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7 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask about Content Management Systems

, 23 May 2007
What is a content management system? Does it really work? Why should I use it? How does it help me? This article answers the most common questions developers ask about content management systems (CMS).

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This is a showcase review for our sponsors at The Code Project. These reviews are intended to provide you with information on products and services that we consider useful and of value to developers.

If developers must choose between using a content management system, or building a dynamic web site from scratch, many of them hesitate. Some of them say:

  • "CMS systems aren't flexible – I do not want to use only 3-column layout" or
  • "CMS systems are complex – I do not have time to learn them" or
  • "CMS systems cost too much – I cannot spend so much money for this project" or
  • "CMS systems aren't open – I cannot do that as I would do in Visual Studio"

These are some of the common myths, but what is today's reality?

Question 1: What is a Content Management System?

Content Management System provides support for managing content (data, files, etc.) during its lifecycle. It enforces content structure, validation rules, security, content authoring workflow and content publishing in multiple formats. This article is focused on Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) that are used for managing web site content.

<Kentico>

This article is provided by CodeProject sponsor Kentico Software, the maker of Kentico CMS for ASP.NET – the open content management system for .NET developers. You will find notes on Kentico CMS in these tags.

</Kentico>

Question 2: What are the benefits?

The CMS solutions provide different benefits to various groups of involved users:

  • Content editors can easily edit content, typically through a browser-based user interface, without technical knowledge.
  • Site managers can control the content published on the web site through the workflow process.
  • Web developers can create the dynamic web site without developing everything from scratch and once the web site is ready, the editors can do their daily content editing tasks without developer's assistance.
  • Site visitors get up-to-date information since the content editors do not have to wait for web developer to make the changes on the site.

<Kentico>

Kentico CMS provides content editors, site managers and even web developers with a fully browser-based interface that allows them to easily manage web site structure, navigation and content. You can use the built-in WYSIWYG editor that fully integrates with the CMS system and allows editors to easily create links to other pages or insert images. The figure below shows a page in editing mode:

Kentico CMS .NET - WYSIWYG editing

</Kentico>

Question 3: What is the difference between Content Management, Document Management and Portal?

It's not always clear whether a system is CMS, DMS (document management system) or portal since some products combine all such features. Document management often overlaps with CMS, but in the context of Web Content Management, the document management is usually focused on uploadeding documents, such as Word files, PDF's, images, video, etc. The portals are usually oriented on providing personalized access to content and web applications. They typically build pages using "web parts", "servlets" or "portlets". They may be used as a front-end that displays content from CMS or DMS systems.

<Kentico>

Kentico CMS combines all of these systems – you can manage web content, uploaded documents, and publish them on the web site through a public or personalized portal. You can also integrate your own code, external data and applications into the site.

</Kentico>

Question 4: How do the Content Management Systems work?

The content management process typically consists of two main steps – content authoring and content delivery. The content is stored in a content repository, which can be a relational database, XML database or some proprietary storage. There are some typical features that will help you recognize a real content management system from a simple news or article management system:

  1. The system allows you to define custom content types with custom fields (without complex programming or expensive customization), so you're not limited to predefined types.
  2. The system allows you to apply the same security rules, workflow processes and other features (multilingual support, full-text search, etc.) to all content types, including uploaded files (DOC, PDF, etc.).
  3. The content is stored in structured format so that it can be re-used for various views (listing, preview, detail, etc.) and for various output formats (HTML, PDF, mobile devices, etc.).
The content delivery is usually ensured by dynamic pages that pull the content from the repository and display it on the live site (unless you use a CMS that generates static HTML code).

<Kentico>

Kentico CMS uses standard relational database (Microsoft SQL Server 2000 or 2005, including the Express Edition) to store the content. Since the content is stored in standard database tables, you can easily access it using SQL commands and the access is very fast.

You can define custom content types with custom fields through a friendly browser-based interface without programming:

Kentico CMS .NET - Custom Fields

</Kentico>

Question 5: Do I have control over rendered HTML code and design?

