    Adobe give it a great wrap… and continue to develop it so I’m just wondering if it’s a solution anyone would turn to when in need of a CMS?

    Cheers :)

    • 42

      It's a dinosaur

      November 9, 2009 12:15 am

      I’ve had many clients install Contribute to enable them to update Dreamweaver sites I’d built. It used to be the only low cost solution for a “cms”. But Contribute is now both clunky and extremely limited by today’s standards. First of all, it’s tied to Dreamweaver’s templating so the developer must be using Dreamweaver. Secondly options like like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress (to a lesser degree), offer much broader control to the content managers and put it to shame.

      With contribute, menus and nav bars are off the table, as well as any structures that tie pages together like categories and tags. Content that needs to be entered in more than one place (such as a calendar with latest events on the homepage) can’t be automated… thereby greatly increasing time and complexity to maintain in comparison. With a more modern CMS, there are many extensions/modules/plugins (am I missing anything?) available that aid with all types of workflows. In the case of a photo gallery, an extension might allow for automatic resizing, thumbnail creation, labeling, etc. If you have a blog with comments, the comments can be moderated, new users promoted as moderators, etc., etc. And that’s just scratching the surface.

  15. 43

    Great article! For those of you looking for a free open-source CMS with an easy-to-use client interface, ridiculously simple templating system, and powerful PHP-based extension interface, I strongly recommend MODx (

    I’ve used it for a number of client websites, and my clients love it. Designers will love it too: you can take any existing HTML/CSS design and integrate it in less than 5 minutes without having to write lines and lines of PHP or learn some esoteric templating language. And it’s also a PHP developer’s wet dream: it’s trivial to add PHP code to any part of your site, and there’s a vibrant developer community with lots of useful add-ons.

    I know this probably sounds like an advertisement, but I feel compelled to promote what I think is a great (and free!) piece of software. Check it out! MODx:

    • 44

      If you develop for “MODx”, You should know that it’s not stable or secure as word press.
      modx Is a good CMS agreed, tho It needs more work to be bug free and they need to patch those security holes.

  16. 47

    The first person(Mark) who made a comment and Mike Tosetto is the same.

    Great article by the way.

  17. 48

    Maxime Perron Caissy

    November 8, 2009 7:06 pm

    WordPress is one of the best thing that the web has ever had. It is also responsible for bringing new bloggers and writters each and everyday!

    Thank you wordpress

  18. 49

    Everyone is forgetting about Modx. I have been using that for the last few months now, and it has proven to be quite useful. source:

  19. 53

    Obviously, someone did not do their homework. WordPress is used for blogs… and sometimes gets mixed in with other CMS systems. Even more, WordPress states they are not a CMS platform, but with a little tweaking it can be used as one. CMS in general yeah… for a website… needs tweaking get it?

  20. 54

    Great Article. Have you tried out Injoos Teamware. I would reckon that they have the most comprehensive integrated collaboration platform. With their latest release they have added a new twist to track and execute projects “the social way”.
    The problem with the folks like Google & Yahoo is that they have created many tools which have been loosely coupled. The challenge with such a solution is that the the information gets locked into multiple silos. With Google Wave they are trying to integrate all the conversations (discussions) but what would be truly desirable is a platform built form ground up using social networking at the base and business apps on top of it. I have tried Injoos Teamware ( and found it captures both informal and formal knowledge like documents in one single workspace on the cloud.

  21. 55

    pondicherry times

    November 8, 2009 9:46 pm

    Good to see all the social site

  22. 56

    I think it is so absurd to find comments stating WordPress isnt a CMS. It is clear they havent worked with WordPress before. I havent found any CMS out there even a blogging platform for that matter that is so easily customizable and extendible as wordpress, and can be whatever YOU want it to be. That is priceless!!

  23. 57

    You should try out TYPO3, the new frontend editing of the Version 4.3 is amazing. The abilities you have with TYPO3 to give the regular non-design user a easy interface and keep him in your design boundaries is great. It’s open source, developed for over 10 years, has over 4000 Extensions, and several conferences every year! Give it a try:

  24. 58

    As I always say.. viva Drupal !

