A CMS is a Content Management Solution or sometimes called a Content Management System. It enables us to build a dynamic website, which could be called a Content Management Website, but that would be a CMW, only one degree from a BMW which is a totally different thing and off-topic of this post.
Yet speaking of cars, that is a good way to describe a CMS. A car has four main parts; the body, an interior, a chassis and the engine. A CMS website also has four main parts; the theme, content, framework and the CMS platform. On a website the theme or template is the look of the website, so it’s like the body of the car. The content of the website, the text, media and interactions, would be the equivalent of the interior of the car. The chassis of a website is its framework and determines how versatile it is and what functions it can perform. And the CMS, the website platform software, is the engine; it drives the website.
CMS Theme is the Look and Style of the Website
The great thing with a CMS is that we can change the look just by switching themes. It’s kind of like the kit cars that we used to use with the old Volkswagon Bug. Each kit had it’s own look, but underneath it was the same frame, chassis and engine. In the old Sitebuilder CMS days, we would find nice looking websites on crappy old framework, and had that same disappointment of a kit car builder when he took his slick looking racecar on the highway and realized he still only had a Bug. Thankfully this is no longer the case, as WordPress and Joomla are powerful chassis and engines for themes and we no longer are limited to the simple functions of early CMS tools. Today’s themes function like the high performance websites they look like.
Content: The Interior of the Website
I know I spend a lot more time looking at the interior of my car than I do at the body. You can learn a lot about a car’s owner by looking at the car’s interior; seats and mirrors adjusted to height, what music do they like, do they have kids, how messy are they, etc. Well, the content of your website tells a visitor a lot about your company. While initially all the attention is spent on the design, the content is what will make the website a success or not. The quality of the content will attract visitors, convert them to leads, and excite the leads to become customers. While a CMS cannot ensure your quality of content, it can make the job of publishing the content as simple as possible.
Talk to any car aficionado and they’ll tell you the chassis is what makes the car. Often overlook, in the background from the engine and the body, the chassis is what allows the car to go from point a to b. You need to have the right chassis for cross-country touring versus 4x4ing in the woods. With a website, the framework determines if the website will adapt to different devices, have a smooth image transition, and upgrade easily to different functions. The Framework and the Theme are very closely connected. When making a decision on a theme, definitely consider the framework and how well it is supported.
CMS as the Engine of the Website
The engine of a car is what determine if it will haul a family of 6 or go around a race track at 150 mph. Select the CMS depending on your needs, not on your developer’s experience. An HTML website would be a go-cart engine and a custom CMS would be for a Grand Prix race-car. Joomla is an engine that fits a pickup truck, a SUV or a box truck. Wordpress fits a sedan, SUV, luxury or a compact car. Some engines need constant maintenance, and some are almost maintenance-free. Some require a rocket scientist to maintain, and others can be supported by the neighborhood mechanic.
I think we have reached the end of this metaphor. Hopefully it has answered more than confused the question of what makes up a CMS.