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What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A content management system or CMS is exactly what the name suggests. It’s a system, or a piece of software, designed to help manage all of your website content.

Long gone are the days of having to build a site from raw HTML code. Now, all you need to do is install a CMS of your choice and get to work publishing content.

What Content Management System Should I Use?

Unless you’re an evil HTML genius or a masochist, chances are you will opt on using a CMS.

Choosing one usually depends on the type of site you want and whether or not you have any previous experience with any particular CMS. If you don’t have a preference and are starting from scratch, there are two basic categories to choose from.

Blogging CMS’s

A blogging CMS is what this site is built with. The main purpose of it is to make publishing content easy.

I can make the posts look how I want with having to do much with the HTML. I can organize my posts into categories. I can make custom menus quickly and easily.

There are many blogging content management systems, but three of the more popular choices are:

  • WordPress
  • Drupal
  • Joomla

There are more, but most web hosting platforms will include quick installs of these three options. Additionally, a lot of the hosted blogging services like Wix or Weebly have their own CMS’s, usually designed to make creating a very basic website as easy as possible.

My site is built on WordPress, and most of this Beginner’s Guide to SEO is about working with WordPress sites. I strongly recommend using it above the other options. But, it’s good to know that there are other options available.

The reason that I really like it though are:

  • easy to install
  • tons of free and premium website themes
  • a whole heap of useful plugins
  • plenty of community support due to how widely it’s used
  • created and maintained by a strong organization always releasing improvements and updates

Some people don’t like it, but I feel it’s the best content management system by far. For me, it’s the only choice. I tried using Drupal once, and only once. Yes, I thought it was that bad.

TB Tip: When installing WordPress, use your host’s Quick Install option . If they don’t have a Quick Install, find a better host. If you end up needed to install it manually, this video can help.

E-commerce CMS’s

You might be more interested in starting up a small product-based website instead of an informational resource. If that’s the case, you might be looking to make your life easier by using a CMS specifically designed to handle e-commerce.

To my knowledge, the two big e-commerce platforms are Shopify and Bigcommerce. There are definitely more than just these two, but these seem to be the current big dogs.

The big difference between an e-commerce content management system and a blogging one is that the e-comm variety make integrating shipping carts and online payments much simpler.

They are also designed to make updating products and controlling inventories a breeze.

I’ve personally only used Shopify, but when an e-commerce pro like Ezra Firestone who has and does use them both recommends Shopify over Bigcommerce,  it might be worth listening to.

In his words:

If you’re building a new store I’d recommend using Shopify.

It doesn’t get any more direct than that!

Here’s my Shopify referral link if you want to see what they have to offer.

Something to keep in mind is that unlike a WordPress site, most major e-commerce content management systems are hosted, meaning that your website lives on the CMS’s provider’s servers.

I can take my WordPress site and move it around to different hosts, but you can’t do that with your Shopify or Bigcommerce site.

For most people that shouldn’t be a problem though, but it’s better to know up front than find out afterward.

The Big Wrap

Unlike when choosing a domain name, you only have a couple big choices to make.

Do you want a blog style site, or an e-commerce style site? Then, which CMS do you prefer to under that fits that category?

For beginners, I strongly recommend using WordPress for a standard blog style site and Shopify for an e-commerce website.

Their simplicity and customizability are just too amazing to pass up.