  25. 59

    My votes goes for WordPress

  26. 60

    Gabriel Merovingi

    November 9, 2009 12:47 am

    I agree with eliZZZa. It is strange to compare WP 2.2.1 with other CMS out there. As the list says 2.2.1 came out 2007. Things have changed since then!

    So WP is used as a blog tool. So it is a popular one. So not everyone likes it. Still it is a CMS and a good one at that.

    Great article though. I welcome the debate on this issue. From what I can read, it seems to be a touchy subject :)

  27. 61

    Out of all the CMS systems I have worked with WordPress is probably the one I will keep using the most for my projects. Next to the stable framework and the great expandability of the system, the backend is great to work with for editors new to the system. Next to that I still will give Expression Web a chance, in my opinion it looks like a nice CMS system to flow in.

  28. 62

    Another vote for Expression Engine here.

    I’ve not used many other CMSs out there, just textpattern, but seeing as I know no PHP (or any other language) my options are limited.
    But that doesnt stop me using Expresison Engine at all – it really can do so much out of the box – no hacking, no PHP, just a very solid core system and hundreds of comunity developed add-ons.

  29. 63

    Nice article, have been using different CMS’s in the past, but WordPress is the one that stuck!

  30. 64

    “While CMS’ have evolved into complete website solutions, they were originally intended to manage blogs.”

    Completely wrong: Content Management Systems existed even before the word ‘blog’ was invented. I’ve worked with and created CMS’s since 1995. While blogsystems could be considered as a subset of fullblown CMS’s, the last couple of years blog-systems have integrated CMS-functionality. That, in my opinion, does not make a blogsystem a complete CMS.

    While blog-systems are OK for small sites with very basic templates, you’ll still want a real CMS for anything more serious.

  31. 65

    Miles Pearson

    November 9, 2009 2:43 am

    Like most choices, it depends on the application to hand.
    Personally I use WP to test ideas. It’s quick and easy (using pre-built templates) and a site can be up and running complete with a useful configuration in as little as an hour.

    Once the idea is proven I will then migrate over to Expression Engine. Yes, it costs. But the range of configuration is significant and powerful too.

    Like other mentions here, I’m eagerly awaiting 2.0 (due out Dec 1st).

  32. 66

    I have best experience with since the very beginning. Good for simple to complex projects. Is open source since last year and worth a look. For blogs I am using wordpress but for “normal” websites I easily switch to webEdition.

  33. 67

    There are some promising content management systems in the market at the moment but wordpress is not a CMS in a classical sense: it’s architectural approach is to small for large scale sites, it can handle those sites but will maybe be a bit overstretched. And why not go to others? They are nice and shiny and free … ;-).

    CMSes defintely worth a test installation I’d recommend
    – MODx Content Management Framework
    – Typolight
    – Silverstripe
    – Drupal anyway (but does not need special attention any more)

    In opposition to Expression Engine they all DON’T cost a cent and reach very high standards, have a look, you will be amazed.

  34. 68

    I done a bit of research last year on an easy to use CMS for designer and client and came up with CMSMS (Content Management Made Simple) I’ve used it for a couple of sites now and have no complaints….and it’s free. Anyone have any views on it ??

    • 69

      I’m using CMSMadeSimple myself and I’m quite happy with it. Very helpful community and a lot of modules. Performance could be better but also depends on your provider and setup of course. I’m waiting for Version 2 which is promised a very long time ago. Currently they provide regular updates (functionality and security).

  35. 70

    I am surprised noone mentions typo3 (, as it is by far the strongest CMS I have ever worked with…

    Typolight as mentioned in post#42 is the light version of it, and powerfull, but at the end of the day – “just” a light version.

    Thought the typo3 communety is not the loudest CMS communety out there, things are still happening. With the introduction of flex3, the CMS is gearing up for the 5.0 release and is a good alternative for developers as well.

    Anyways, was just amazed that noone had mentioned it, as it ranks #1 in my book – and is free…

    (From the top of my head I think it is the system used by amongst others, Mercedes and Disney).

    • 71

      No doubt about it! TYPO3 is the most powerfully CMS I have ever come across. It might be a bit difficult to use in the beginning, but then….. awesome =)

    • 72

      Typolight and TYPO3 have nothing to do with each other, they are two different products. It like saying Windows is the Light Version of OS X *g. No seriously because of the similar names people often think they belong together but thats not true. People looking for a powerful CMS system should give TYPO3 a try but also should consider that the learning courve is extremly high, so you should bring some time with you. For all the guys who don’t like php could take a look at plone its an Open Source CMS based on Zope. Nevertheless my favourite is TYPO3.

