1. Computing

Getting Started With a CMS

Build a Powerful Website and Add Content Easily

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If you're building a website, content management system (CMS) software will make your life much easier. Learn what a CMS is, how to choose one, and how to get started using a CMS for your website.

CMS? What's a CMS?

Is "CMS" just another meaningless acronym? Take a few minutes to learn what a CMS actually is, and why it can make running a website so much easier.

A contemporary website has a lot of moving parts: menus, category lists, archives, latest posts, and more. A CMS tries to make all this as automatic as possible. That frees you to focus on adding good content.

See CMSs in Action

Now that you know what a CMS is, let's see the software in action.

Not all websites use a CMS, and some use expensive or obscure software that you probably don't want to imitate.

But a huge number of websites (like, millions) use one of the Big Three CMSs: Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal. With the right tools, you can see whether a website uses one of these three. Learn how to see CMSs in action.

You'll be amazed at how versatile this software can be. As you'll discover through your browsing, these CMSs can be customized to look however you want. Two sites can look completely different, but behind the scenes, both be running the same powerful software.

Planning Your Site: Details to Give Your Developer

Browsing other sites can give you great ideas. Eventually, though, you need to sit down and plan your site. You really want to make your plans before you start building your site or talking to a developer.

Let Your Developer Handle Certain Details

If you're willing to learn, and your site is fairly simple, you don't have to be a developer to use a CMS. But if you do decide to use a developer, you'll save and time and money if you let your developer handle certain details. Know when to delegate.

Choose Your CMS

Which CMS should you use? I've narrowed the choice to Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal, but you do have to choose one.

If you're already working with developers, it's easy: ask them. They should be able to pick the right tool for your site.

Even if you're building the site yourself, choosing your CMS can be fairly easy. The key is to plan what you want before you go "shopping" (for free software).

Which Version Should You Download?

When you go to download a CMS, there may be more than one version offered as a download. It may seem like a small detail, but unfortunately, the version does matter.

Which version do you choose? There's no single right answer. It depends on the particulars of your website. (Another reason to plan your site.)

So before you click that download, learn about choosing a version. You'll save yourself a great deal of aggravation.

Securing Your CMS

Finally, the catch. Security. The price of power is complexity, and the price of complexity is a multitude of moving parts that can break and turn insecure.

The good news: the developers are always working to find and fix these security holes.

The bad news: your site won't fix itself. Plus, as soon as the developers make a fix and release a new version, the entire planet knows that the old version is still insecure. And precisely what's wrong with it.

Bottom line: a CMS is never "done." Like any other complex machine, it needs ongoing maintenance. Learn how to keep your CMS secure, and your site will serve you well for years to come.

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