Speaking Notes from a Tech Talks Presentation by Kurt Nordstrom, September 6, 2006

What are we talking about anyhow?

Defining Web Content Management Systems

  • Definition

    • A Web Content Management System is a system designed to facilitate the creation, organization and display of Web content from single or multiple creators.
  • What is content?

    • Content, in this case, refers the purest form of the information we are trying to share with the world. The content of an electronic book is the text contained. The content of an online photo album is the images.
  • What do we mean by 'manage'?

    • Content Creation
      • A CMS facilitates creation of new content by providing data entry forms for content providers to enter information into. Most CMSs now provide WYSIWYG tools for a word-processor-like experience.
    • Content Display
      • The CMS will display content to end-users based on templates. The same content can be displayed differently with multiple templates. This allows, for example, sites with high and low bandwidth areas.
    • Content Organization
      • Perhaps one of the most useful features is the ability to organize content. Content can be given categories for ease of grouping and browsing. Content can also be browsed based on criteria such as date, author or subject, for example. Additionally, keyword searches can be handled by the CMS for content retrieval.
    • Content Permissions
      • For a site with multiple authors, a CMS can allow authority for parts of the site to be delegated amongst various people. Things such as unauthorized modifications or accidental deletions can be reduced by restricting access on a per-user basis.

CMS Concepts

Static vs Dynamic Pages

  • Static

    • Typical Web pages are static. They are just text files with HTML markup contained, and are read and rendered by a Web browser to display their contents. An HTML file will, under most circumstances, render the same each time it is loaded.
  • Dynamic

    • CMS content, on the other hand, is more dynamic. Instead of accessing a page, the web browser accesses a computer program. The computer program has access to a database of content, and rules for displaying it. The program uses the appropriate content and the rules for display to create a page to show the Web browser.

Content vs Presentation

  • Traditional HTML

    • Traditional HTML mingles content and presentation. For example, a tag that specifies text for a heading not only contains the content, but it contains markup information as well. This makes it hard to easily update the look and feel of a site built in only HTML.
  • HTML and CSS

    • CSS is a vast improvement over standalone HTML. It effectively removes most of the formatting for elements from the HTML itself and puts it into a separate file that can be changed or replaced independently.
  • CMS

    • A content management system goes one step further in separating the content from the presentation. Not only can it style content selectively with CSS, but it can, based on templates and formatting rules, select which particular pieces of content to display at a particular time.

A Functional Approach

Challenges and Solutions

  • Content Creation
  • Navigation and Searching
  • Multiple Authorship
  • Content and Design Coupling
  • Data Migration
  • Bells and Whistles

What does using a CMS mean?

  • Simplified content creation
  • Removal of burden of concern with presentation, organization and navigation.
  • Well-defined permissions
About the Author:  Programmer Kurt Nordstrom resolves technical issues for the Portal to Texas History and the UNT Libraries' Digital Collections.