  36. 73

    Apple dont use a cms, so prob should not be used as an example..?

  37. 74

    Jeanelle Bullock

    November 9, 2009 5:58 am

    I design and manage alot of .Net sites and have been using this CMS called nterfusion from for a little while. It’s not one of the main brands but it works really good and it is easy to use and because the company is small when I need something new are different they customize new features for me. Just a suggestion in case anyone was looking for an easy to use .Net CMS.

  38. 75

    “P.S. Joomla is the biggest pile of poo around and the most unusable. :o)”

    All depends which version of joomla you have installed some are really good for SEO, some have the dreaded “global config” box

  39. 76

    DubLi uses a pretty cool CMS, I’d love to know what it is – does anyone here have CMS spotting skills?

  40. 77

    Phil Barnhart

    November 9, 2009 7:30 am

    I believe you have missed one of the biggest issues concerning CMS success or failure. That is – given the technical skill set of your (the customer) team, what is the total cost of ownership / day-365 costs of the CMS solution. I’ve implemented everything from a global enterprise solution (both Vignette and Interwoven) down to tiny little one-person small business solutions in WordPress. Many organizations fail to staff – or budget – for ongoing site maintenance. And lets not make fun of those people – the IT community is guilty of downplaying maintenance costs in both our products and our staff.

    We need to have and share true ongoing maintenance costs. A client with no in-house technical staff could easily expect 30-40 hours per month *minimum* technical hours maintaining a Drupal installation (disclosure – I hate Drupal security upgrades with a passion, and no matter what plugins I choose there are major updates FOR THAT KEY PLUGIN the week after site launch. Yuck) If I had a client with no technical staff and a pure content management requirement, I might shift towards a WordPress solution simply because it can be maintained by non-technical staff. If I had a larger customer with a need to keep ongoing costs down and no in-house technical staff, but a decent up-front budget, coding solutions within a SilverStripe framework may be a smarter solution than Joomla.

    The simple truth is that CMS solutions require ongoing care and feeding – and the number one complaint I’ve heard from clients after implementing a CMS solution is “I had no idea it would cost so much.”

    • 78

      Robert Hartland

      November 10, 2009 12:21 pm

      I agree that every user has their own technical level, some below what is needed to run the site. It is up to the developer to educate their client on how to use the system and walk them through adding content. An effectively designed site is both easy to use for the client and it’s visitors. Some systems are easy to use out of the box, while others need some extra love. No client should spend more than a couple hours a month maintaining their website unless they are adding content constantly.

      I agree that clients need extra hand-holding after site launch but after all, is this not our responsibility?

  41. 79

    Surprised that this link isn’t anywhere in the article or the comments:

    It’s a large list of CMS/Blog/Ecommerce/LCMS software for PHP and, plus some commercial CMS products too. Nearly all of the products have a demo copy already installed, so you can view the front-end and the admin control panel. Each product is rated and commented on by the web site visitors. It’s worth your time just to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the open source CMS offerings available. It’s not comprehensive, but it covers a lot of ground.

    WordPress = Never used it, but I understand it’s popular.

    ModX = Used it and gave up in the long run.

    SilverStripe = My product of choice after trying out a large number of PHP-based CMSs. Not good for folks who can’t and/or don’t want to write code. If you’ve got good chops with PHP, HTML, and CSS, it’s a powerful, flexible, and well-supported CMS.

  42. 80

    I absolutely love MODx…

    Installer is the easiest of all… And working with MODx doesnt require me to have knowledge about scripting.

  43. 81

    A list of the most common CMS would be nice :)

  44. 82

    Amazing article, thank you Robert. The simple yet lucid language really helps understand the complexities of a Content Management System.

