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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

Front-End Developer

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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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