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What is a content management system (CMS)?

Content Management

 

A content management system is software that keeps track of every piece of content on your Web site, much like your local public library keeps track of books and stores them. Content can be simple text, photos, music, video, documents, or just about anything you can think of. A major advantage of using a CMS is that it requires almost no technical skill or knowledge to manage. Since the CMS manages all your content, you don’t have to.

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A CMS supports the following features:

  • Identification of all key users and their content management roles;
  • The ability to assign roles and responsibilities to different content categories or types;
  • Definition of workflow tasks for collaborative creation, often coupled with event messaging so that content managers are alerted to changes in content (For example, a content creator submits a story, which is published only after the copy editor revises it and the editor-in-chief approves it.);
  • The ability to track and manage multiple versions of a single instance of content;
  • The ability to capture content (e.g. scanning);
  • The ability to publish the content to a repository to support access to the content (Increasingly, the repository is an inherent part of the system, and incorporates enterprise search and retrieval.);
  • Separation of content’s semantic layer from its layout (For example, the CMS may automatically set the color, fonts, or emphasis of text.).
 

Web Content Management System

A web content management system (WCMS or Web CMS) is content management system (CMS) software, usually implemented as a Web application, for creating and managing HTML content. It is used to manage and control a large, dynamic collection of Web material (HTML documents and their associated images). A WCMS facilitates content creation, content control, editing, and many essential Web maintenance functions.

Usually the software provides authoring (and other) tools designed to allow users with little or no knowledge of programming languages or markup languages to create and manage content with relative ease of use.

Most systems use a database to store content, metadata, and/or artifacts that might be needed by the system. Content is frequently, but not universally, stored as XML, to facilitate reuse and enable flexible presentation options.

A presentation layer displays the content to regular Web-site visitors based on a set of templates. The templates are sometimes XSLT files.

Administration is typically done through browser-based interfaces, but some systems require the use of a fat client.

Unlike Web-site builders like Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe Dreamweaver, a WCMS allows non-technical users to make changes to an existing website with little or no training. A WCMS typically requires an experienced coder to set up and add features, but is primarily a Web-site maintenance tool for non-technical administrators.

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Capabilities

A WCMS is a software system used to manage and control a large, dynamic collection of Web material (HTML documents and their associated images). A CMS facilitates document control, auditing, editing, and timeline management. A WCMS provides the following key features

Automated templates
Create standard output templates (usually HTML and XML) that can be automatically applied to new and existing content, allowing the appearance of all content to be changed from one central place.
Easily editable content. Once content is separated from the visual presentation of a site, it usually becomes much easier and quicker to edit and manipulate. Most WCMS software includes WYSIWYG editing tools allowing non-technical individuals to create and edit content.
Scalable feature sets
Most WCMS software includes plug-ins or modules that can be easily installed to extend an existing site’s functionality.
Web standards upgrades
Active WCMS software usually receives regular updates that include new feature sets and keep the system up to current web standards.
Workflow management
Workflow is the process of creating cycles of sequential and parallel tasks that must be accomplished in the CMS. For example, a content creator can submit a story, but it is not published until the copy editor cleans it up and the editor-in-chief approves it.
Delegation
Some CMS software allows for various user groups to have limited privileges over specific content on the website, spreading out the responsibility of content management.
Document management
CMS software may provide a means of managing the life cycle of a document from initial creation time, through revisions, publication, archive, and document destruction.
Content virtualization
CMS software may provide a means of allowing each user to work within a virtual copy of the entire Web site, document set, and/or code base. This enables changes to multiple interdependent resources to be viewed and/or executed in-context prior to submission.

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