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Content-Management Systems - CMS - The Basics

What is a content-management system (CMS), anyway?

Simple, really. Everyone has a website these days. Whether you own a restaurant, operate a car wash, sell homemade jewelry or just want to share pictures and stories about your family, you probably have a website. A content management system is just something that makes operating, editing and adding on to your website a lot easier.

So how does having a CMS make everything easier?

Well, think about what it takes to make a website. Every website has a layout, whether it be simple or complex, and it is this layout that gives your website its personality. The layout is a collection of code (html, CSS, php, etc) and images that determine what colors should be used, where the menus and content are located and how it all looks and functions.

When you're creating a home page without a content-management system, every new page you add has to have the layout and menu programmed into it. For example, let's say you have a website for your family restaurant. You have your home page, menu page and contact page. All three of these pages have to include the layout code, as well as the code for the menu links, header, footer, etc. If you want to add a fourth page that has, say, pictures of the restaurant and some of your best dishes, you not only have to create a new page that includes the general layout code, but you have to edit the other pages to update the menu links so they will all have a link to the new picture page. If you have a very simple site with just a couple of pages, that's not too big of a deal (if you know what you're doing), but what happens when your site has 10 pages? 50 pages? 1,000 pages? It starts to take a lot of time and energy to update all of the pages, create new ones an keep it all organized.

With a content-management system, everything is suddenly a whole lot simpler. With a content management system, you only have to set up the layout once. Whenever you add a new page, the CMS automatically applies the existing layout so you don't have to. Similarly, when a new page is added, all of your menus are automatically updated as well. A good content management system makes it as easy as the click of a button to create a new page on your website and have it up and running.

With CMS, anyone can operate a website.

Most content-management systems come with a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor that makes editing the site content as easy as using a word processor. Suddenly operating a website is so easy that anyone can do it! Nowadays, you can operate a rather complex website with lots and lots of pages without ever having to touch a line of even the simplest html code. Whether you need to insert an image, make text bold, change fonts or add links, everything is just a simple button click.

CMS can do a lot more than the basics.

A well-supported content-management system does more than just help you manage your pages, menus and layouts -- it helps you easily add functionality to your website that would otherwise require lots of coding, energy and patience. In the form of modules and plugins, these add-ons are often as simple as clicking a single button and can allow you to easily integrate exciting features like photo albums, website search, articles, maps, music and anything else you can think of into your web pages. The more popular content-management systems like Wordpress an CMS Made Simple have many followers who are continually uploading new and improved plugins that serve a world of different purposes.

Content-management systems are widely available.

How much does a CMS cost, you ask? How does free sound? There are a lot of great open-source content-management systems out there created and maintained by and for the online community. A simple Google search for CMS is an easy way to find a CMS. Some of the most popular are:

Whichever CMS you decide to use, your life will surely be a lot easier than it would be if you attempted to operate your website with raw code and no CMS.

 

Setting up your site with a CMS is easy.

Getting your new website up and running with a fully-functional CMS may sound pretty intimidating, but rest-assured it's actually pretty easy. All you need to do is register a domain name (www.domainname.com), get a decent hosting account (pretty inexpensive these days), download the CMS and upload it to your server using an FTP program (lots of good free ones are available), create a database (again, easier than it sounds) and run the install program (as easy as opening a webpage and entering a few details. Here are CMS Made Simple installation instructions.

Content-management with CMS Made Simple.

One of the most user-friendly (while exceptionally functional) free content-management systems on the web is CMS Made Simple. CMS Made Simple allows you to easily program in your website's layout(s) and manage your website content completely independent of these layout(s). With CMS Made Simple's straightforward, no-frills interface, managing menus and page hierarchies is not only easy but enjoyable. With lots of modules supported by the CMS Made Simple online community, adding new functionality to your website is a piece of cake (especially with CMS Made Simple's use of the Smart tags system).

What's even better is freeoscommerce.com offers free CMS Made Simple templates that only take a few minutes and can give your website a completely new, customized look and feel. Browse CMS Made SImple templates now.

What is STS?

The Simple Template System (STS), a free osCommerce add-on, is the template system osCommerce 2.2 should have come with. It makes using templates and editing your store's appearance easy. Read more.

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