Web Creation Tools Part 1: CMS Breakdown

I’ve been working with content management systems since 2010. In those 7 years, it has been remarkable to see the advances in technology that have changed the way that people utilize them. If you don’t work in the world of web development, it’s hard to wrap your head around what exactly a CMS is. I think they’re really cool because I’m a huge nerd! Because I am that nerd, I decided to break down CMS from the perspective of a digital marketer dabbling in them and create a blog series reviewing the CMS/web building platforms that are the most popular today.

So how do CMS work?

I like to joke that the world of higher education is about 5 years behind technology and trends than the rest of corporate America. Who knows if that’s an accurate number or not but for the 4 years that I worked in higher education, it certainly felt like it. I got my start in marketing and CMS while working for a large university in the midwest. I don’t want to name it by name but their mascot rhymes with spooners. I LOVED my experience working there and will always be grateful for it. The story of how web changes were created within my department is a great analogy to describe the need for CMS.

If you’ve ever worked in higher education then you know that for every department, there are 5 more departments. Because of this, I was the marketing director in charge of the marketing and web design for 13 departments within a third of the college I worked in which was only a tiny fraction of this university, WILD. We had one main marketing office for all of those departments and in that marketing office there was one webmaster.

That webmaster had created a majority of the websites in Dreamweaver for the entire college so whenever a change was requested, even something as minor as correcting a typo, this was the process:

  1. Department head sends requested changes to webmaster via email or hard copy (I’m not joking)
  2. Webmaster takes a nap at her desk later that afternoon and doesn’t get around to changes (I’m still not joking)
  3. Department follows up with webmaster 10 business days later, changes still haven’t been made
  4. Webmaster continues to nap at her desk (Nope, still not a joke)
  5. Additional requests from different departments build up in webmaster’s inbox or file tray on her desk
  6. Webmaster continues with daily napping routine (There are pictures to prove it but that’s not the point of this blog series)
  7. Webmaster decides to make requested changes and uses the following technique:
    1. Downloads ENTIRE SITE via FTP
    2. Makes requested change in Dreamweaver
    3. Uploads ENTIRE SITE back to server

Even if someone was working very diligently, this process is absurd. There are bound to be errors, miscommunications, you name it. Each time there is a mistake, you would have to repeat the steps above. Yes, it’s possible that she wasn’t making updates in the most efficient way possible but the point is, she was making these changes by hand and each department was at the mercy of her busy schedule.

It was part of my job to help these departments switch over their websites to CMS so that they could make changes themselves and feel comfortable doing so even with limited knowledge of websites or technology. You can see now how any organization would find value in having their websites set up like this.

I hope my story helps you understand a bit more about the term CMS. It is a pretty broad term and I will be discussing it in the sense of web creation and management. As part of my series I plan to review Webflow, Wix, Drupal and WordPress so stay tuned!