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Content management systems (CMS)

Content management system

A content management system or CMS is a family of software for the design and dynamic update of Web applications or multimedia sites. They share the following features:

  • allow multiple people to work on the same document;
  • provide a publication chain (workflow) offering, for example, the possibility to upload the contents of documents;
  • are used to separate the operations of management of forms and content;
  • allow to structure the content (use of FAQ, documents, blogs, discussion forums, etc.);
  • allow users to prioritize and assign roles and permissions (anonymous user, administrator, contributor, etc.);
  • some CMS include the version management.

Where the CMS manages dynamic content, we speak of dynamic content management system or DCMS.

CMS should not be confused with electronic document management (EDM) systems that achieve content management in the enterprise.

Common functions

To get to offer the features mentioned above the design is based often on the following mechanisms:

Use of Web interface

Through web interfaces, CMS can be accessed regardless of the type of operating system using a web browser. Thus, users do not need to install any additional specific software. Thanks to web standards, CMS therefore offer a readable data format (HTML and derivatives RIA), printable and storable by all, which facilitates the exchange and accessibility of documents. A DCMS allows to manage and generate source code projects for export.

Separation between content and presentation

It is a founding principle of content management:

  • The content is stored usually in a database, structured into tables and fields. It is the content of the database field that is created/edited by the editor, not the page itself. One speaks about “dynamic” site;
  • The presentation is defined in a template. The template defines two things: the layout itself – via style sheets (including CSS or XSLT transformation rules) and the structuring of data using standards such as XML, as well as information extracted from the database (as well as where they are to be displayed and under what conditions).

Editing simplified page

Because the principle of content/presentation separation, the editors can focus on content. Page editing is greatly simplified. Two mechanisms are available:

  • A WYSIWYG interface which provides a graphical interface for setting form similar to that which exists in a word processor;
  • The use of simplified tags, to make text form. There are several types, the most common of which is BBCode. We can also mention more modern alternatives such as Markdown or Textile. Wikis, which are not WYSIWYG, use wikitext.

To help contributors to seize simply the content, many content management tools provide “inline” editing functions, that is to say publishing on the visible part of the internet website (also called front-office – in computer jargon).

Multiple methods for information storage

The information theory says that the more information, the greater the disorder increases. In practice, when searching for a specific information, all other create noise. To remedy this, a CMS usually offers multiple sorting mechanisms of varying complexity as:

  • hyperlinks, which allow you to reference items therebetween;
  • a text search engine;
  • specific sorts (by date modified, author, links …).

The majority of CMS offer the ability to categorize information, indexing or use of taxonomies to improve research methods and content viewing. So we can create content categories, sections (or groups) or keywords promoting indexing.

The multiplication of views, mechanisms of choice, reducing the depth of information in relation to the entry page by multiplying the ways, and therefore makes it more accessible.

Rights management

Through the administration interface, the systems usually offer the ability to manage users and their rights. That is to say, give them access or not to the system’s functionality. The features are many and vary according to the platform, very basic like a right of reading/writing an article, or more elaborate as a right of moderation of other users. To manage more generally the rights of users, some CMS allow the creating and managing of user groups. Users are then integrated in groups. To meet the needs of organizations, most CMS tools enable interfacing with corporate directories (LDAP, AD).

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