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Content Management Services

13/08/2005: In the early days of the web, web pages were uploaded to servers by support staff with technical knowledge, leaving the business users who actually authored the content in the first place outside the technical life cycle. Content Management puts the business users directly in control of their content on their web sites.

What is Content Management?

Traditionally, web pages were static entities, which were maintained using editors such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage. Pages would be updated by editors, and then uploaded to the web server in order to become publicly available. Whenever a new page was added, one or more or pages would need to be changed in order to include links to the new page, to make it accessible. For large web sites, this could be a chore, and as the web developed, many sites started to include web access to data stored on other systems. In order to achieve this, a program would have to run on the web server, to access the back end data, format it, and then pass it back to the browser. Once this technology became established, it wasn't long before entire web sites were served up using this method, which gives rise to a number of advantages over static pages.

What are the Advantages of Content Management?

No more FTP uploads. Content Management covers not just the display of pages to the site users, but also the updating of the data used to build those pages. Therefore, if a correction must be made to a paragraph on a particular page, instead of locating the page on a local machine, loading it into an HTML editor, making the change, uploading the page, and then testing, the site content editor accesses the Content Management System using a browser, and makes the change on-screen, in the knowledge that the change will take immediate effect on the site.

Maintain the site from anywhere. Using a browser interface to the Content Management System means that the site can be maintained from any machine without the need for specialised software. Any machine with a suitable browser and the appropriate access and authorization can be used to make the changes.

Automatic generation of indexes and links. The Content Management System will be able to locate all pages currently active on the site, and use this information to build home pages, navigation bars and index listings without intervention from the site content editor. This means new pages can be added and then appear linked in on the site without further action.

Immediately change the layout of all pages on the site. One of the features of Content Management is that HTML templates are used to produce web pages. Typically, only a single template is needed for a single site, and all pages produced by the Content Management System will use this template. The system inserts the data for a particular page into the template, and then sends it to the browser. This means when it becomes time to redesign the site, only the template needs to be redesigned, and once it has been updated on the Content Management System, all pages will use it immediately. This is often referred to as "separating layout from content" and is a very important concept in Content Management Systems.

Pass references to data into other web applications. One of the less obvious advantages is that using a Content Management System requires a careful (but not necessarily difficult) analysis of the data shown on the site. In a static site selling model cars, the page for each car might have a link to click on in order to purchase that model. The choice of a reference code to tell the purchasing system which model is to be purchased will have to be correctly inserted into each page. With Content Management, the reference code can be stored as part of the data for that page, and used to construct the link to the purchasing system. In the event that the reference code is incorrect, changing it is simply a matter of using the Content Management System to update it, the change then takes immediate effect.

Reduce dependency on web design companies. Many smaller companies make use of web design companies in order to create their web sites. In cases where these sites are created statically, the web design company might make further charges in order to make changes to the site. Whilst this might be reasonable in the case of design or artwork changes, for other changes such as a new address or telephone number, it can discourage smaller companies from keeping their site up to date, which devalues the initial investment in the site. This is perhaps the most important aspect of the separation of layout and content mentioned above. The content on a company web site clearly belongs to the company, and that company should be able to change content as it sees fit. Content Management Systems allow them to do this.

About Tanzarine Content Management Services (tCMS)

tCMS is a lightweight web server application which implements a Content Management System for small business web sites. The solution is a "hosted" one, which means that all software resides on a Tanzarine Technology server, accessed by clients using a web browser. This means that no software needs to be installed on local workstations in order to maintain a web site.