Tech Therapy: What is a CMS?

A CMS is a content managment system, but more helpfully now, a CMS is an application that lets you create, edit and publish various documents (text, video, audio, etc).

CMSs seek to alleviate a great deal of the complexities of publishing content online. This puts it in the hands of a great number of people that would normally have to hire someone to do it for them.

Each web-based CMS has it’s own set of features, issues and price. Being a tech guy, I’m a big fan of many of the free, open-source options. They tend to be a little more work, but the price is nice. Along those lines, the ones I recommend are: Joomla, Drupal and WordPress.

There are (almost endless) philosphical debates about which is better. Here’s my one sentence about each. Joomla tends to give you more bang for the buck just out of the box, but as you want more and more features it falters. Drupal is more tech heavy earlier on, but once that hurdle has been jumped it stands up pretty well. WordPress has in the past tended to be more of just a blogging platform, but it’s very easy to use and over the last year of updates has become a more and more full featured CMS (including an iPhone app).

So where do you get started?

Unless there is some “I can’t live without it” feature that one gives you over another, I think the main factor in choosing a CMS to start palying around with should be convenience. The hosting provider you are using may already have one installed. A friend of yours may already have installed and configured one of them. If that fails, you can always check these links out. They are almost all free at their basic level. If you want more features they charge for upgrades.

  • TopCities.com – Zero risk to start playing around with a large number of open source tools, including the three CMSs mentioned in this article.
  • WordPress.com – A hosted version of the open source package where you can start a blog in seconds without any technical knowledge.
  • DrupalCafe.com – A quick way to set up a free account and get started with Drupal.
  • Axishost.com – So this is the one link that isn’t free to start. If you don’t like the above links and are looking for something that will grow with you, this is what I would pick. They have a relatively easy installation for the three CMSs in this article. They are the hosting provider I use and have had very good experience with them. The plus side to choosing this one is their starter plan is less than $6/month but they offer a wide range of higher plans.

Steve Fosdal – steve@fosdal.net

The opinions expressed here are my own. Any similarity the may have to another opinion, either living or dead, corporate or private, is purely coincidental and does not represent any form of endorsement or sponsorship.

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