Content management systems (CMS) have revolutionized modern website design. Instead of having to build everything from scratch, website owners or professional developers now have a range of tools available that lets them create professional looking websites in minutes.
The three most popular CMS packages are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. All three share many characteristics. Their characteristics are as follows:
- Written in PHP
- Use a MYSQL database
- Template driven
- Feature auto-installers
- Provide easy-to-use administration functions
- All open source, which means they are free to use
- Built-in search engine optimization features.
A key part of modern search engine optimization is publishing fresh and original content on a regular basis. All the major search engines now regard fresh, unique content as one of the major reasons for ranking websites highly.
CMS makes it easy for anybody to publish fresh content, and that plays a big part in the popularity of these systems. The best way to understand why CMS works so well is to compare it with older methods of publishing new content.
To add content to an older website, the owner or developer will have to create a new page to carry the content. The creator will have to add all the HTML tags to set the style and layout of the content on the new page. He or she will then have to manually edit one or more of the existing website pages to insert a link to the new page (otherwise, surfers will not be able to find it).
In contrast, the developer or owner who uses CMS simply goes into the admin function, clicks on the option to add a new page, and pastes in the content. All the style and layout tasks are done by the CMS based on the chosen template. Additionally the CMS automatically inserts a link in the appropriate category or menu.
Which CMS is best?
Which CMS is best is a matter of personal preference. For people with coding skills, Drupal is probably the best choice, as it gives users more control. For beginners, WordPress is probably the easiest to navigate. Joomla falls somewhere in between these two. It is important to point out that no programming skills are necessary with any of the CMS packages.
There are thousands of templates available with all three systems. Many templates can be free of charge, or they can be purchased from commercial developers. The principle behind using templates is that you can change the appearance of your entire website just by swapping templates. This is a very powerful feature of CMS.
Plugins are basically add-ons to expand the functions of the CMS. For example, Virtuemart is a fully-fledged e-commerce solution that can be added to a Joomla installation. It, too, is open source. There are thousands of plugins available for all three systems to enhance their power and flexibility.
All three systems are easy to set up and install. In fact, many hosting companies now offer one-click installation. It is easy to learn the basic functions. However, to get the most out of any of these CMS packages, there is a lot to learn, but the effort is well worth it.
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