Content reigns supreme on the modern web, but we often forget to think about the structures that make this content understandable for users. In the article, we take a look at the vitally important field of Information Architecture, covering both its basis in the cognitive sciences and the principles that guide the successful information architect.
Very few people today would dispute the importance of being on the web. So much of the interaction that structures our lives, be it social or commercial, takes place on the internet, and those who do not carefully curate an online presence are at risk of being left behind in the ongoing digital revolution. Yet websites can also be clunky, deeply technical affairs that feel like they require a team of experts to update and change. Thankfully, the modern website can be powered by software technology that automates the process of modifying a website’s content.
These software suites, known as CMS, allow us to build bespoke, complex, and interactive websites that our clients can then independently maintain, update, and change in line with their preferences. Yet there are so many different CMS offerings on the market that it can often seem daunting to select one particular option. In this article, we will concern ourselves fully with these platforms with the hope that we can provide you with the information necessary to choose which CMS is suitable for your online needs.
To do this, we will first define what a CMS is and further detail what the benefits of using CMS platforms are. Will we then list some of the most common CMS platforms, and make some suggestions as to how to best pick the best CMS for you. Finally, we will conclude with a discussion of the future of CMS and of some of the novel applications of the technology that we have integrated into our development process.
A CMS, short for Content Management System, is a software platform that allows a website administrator to create, curate, and update a website without the need to manually modify that website’s source code. This means that CMS-powered websites can be modified through a software interface that makes the necessary adjustments to a website’s code whenever an administrator decides to change an element of a website.
In what appears above, we have included an example interface from our content management system of choice, WordPress. As you can see, CMS software collates the core functionalities central to web development into a complete software package, allowing a website administrator to do things as varied as creating new content, changing administrative permissions, and checking website metrics all in a single, user-friendly location. CMS software can therefore be used by anyone, with any level of web development experience. Novice web administrators can use the technology to create their very first website, while professional web developers routinely use CMS software to develop custom web solutions that give their clients the ability to update a site with ease.
Content Management Systems have a host of proven benefits that make them an attractive proposition to any website owner:
When these three factors combine, they form a potent tool that can help any business thrive in the modern digital economy. A CMS-powered website can be tailored to suit a particular content strategy, and make the execution of that strategy substantially more streamlined, while simultaneously decreasing organizational friction. With CMS, anyone, even those without technical knowledge, can make basic updates to a website. This allows for significant optimization of the authoring process and removes the need to outsource simple content tasks to a web developer.
Optimizing the content creation process in this way allows a business owner to better control the consistency of a business’s web presence. This consistency goes a long way towards solidifying both brand presence and customer engagement. CMS platforms, therefore, are a powerful tool with proven benefits worthy of consideration.
CMS Platforms function as the architecture of the modern website. Having realized this, you may be wondering: how do I choose a CMS? There are a host of different content management systems on the market today, and each offers the prospective user different capabilities, at different price points. Before presenting some of the most popular CMS platforms in use today, we want to briefly discuss the factors that we think you should take into consideration when selecting a CMS: price, usability, flexibility, and maintenance and upkeep.
Definitely the most popular CMS on the market, WordPress has offered a free and open-source content management solution for the past two decades. As it sits under the hood of more than 40% of websites on the internet, we have demonstrated experience building with WordPress and regularly recommend it to our clients.
Drupal is another open-source CMS, designed specifically with custom developer solutions and high-traffic websites in mind. Drupal also has a reputation for security, with a vibrant community and airtight coding standards.
Joomla is a free, open-source CMS that has been around since 2005. Like Drupal, Joomla is tilted towards developers and comes with a huge set of options and extensions that allow for the creation of custom and bespoke websites.
Shopify is a CMS designed specifically for e-commerce and online webshops. It is extendable, comes with 24/7 live support, and can integrate both physical and online storefronts into a single system.
WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce CMS on the internet today. Technically a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce is a useable and flexible e-commerce solution that currently powers 5.8% of the world’s websites.
Magento is a powerful e-commerce CMS developed by Adobe, specifically with large enterprises in mind. The platform is powerful and designed to seamlessly handle large volumes of data, products, and consumers.
Contentful is a headless CMS option designed specifically for enterprises. Based in the cloud, Contentful allows a business to seamlessly deliver optimized content to any channel.
Hubspot is a CMS that has been designed to cater specifically to business owners and marketers. It is well suited for content strategies, customer analytics, and SEO optimization.
Webflow is a no-code CMS interface developed specifically for designers. Webflow’s intuitive editor allows for the creation of visually appealing and bespoke web solutions across various devices.
Content Management Systems are an evolving set of technologies that we are happy to be at the forefront of. One of the most exciting developments within content management technology is the emergence of Headless CMS. Headless CMS differs from traditional CMS in substantial ways. In traditional CMS platforms, the entirety of a website’s content is stored in a content repository (“body”) that is then coupled to a presentation layer (the user interface, or in industry terms, the “head”). This coupling, achieved through code, forces content from the repository into a specific presentation format. While this form of CMS has largely powered the internet until now, it is hindered by the unique nature of any coupled CMS platform’s presentation layer.
To elaborate, coupled CMS platforms essentially collect every element of a website into a single bucket. This prevents other websites, apps, or devices from picking through that bucket and re-using specific content that has already been displayed on a website. While this situation is fine when operating a small website, larger enterprises often conduct campaigns across several different digital formats and locations and therefore require the capability to deliver content simultaneously through a host of different avenues. Headless CMS is a response to this. By severing the ‘head’ (the presentation layer) from the body (the content depository), Headless CMS platforms can function as a purely back-end content delivery system that can shuttle content towards multiple different technological formats at once.
This system, which delivers its content to multiple different end-users at once through an API, is both flexible and scalable, and can thus be adapted to evolving business requirements. It is also a system that has proven performance advantages when compared to its traditional headed counterparts. Simplifying the content delivery framework allows for faster load times, which in turn creates a better user experience and increased SEO value. Headless CMS platforms can also be mixed and matched with any traditional front-end framework, allowing you to combine and realize the benefits of both.
Choosing a CMS can seem a daunting task. It shouldn’t be. There is a CMS on the market to fill any niche, and choosing which CMS is right for you is as easy as deciding on what specifically your business will need from a Content Management System. In other words, there is a CMS for everyone. At Studio Vi, we are here to help you through this process. We can build confidently in any of the listed systems and have the proficiency necessary to recommend specific CMS platforms for custom solutions. The question is really: how will you use a CMS to expand your business?