Content management systems


This is essentially software that sits between you and the web page, it allows you to build pages, manage the site and add content without ever seeing or touching the actual web page held on your site, so you don't (in theory) need to understand HTML or how a web page is constructed.
This can be both a blessing and a curse, it all depends if your cms allows you do what you want to, your web pages are only going to be as good as the system allows.

If your site has less than 10 pages it may not be worth using one. Content management systems are accessed by an admin panel that you log into, this gives you a 'user interface', basically a series of menus, tick boxes, text boxes and a whole host of settings to play with but they can be complicated and very often incomplete , so you may need to delve directly into your files to change code or style settings anyway. With less than 10 pages its easier to learn a few simple sections of html and just edit your content directly on the page

If your site will have more than 10 pages and you intend to update content frequently it's probably worth using one. They are usually relatively easy to use in terms of simply updating content and you can give access permissions to several people but they can be a nightmare on the design level for anyone setting up a site for the first time as you will probably have to edit style and some content or set pathways directly into the files, so its definitely worth seeking professional help with the initial set up and styling of your web site

Many web hosting companies offer a very simple cms as part of the hosting deal and provides the only way for you to access your pages/web space (this limits what you can do on your website so look out for hosting that also gives you FTP access to upload your own files)
If your going to use your web hosts CMS sometimes called a 'website builder' you then have to learn how it all works and design the site yourself, this can be as easy as selecting a template of your choice from the selection they supply and customizing it yourself but be aware the result will often look a bit bland and will obviously look a bit like all the other sites based on that template
You may also have problems if you want to move to another host as its unlikley you could move the software so you would need to rebuild your website in your new hosting space.

The more complex cms will use a database as part of its design allowing for the page content to be easily stored and retrieved. Some also have extra modules that can be 'bolted on' to add functionality to your system such as a 'shopping cart'. These basic systems with 'bolt on' modules can be tricky since the 'bolt on may be supported by a different company from the basic system, so if the basic system requires an update or security fix it may mean you have to reinstall the addon modules as well, the implications of this can be time consuming as you have to back up data and re insert it, basically it can get very messy.


If your going to use a content management system or shopping cart as the basis for your website you are going to need a 'Database'. What is a database?
Well its simply a software structure that allows for the deposit, storage and retrieval of information, at this stage it may help just think of it as a black box you put all your stuff into, your CMS will interact with your database storing and retrieving your pages/data.

There are perhaps just two types of database of interest here, the first type is 'MS SQL', this is a Microsoft inspired database system and is designed to work with their .asp pages. Applications that use .asp and require an 'MS SQL' database will only run on windows servers. To get an 'MS SQL' database with a hosting deal usually invoves an extra charge to cover Licensing costs.
Applications can be built with .asp and use another database type 'MySQL'.

MySQL databases are open source and free from licenseing fees and will run on both Windows and Linux servers. MySQL databases are very common and should be a free resouce which is included in your hosting account. If your hosting account does not include any MySQL databases then you will not be able to use applications such as content management, shopping carts, any of the major blogs, you may not even be able to install a statistics package to evaluate your web traffic.
Many of the cheap hosting deals avaliable don't include databases of any kind, so do look into this.

Shopping cart: what is it?/Do I need it?/which type do I need?

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