Your website needs a solid foundation for laying out content and publishing it. If you want complete control of every detail, you can use a fully customized approach. If ease of use is everything, you can create it with a website builder. For most sites, though, you want a balance of control and simplicity. You want an approach that gives the right appearance without requiring custom programming for every change.
A content management system, or CMS, gives you this balance. The most popular CMS is WordPress, for good reasons.
What is a CMS?
A CMS lets you create and modify the site’s content through the site itself, rather than uploading every file. It uses a database to store page content, sidebar items, menus, and everything else that goes into the site. Multiple users can collaborate in contributing. Most content management systems take care of the display as well as the creation and organization of the content.
A CMS separates content from presentation. The database holds text and tracks uploaded images, audio, and video. A Web application handles the presentation, putting the database’s information together for users to see. If you want to change the look of the site, you change the directions to the presentation application. The underlying content doesn’t have to change.
WordPress is free and open source . It’s been around since 2003, and according to W3Techs, in 2018 powers 31.6% of the websites. There are many reasons why is so popular, from the ease of use to an outstanding community who are always improving the software.
WordPress core, themes, and plugins
You can run WordPress on all popular servers. It uses the PHP programming language and a MySQL database. In addition to the WordPress core software, your installation can include themes and plugins. Themes control the appearance of the site, and plugins add functionality to it.
Installing WordPress isn’t difficult, but it requires a certain amount of familiarity with managing software on a server. Your host may be able to set it up for you, or you can pay someone to install it.
Every site needs an active theme. It controls the layout, fonts, and colors. You can switch at any time to a different theme while keeping your content. Most themes include customization options. Many themes are available for free, but buying a premium theme or having a custom one created for your site may be worth the cost. A site that reflects your brand will reward the expenditure.
Plugins serve many purposes. As with themes, some are available for free, and others cost money. These are just a few of the ways a plugin can enhance a site:
- E-commerce: The WordPress core doesn’t have all the ingredients for an e-commerce site, but several plugins are available which will let you list and sell products on your site. The most popular one is WooCommerce.
- SEO: Smart handling of a page’s content and metadata can improve its search rank. Plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack are available to make your SEO setup a breeze.
- Security: There are no such things as a 100% secure CMS and WordPress has its own fair share of security issues. Being surrounded by such a big community means that those issues are discovered relatively fast and are patched even faster. As with any other software, is essential to keep it up to date, create unique passwords and have regular updates.
- Social media: You want people who find your website to find your social media accounts and vice versa. WordPress provides some tools for social media connections on a site, but a plugin can make coordinating all of your locations on the Web really easy.
- Backups: Losing your site to hosting problems or malware is serious trouble if it’s not backed up. Several plugins offer automatic, periodic backups, guarding against data loss.
A business website isn’t a one-person job. Some people write content, some add notifications, some edit, and there has to be a person in charge of it all. Giving every contributor has unlimited power to modify the site would be unacceptably risky. WordPress facilitates team creation with a system of roles that lets contributors perform just the functions they need. Authors and contributors can just create content. Editors can edit and publish all content. The administrator can change site settings, add plugins and themes, and authorize or delete users.
Plugins can improve these capabilities, letting the administrator define custom roles. Assigning team members just the abilities they need reduces the chance of mistakes, as well as minimizing the risk from password theft.
A CMS lets site administrators control the site’s content and appearance without a lot of effort. WordPress is the most popular choice, and it’s suitable for lots of uses. Its vast body of third-party themes and plugins makes functionality available for a broad range of purposes.
When choosing a CMS, you should start by creating a requirements document. List the things you need to do with your website, and decide what your highest priorities are. Look at the alternatives and evaluate how well each one will let you meet your requirements. If you want to stick with a specific hosting company, or if you’ll be hosting your own site, the experience and preferences of the people who will manage it may be the deciding factor. WordPress will very often be the best choice, but make a careful study before committing to a decision.