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What is a Content Management System?

The website ecosystem has come a long way in the last fifteen years. In the past, web developers had to build and maintain websites using static HTML text files that they would upload via an FTP program like Filezilla. Every time you wanted to create and manage a new blogpost, web pages, change a banner, or make a simple adjustment, you would have to pour into a lengthy HTML file and make manual edits on a text file and reupload that file to the website.

In other words, editing and maintaining websites was a serious pain point for webmasters across the globe, and required a knowledge of web programming. Fast forward a few years, and content management systems have made the process of publishing content simpler, faster, and more accessible for everyone. But what are content management systems? Why do they matter? And what kinds of content management systems, or software applications, are there?

So What is a CMS?

A content management system (CMS), also referred to as a web content management system (WCMS), is a platform that makes editing and creating digital content for your website easy. If you currently operate a website, you may already be using a web content management system. Nearly 50% of websites currently use content management systems to manage content, and almost all relatively new or recently updated websites run on a CMS.

Back in the day, website developers would use both HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to design and edit pages. CSS is used for the style elements on a page, while HTML is used for the core web page structure. Manually pouring over text files to make each granular change isn't just inefficient; it makes building a consistent, clean, and readily-updated website almost impossible.

A drag & drop WCM solution makes managing web content a breeze. Instead of manual pour-over, content creators can use a WYSIWYG (i.e., "what you see is what you get") user interface to create, edit and produce rich website content. That means that anyone can create a website, regardless of their technical skills. Plus, business owners don't have to call up a developer every time they want to make a change to their website. Instead, they can rely on an easy-to-use editing interface to quickly publish changes.

To put that into perspective. Here's what creating a blog post used to look like:

Coding a Blog Post Using HTML

Here's what it looks like with QuickSilk's WYSIWYG CMS:

QuickSilk WYSIWYG User Friendly Web Editor

Why Should You Use a CMS?

To put this as simply as possible, a CMS lets you:

  • Build websites faster

  • Build websites without development experience

  • Create multiple users to collaborate on projects

  • Instantly integrate with critical platforms (e.g., Google Analytics, Mailchimp, HubSpot, Social Media, PayPal, etc.)

  • Support your digital marketing efforts

  • Leverage best-in-class security tools

  • Maintain your website easily

Compared to typing away at an HTML file, content management systems are a radically different system, and approach, that provides more value for everyone involved in content creation.

Top 5 Key Features to Look for in a CMS

There are a wide range of content management systems on the market. In 2005, one researcher pointed out that there were already over 1,800 CMS options on the market. In other words, you're not starved for options. But the majority of those options are low-effort and certainly feature-stripped (i.e., anyone can make a CMS, but very few can make a good CMS). Here are five key features you should look for when evaluating your CMS options.

1. Security

Without a doubt, security is the single most significant front-of-mind feature for business owners. In 2019, cyberattacks cost business owners over $2 trillion. 43% of cyber attacks actively target small businesses, and the average small business will close its doors within 6 months of a successful attack. Finding a CMS with best-in-class security is a must. But that's easier said than done.

The single largest CMS on the planet — WordPress — also happens to be the single most vulnerable CMS on the market. In fact, WordPress accounts for over 90% of ALL hacked CMS websites, and over 70% of WordPress websites are actively vulnerable right now. In other words, many businesses are drawn to name and scope instead of security.

And this can be a huge mistake.

Every day, 230,000 new malware samples are produced. Over 40,000 ransomware attacks happen every single day. In fact, a hacker will attack a business every 11 seconds by the end of this year. Here's where things get scary. The total cost of a successful cyberattack can be over $5 million.

Look for security first. If you don't, you'll either end up at the end of a nasty, expensive hack, or you'll be forced to shell out additional money for security components. And given that the average enterprise spends up to $2.4 million on security components, those costs can instantly outweigh the benefits of your CMS platform.

2. Integrations

If there's one mantra that web admin should live by, it's this: integrations NOT plugins.

Many open-source content management systems feature plugins. These are third-party components that "plugin" to your website to give you additional features. Unfortunately, they're also ripe with vulnerabilities. There are over 10,000 WordPress plugin vulnerabilities out there, and a single one of these third-party plugins can put millions of websites at risk.

Instead, you want API integrations. You still need to be able to leverage the power of Mailchimp, Facebook, Instagram, HubSpot, and all of the other beautiful platforms out there, but you don't want to plug their code directly into your website. APIs let you get the benefits without all of the unnecessary risks. Of course, you'll want to use a CMS that has the integrations you need to function.

3. Accessibility & Multilingual Capabilities

Website owners have one goal — to get their content to as many hungry customers as possible. But what if you were blocking a large chunk of your audience right out-of-the-gate? Unfortunately, many CMS options don't provide access to accessibility standards or multilingual capabilities.