    Thank you Smashing :)

  45. 83

    Here is a link to a bunch of CMS platforms

    Some of my faves are CMSMS, Drupal &Frog

  46. 84

    Great article and good info. A lot of discussion from designers about the types of cms they like to use, and I can appreciate Phil’s comment above as well. There is an ongoing cost in terms of time for feeding the system after the site is launched. How often the system is fed and the site is updated, and who updates it (client staff or web designer) should be a conscious business decision in order to keep the costs under control. But, like anything, clients have to understand that they get what you pay for. That includes the roi.

    From the tone of the article, I understood that it was written to businesses, our clients. Here’s what I’m experiencing with my customers: (1) Clients are overwhelmed with the choices available to them regarding online solutions for business, and they would appreciate their designer choosing and delivering the right solution for them. (2) Depending on how you pitch your overall solution, the cms can actually become an objection to moving forward with the project. Many businesses don’t have staff or time allocated to ongoing website maintenance. If we pitch the do-it-yourself cms solution and the client goes for it, the site may not get updated. In my opinion, we should talk less about the cms and more about the value and flexibility of the overall solution we deliver. Transparency is good. Let’s talk to our customers about the elements within the solution, but the cms is not the end-all be-all of what we deliver. It’s part of the total package.

    We are a custom website design and development firm and we’ve tried many of the cms out there. In the end, we chose to build our own simple cms. It’s a light cms that we use for our own projects, but we are contemplating releasing it to the design community if there is interest. We built it, we support it, and our clients love it.

    If your a designer and you want to partner with a company for the delivery of the product, service and support you require that allows you to deliver sooner and free yourself up to do what you really enjoy – design – then we’d love to hear from you.

  47. 85

    @Phil Barnhart

    I totally hear you. Even WordPress can prove overwhelming and too much for some clients. Most of the time its overkill too. What my clients usually need a “cms” for is editing content without looking at code. The whole post and page system of WP can lead to confusion and too much training on my part.

    However, recently I started using Pagelime ( and it’s awesome for small-medium size sites that don’t have an integrated blog component. (You can even use it on larger or blog sites if you hack it up a bit). All you need to do is add a special CSS class tag and that area becomes editable. However, unlike some of the other similar solutions theres no file you have to install on your server and you’re not tied to any kind of PHP on their server. So if your client stops using Pagelime, it doesn’t break the site at all. I’ve used it with prebuilt templates, but mostly I use it for my custom sites, it cuts production time drastically. After I cut up my PSD, I’m basically done, implementation is just adding in a new tag. It even has advanced features like XML and support for image galleries.

    You should definitely check it out. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on twitter @adamdexter


  48. 86

    I’ve used Business Catalyst for clients that need lots of different services rolled into one. CMS, Newsletters, Blog, Ecommerce, etc. I’ve found it does it all, but doesn’t do everything really well. Now that it was acquired by Adobe I think it will make some real leaps forward this year.

  49. 87

    Mark one more for MODx. I’ve been using this awesome FREE CMS for a while now. I can get an e-store setup in minutes, I have the flexibility to add whatever I need to, I love it!

    There are limitations, but there’s always someone on the boards who will help piotn you in the right direction. The MODx community rocks.

  50. 88

    i’ve tried Typolight, Drupal, Joomla!, will try MODx in near future. hope my experience could help those who are choosing CMS package, and save their precious time… i am a designer with some HTML/CSS skill, not a PHP guru.

    1.Typolight is good, but just not sure about its future(currently maintained by Leo, its core developer), backend is vert well organized. easy to understand and use. but extensions/plugins are limit.

    2. Drupal, i was told about its flexibility, but after built one site, i stopped using it — as a designer, the logic behind this software is not very easy to understand, frontend/backend make me confused, you need to do a lot search to achieve a simple function, modules have not enough review or rating to help you choose, making template is tricky. so there is no reason for me to continue… don’t waste time to learn, there are a lot “out-of-box” solutions around.

    3. Joomla! is pretty good, the Tuts from are pretty handy. some core functions may be a little limit, but you could extend easily by its 3rd party extensions. and Virtuemart is way far better than other CMS’ e-commerce module.

    Haven’t try WP yet, planning to use it build my own site later.

  51. 89

    If individuals are wanting to work for LARGE organizations that have massive Web sites they might want to try get a hold of SiteCore and TeamSite. These are large CMS systems that are not free nor do they have free plug-ins from the Open source communities. However, they are used and worth learning more about if people want to work and get steady ‘non-freelance’ type of employment.