One of the major concerns of web developers and web designers is if they can implement their required design using a CMS system. Many of them have a bad experience with some portals that support only three-column, table-based layout and render lots of non-valid HTML code that can even break their design. These things are getting better and today's CMS systems finally start to support XHTML compliant code and give you lots of control over the rendered code. Still, you should make sure that the built-in editor also produces XHTML compliant code.

<Kentico>

Kentico CMS allows you to fully control the rendered code. You can customize the HTML/XHTML code of the page templates and you can use both table layout and CSS layout.

The built-in WYSIWYG editor automatically fixes non-valid XHTML code and cleans up text pasted from Microsoft Word.

</Kentico>

Question 6: What else can I do with a Content Management System?

Content Management Systems are no longer limited to managing content. They often provide additional modules that allow you to make the web site more interactive, sell products or create on-line communities. It's important to consider wheter or not the modules you will need are directly available from your CMS vendor since later integration of third-party products may significantly increase the project price.

<Kentico>

Kentico CMS comes with several extending modules:

  • E-commerce
  • Newsletter
  • Forums
  • On-line forms
  • Image gallery
  • Content staging (editing and live server synchronization)

</Kentico>

Question 7: How much does it cost?

The CMS market offers products with different philosophies, on various platforms and in very different price levels ranging from free open source systems to enterprise-level systems for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As with any other technology product, you need to consider the implementation and on-going maintenance costs that often exceed the license cost.

When choosing a CMS, you should always ask:

  • Is the product worth the money? What do I get for my money and what features do I really need?
  • Is the product flexible, extensible and open so that it can be customized for our needs?
  • Can I implement the product myself or do I have to hire consultants?
  • Do I need a dedicated server or can I use shared hosting?

<Kentico>

Kentico CMS is available from $448 to $1298 for a single web site including one year of unlimited technical support. It makes it affordable for any serious dynamic web site. You can also choose a Server or Unlimited license if you plan to build many web sites.

If you develop web sites for your clients, you can register as a partner and get 25% partner discount.

Kentico CMS was built as an open and extensible CMS framework for ASP.NET developers. It's delivered with completely documented API and database structure and you can easily integrate custom code into your site. You can also purchase a license with full source code if you need to make changes to the core CMS engine.

Kentico CMS was designed for developers without deep programming knowledge who can use the browser-based interface to build dynamic web sites without any coding. The experienced ASP.NET developers can create page templates using Visual Studio 2005 (in C# or VB.NET).

Kentico CMS can be used with many ASP.NET hosting providers in the shared hosting environment. You can install it on the server just using FTP.

Kentico CMS is the content management system for ASP.NET developers who need to create flexible dynamic web sites in a short time, without complex programming and for an affordable price.

</Kentico>

Download Free Trial Version

Download and evaluate fully-functional Kentico CMS trial version today:

You can buy Kentico CMS with 30-day money back guarantee here.

Should you have any questions about Kentico CMS, please feel free to contact us at support@kentico.com.

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About the Author

Petr Palas
Web Developer
Czech Republic Czech Republic
Petr Palas is founder of Kentico Software (www.kentico.com), the producer of professional solutions for web developers. Kentico Software is focused on development and marketing of Kentico CMS for ASP.NET. Our goal is to create the most flexible and easy-to-use web content management solution for ASP.NET developers.

Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralNo SPAM Please Pinmemberarash alavi22-Feb-08 3:06 
GeneralRe: No SPAM Please PinmemberEksith24-Feb-08 2:47 
GeneralRe: No SPAM Please PinmemberPetr Palas24-Feb-08 3:50 
GeneralRe: No SPAM Please PinmemberEksith24-Feb-08 10:50 
GeneralPlease no advertising and spam, there is too much of it... Pinmembera codeproject fan8-Feb-08 2:33 
GeneralCMS Are Useless. PinmemberAriston Darmayuda19-Jul-07 7:19 

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