Did you know that over 1 billion people currently live with a disability? Those same people spend over $500 billion annually on products and services.

Did you know that only 20% of the world's population speaks English? That's over 7 billion people that don't speak English whatsoever.

If your CMS doesn't have multilingual capabilities or comply with accessibility standards (e.g., AODA, CLF, 508, WCAG, 2AA, etc.), then you're potentially losing out on billions of customers. That's a big deal!

4. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting traffic from search engines like Google. Given that 93% of online experiences start on search engines, SEO is a pretty big deal.

Again, there's a big difference between built-in SEO and plugin-enabled SEO. Content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal offer plugin-based SEO capabilities. In other words, SEO isn't built into the architecture of the platform — you have to use third-party plugins to enable your website's SEO. These SEO plug-ins are under constant attack by hackers. A successful hack can damage month, perhaps years, of SEO work and potentially result in your website being blacklisted by Google.

Instead, look for content management systems that have built-in SEO capabilities that work without plugins. It will save you time, headaches, and plenty of vulnerability gateways.

5. WYSIWYG Editing

The primary benefit of content management systems is that you don't have to dive into code to create website changes. But that doesn't mean that every CMS makes changing your content easy. You want a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor. Want to drag a page element across your website? You should be able to drag that bad boy with ease.

Don't settle for anything less.

Common Types of Content Management Systems

With so many options on the market, it can be hard to make a choice (even after you consider the benefits). Don't worry. We'll help you break it down. Let's go over the CMS "types."

Software

There are two primary methods of software delivery that content management systems can use:

  • Open-source: With open-source content management systems, the source code of the CMS is generally available to the public. There are some pros and cons to this. For starters, while open-source content management systems make it easy to change the source code, they're also intrinsically less secure than closed-source options. When hackers get free reign to dig around in the source code, they can come up with savvy attack vectors. While, open-source content management systems have the added benefit of community advancement, that same community quickly becomes the greatest source of risks — such as varying code quality, inconsistent updates and confusing architecture. 

  • Closed-source: With closed-source content management systems (a.k.a. "proprietary systems"), the source code is kept private. While developers aren't able to poke around in the source code, the overall system architecture is generally more secure and handled as a well-guarded secret.

Delivery Method

There are also a few different ways that the CMS software can be delivered to the end-user.

  • On-premise (self-managed): This is when the CMS is installed on your physical servers on-premise at your business location. You're responsible for updates, installations, and hosting.

  • Hosted (self-managed): This is when the CMS is installed on an off-site server that you still manage. An excellent example of this is WordPress.org. You can install WordPress on your website host, but you're still responsible for managing all of the updates, etc.

  • Hosted (fully-managed): This is when the CMS is installed on an off-site server that's fully-managed. An excellent example of this is WordPress.com. The CMS is updated and managed for you, but it's still hosted on a server that you have access to.

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): This is when the CMS is centrally hosted by a provider, fully-managed, and provided on a licensed basis. In this system, you're only responsible for a licensing fee — the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider handles everything else. QuickSilk is an excellent example of this type of system. We handle everything from security to updates. You're only responsible for creating content.

Usage

Finally, there are a few different types of content management systems as far as usage is concerned. In general, this post has covered one type of CMS — website content management systems. But there are a few others on the market.

  • Component Content Management System (CCMS): Component content management systems help organize content at the granular level. So, a component content management system helps organize photos, words, and other small bits of content. Then, the CCMS organizes this content using metatags to make it easily searchable. These are generally used at large organizations as an internal searching tool.

  • Document Management System (DMS): Document management systems help organizations store and track documents in the cloud. Again, these are incredibly useful, but only for internal document searching and categorization — not outward customers.

  • Enterprise Content Management System (ECM): Enterprise content management systems are a little more complex. They help organizations capture, analyze, distribute, store, and utilize content effectively across their content pipeline. These systems are massive in scope and almost exclusively used internally.

  • Website Content Management System (WCMS): Website content management systems are solutions like QuickSilk and WordPress. These are used to quickly and easily build out websites.

  • Digital Asset Management System (DAM): Digital asset management systems are like ECM systems, but they're used for outward-facing content. So, these systems help you capture, analyze, distribute, store, and utilize content effectively for clients. Again, this is really for massive enterprises.

Are You Looking for the Perfect Content Management System?

At QuickSilk, we understand the value of your website. It's the 24/7 sales-and-marketing machine that helps fuel your business and drive customers into your pipeline. We believe that your CMS should enable you to do more, create smarter, and embrace the digital age — not disable you and open your website up to vulnerabilities.

Do you want a CMS that checks all the boxes? Contact us! We'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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