  52. 90

    I currently work for a small organization with a pretty sprawling web site. We are fed up with our current cms (BrowserCMS) and would like to change that and go with Drupal or Joomla. One question that I have is if there are any suggestions for getting existing content migrated to a new cms? I’m just starting my research on this process so please excuse my naivety, but are there any companies that specialize in this sort of thing?

    We are also doing a total redesign of the site so we don’t need the existing content and cms to fit into our current template.

    Any help, ideas or direction on this would be hugely appreciated!!


  53. 91

    Nice Article! It was a great read, it is hard to be “all inclusive” when talking about a CMS because there are so many companies with many different features. It was great to see that this article covered the basics and then some without being too long and drawn out.

  54. 92

    Hi, I believe WordPress is the best content management system around. I think it really is much better than a website per say. It is much more automated and easier for the average Joe to use and will store tons of articles and content in a very organized manner. The hard part is getting your content read by anyone. For bloggers that are trying to get their content read Twittley is a great forum and you install a wordpress plugin called a Twittley button. It actually changes colors in a shuffle mode which attracts users to click on the button next to your article which retweets it to other Twitter users. Here is a great article about it.

  55. 93


    November 9, 2009 6:18 pm

    Good post. Out of trillions of CMS out on the market, WORDPRESS has been my fav for last 3-4 years. Tried couple of others but let me down.

  56. 94

    Moises Urrutia

    November 9, 2009 6:46 pm

    Word Press IS a content management system that is designed to run blogs. Every content management system has strengths and weaknesses. Word Press is by far not one of the most powerful cms out there (unless you are talking about blogs). It is regid and you have to conform to it or have to hack it. It is one of the most commonly used CMSs but not one of the best unless you are running a blog. There is Magento, Drupal, Word Press, Joomla, and Modx. All of those have strengths and drawbacks. Modx in my opinion is one of the best though. It is the most flexible design wise and developer friendly since you do not have to hack the core. It also has a large developer community that write snippets for it.

    I think that everyone should learn how to use multiple CMSs and learn which one is stronger for what project.

  57. 95

    Anyone who thinks a CMS will make their life easier and it is a silver bullet is seriously mistaken. I’ve had more issues with the CMS installed than without – mostly because everyone thinks they are a l337 haxx0r dude now. The only way it’s made life easier is that people put their own content on – but they throw screaming fits when the system won’t do what they want it to do. We use Centric Minds Ephox, and it’s a pretty good local system (Australia). I wish they would understand that for the ease of adding in their own content with the CMS comes a trade-off of it not being as flexible as hand-coding (not without paying the developers to do the changes for them).

  58. 96

    Hey, my comment has gone? Why?

  59. 97

    Karl Francisco Fernandes

    November 10, 2009 12:00 am

    I’m really surprised nobody has given Textpattern due praise. I’ve been using it for about 6 months now, and it is perfectly suited for small sites and blogs. I would agree that WP is very popular and can be used to do anything, but it’s also well known that WP’s main purpose is blogging. And you can’t but help falling in love with Textpattern’s simplicity and flexibility.

  60. 98

    I have used Mura (formerly Sava), which is a very good CMS that works on Coldfusion. It is the CMS the Apple uses on their website, and it’s free (though Coldfusion is not).

  61. 99

    like many here, i also think that wordpress is the best cms for small sites and beginners.
    i have a friend who used drupal for long time, but when he explored wordpress he decided to use it in his next projects…

    nice article!

  62. 100

    Good Info, thanks for that….
    If anybody need wordpress or Joomla integration as a CMS, is the best place for that…

  63. 101

    Podveg Razvedcheka

    November 10, 2009 1:22 am

    I like Did anyone hear about it? It’s very easy to learn and manage.

  64. 102

    How has no body mentioned Umbraco? It’s .NET based, but Easily the best CMS tool I have ever seen. Its not “template-based” in that you can download new look-and-feels, but it also has no restrictions whatsoever on how you construct your pages. No predefined header/footer/content blocks. And every user I’ve trained on it, in terms of using the CMS to manage their site, has been Thrilled.

