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The Beginner’s Guide to Content Management Systems

The Beginner’s Guide to Content Management Systems

What is a CMS? It stands for content management system, which offers a flexible, back-end interface for users to edit, modify, and publish content on a website.

How a CMS Works

Websites are built with databases. Think of them as huge, complicated Excel sheets.  However, instead of logging into the servers and trying to make changes one field at a time, groups and individuals have created content management systems to help users communicate easily and efficiently with the database using a secure and easy-to-use interface. Most CMS’s are managed by companies or communities and updated as the web evolves.

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This is an introduction to the types of CMS’s and examples of what each platform can offer — from blogging to eCommerce and everything in between.

Open-Source

These CMS’s are free for all to use, and the public is welcome to contribute to improving the development and functionality of the platform.

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Private

  • Squarespace: With their recent upgrade to version 6, they offer “everything you need to create an exceptional website.”  With beautiful templates, great customer support, unique CMS, and social integration, Squarespace is a good option for graphic designers, photographers, and bloggers.
  • Expression Engine: When it comes to corporate sites, Expression Engine is a popular choice.  It’s known for being flexible for data driven products.
  • LightCMS: This quickly-growing CMS is built by a private company in Oklahoma.  They provide an affiliate program, white-labeling, and fully-customizable templates, making it easy for designers to turn it into their own website solutions.

Blogging:

  • Tumblr: Known as a micro-blogging platform, Tumblr is know for its image. Tumblr can be quite addicting — If you can’t stop watching animated gifs on Tumblr, check out “Managing Your Social Network Addiction.”
  • Blogger: This is Google’s blogging platform.
  • Typepad: According to their website, “Typepad is the reliable, flexible blogging platform that puts the publisher in control. Plus, great one-on-one support from our team of friendly experts.

eCommerce:

  • Magento: Known for their powerful but flexible eCommerce solutions, Magento provides online stores for companies like Nike, Toms, Vizio, and more.  They offer plans for large corporations and small businesses, in addition to having a flexible open-source edition.
  • PrestaShop: his popular, award-winning, open-source eCommerce platform is full of features and add-ons.
  • Shopify: Shopify is a private CMS that offers an App Store for add-ons and themes.  It uses liquid markup, making it easy for designers that understand html/css to quickly build a custom theme.

File-Based: 

This is becoming a common practice for small scale websites. A file-based CMS does not use a database but rather a structure of folders, text documents, and images.  These types of CMS’s are geared toward web designers and artists that are familiar with FTP, HTML, CSS, and MARKDOWN.

  • KirbyCMS: Kirby is a file-based CMS that offers good documentation, markdown syntax, an add-on admin panel, and Dropbox support. “Easy to setup, easy to use, flexible as hell.”
  • Statamic: Statamic is another file-based CMS that prides themselves on a detailed platform for web developers with a simple, client-friendly, and responsive admin panel.

Website Builders

This is more of the cousin of the CMS.  Website builders are great non-designers.  With drag-and-drop and pre-built templates, putting a website up in a few minutes is simple.

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  • Wix: Wix is the most popular web builder option on the web.  With over 26 million websites currently made, Wix offers hundreds of templates, drag-and-drop building, social integration, and app integration.
  • Weebly: Weebly offers websites that are “Free. Powerful. Professional.” It offers most of the same features as Wix and has competitive hosting prices.

Other

I’d like to think of these as the hidden gems or new arrivals on the web.  They haven’t made it “big” yet, but offer a new perspective or alternative features than the big guys. Think of them as indie CMS’s.

  • Anchor: Anchor is a “super-simple, lightweight blog system, made to let you just write.” This open-source project has some cool features, including markdown. Learn how to “Use Markdown For Easy Web Writing”.
  • Perch: Known as “the really little content management system,” Perch uses simple php functions to allow you to quickly make changes to paragraphs, add images, etc.
  • Unify: Instead of using a database, in-line editors use a javascript interface to allow you to make small changes to headings, paragraphs, images, etc.
  • Big Cartel: Their slogan is “Bringing art to the cart.” Big Cartel is “a simple shopping cart for tee designers, bands, record labels, jewelery makers, crafters, and other artists.” This CMS is for small-scale eCommerce with low pricing and Paypal integration.

What is a CMS? The Conclusion

So what is a CMS? As you can tell, it can be explained many ways.  I hope that through this brief guide, you have a better understanding of the various different roles CMS’s can play.

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P.S. What CMS are you using? What CMS did I not share that you think is worth sharing? Let us know in the comments.

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Josh Medeski

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

Joe’s Goals

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    Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

    Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

    Daytum

      Daytum

      is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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      Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

      Excel or Numbers

        If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

        What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

        Evernote

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          I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

          Evernote is free with a premium version available.

          Access or Bento

            If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

            Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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            You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

            Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

            All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

            Conclusion

            I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

            What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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