    It boggles me that for everyone here, not one post about it. Oh, it’s open source as well :)


  65. 103

    Commenting on the MetaData side of things, while, no, it doesn’t really help in terms of getting on the first page of a search result it can be used to help you organize what gets viewed when results do appear.

    Still, content and relevance is the force that drives any page. So i wouldn’t say that it is key, or even necessary, but it is thorough to include appropriate MetaData.

  66. 104

    May I add another category of CMS types?

    The so called “Desktop CMS”.

    Being biased by working for a vendor of Desktop CMS, I still want to recommend some like “Zeta Producer” (ours) or “CityDesk” or “Weblica”.

    The idea is to have a local Windows application running on your desktop (and/or in your LAN) and then publishing the pages to an arbitrary web server by e.g. an integrated FTP client.

    The benefits of such a system is that it works with virtual any web server and that even beginners can work with it since it requires no server setup.

    In addition they are usually free/rather cheap.

  67. 105

    Wars have been fought over what is the “best” CMS and, like the OS wars, cell phone wars or browser wars, there are never any winners. “Best” is only “best” for a specific circumstance, the bottom line is that no CMS is the “best” for everyone in every situation. And, unfortunately, rarely is the “best” CMS ever the “perfect” CMS for anyone.

  68. 106

    What are your guys thoughts on flat file CMS? I know they’re good for really small sites, which clients want to update. are there any good ones out there you have used?

  69. 107

    Great Article, my choice by far has to be SilverStripe, in my opinion one of the more flexible template engines for a CMS and from an end user perspective one of the easiest, to manage and use administration panels. When we move customers from a WordPress, Drupal or Joomla installation the actual content author cannot believe how easy it is to use. From a developer perspective the sapphire framework makes extending the SilverStripe CMS very easy and can really cut done coding and debugging, and even has the power of unit testing.
    As long as you scope out your project correctly from the beginning you can create a very useful tool for yourself or client. Check more information about SilverStripe as a CMS for you

  70. 108

    Carlo Rizzante

    November 11, 2009 2:51 pm

    Not everyone has to build a huge website with a hardcore CMS. WordPress, till now, served me pretty well. You can eventually use it as your development tool, and serve to clients just a website, managing its backend yourself. No need to give to the client a power that he would not require or wish.

    Although, for some imminent project I’m going to approach seriously other platforms like Joomla or even better Drupal. Or Magento for ecommerce.

    But, anyway, thank you all for articles and discussion :)

  71. 109

    I’m missing one CMS reading the thread – I used DNN for more than 2 years and then (due to unstability) I switched my sites to Kentico CMS (it’s free edtion). It’s much more intuitive and easy to use for my clients, while still fully customizable for me as a web developer.

    • 110

      I have used Kentico CMS for the last couple of years. It is the ASP.Net equivalent to the PHP-based Modx. Both are great!

  72. 111

    Although Modx is technically not a cms, but a cmf (content management framework), I will choose that any day over the popular WP (unless the purpose is just for a blog) because of its flexibility, user-friendliness, and strong support community.

  73. 112

    We have about 60 sites running on Refinery CMS, Truly simple UI, Rails-based, easy to set up (if you’re a Rails developer).

  74. 113

    If you are not just interested in the open source market, many commercial products beat the open source vendors mentioned hands down, in terms of features, scalability and Usability.

    This is probably because in the Commercial market you have to build features, and ease of use to win projects, against many competitors.

    You should try a CMS like Contensis:

  75. 114

    This is an amazing post. I love how you go in depth explaining a CMS like you did. It will help me communicate to my clients the importance of a CMS, and whether he/she would need one or not. Thank you!

  76. 115

    This is great– whenever we are choosing a CMS we construct a matrix:

  77. 116

    Really great article. Thanks!

  78. 117

    Nicely done on the little tutorial for creating an effective CMS. If anyone needs an SEO tool to help rank their websites, I advise checking out

  79. 118

    Umbraco is an excellent CMS. Currently in development with a themes / skins site for umbraco websites.. fed up of all the wordpress 1s.

  80. 119

    Great observations about having a strong web content manager. I’ve found that the remaining “web team” and the company commitment all play a huge role in success as well. If the company isn’t committed, then the site (and CMS) won’t perform well either. Hopefully, the WCM can get more people to support business efforts online and garner the full support a site needs.


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