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What is a CMS?

Content Management Systems (CMS) make it easy for people without any development skills to keep the content on their websites up-to-date. You’ve probably heard of some of the popular ones, like WordPress and Drupal, but there are many others out there, including Joomla and Adobe CQ. Here’s a list of the most popular CMS out there right now. WordPress and Drupal are the market leaders, so this post focuses on those platforms, although many things discussed here apply to other platforms as well.


Although WordPress was originally developed as blogging platform and Drupal as an online message board, they’ve both evolved into much more. Today, sites like Walt Disney (WordPress), Angry Birds (WordPress), The Economist (Drupal), Yale (Drupal), Harvard (also Drupal), and even this site (WordPress) all rely on the Drupal or WordPress CMS to allow website owners to easily update content without needing to contact a developer. This saves time and money for website owners because they can make updates as needed, without paying a developer. And the examples listed above are just a sampling – these days just about any type of site you can imagine can be built using a CMS.


Most CMS have an administrative side that allows users with access privileges to login and make changes to the site. The admin side usually includes a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor (or WYSIWYG, pronounced whizzy-wig). With the WYSIWYG editor, users can enter text and format it like they can in Word. After text is entered, the CMS converts the text and formatting to HTML and CSS, so that when you publish your work it will look like you typed it in the WYSIWYG editor. 

WordPress and Drupal’s admin tools also allow you to upload documents and photos and embed them in the content of your website. Admin users can also edit menus, control users access to pages and the admin tool, and change some basic visual features of the page.


The WordPress and Drupal CMS communities have developed a network of plugins (WordPress) and modules (Drupal) that allow users to easily extend the functionality of the platforms. For example, ecommerce plugins can convert WordPress sites to online marketplaces capable of managing inventory, receiving payments, and simplifying the shipping process. There are also plugins and modules that add slideshows, contact forms, tables, and social media icons to pages. As of this writing, lists over 25,000 plugins.

Not all plugins are reliable though, so, if you plan to use a plugin, make sure you check it out before adding it to your site. Things to consider include:

  1. The number of active installs. More installs indicates a more reliable product.
  2. The last update. If it was a month or two ago that probably means the developer is still maintaining it and you can rely on it. On the other hand, if no one has updated it in a year or two, it’s likely that no one is maintaining it anymore and that, if it isn’t broken already, it will be soon.
  3. Confirm that it’s compatible with the version of Drupal or WordPress that you’re currently running.

If you’re not sure about a plugin, feel free to reach out to us for help. We have lots of experience weeding through, installing, and troubleshooting plugins and modules.


With a CMS, you can think of themes as the muscle and skin and the platforms (i.e. WordPress and Drupal) as the bones. Themes give the shape, colors, and other appearance aspects, while the platforms are the underlying structure and provide most of the functionality. To see an example of what themes can do, take a look at the websites for Glad and Mercedes. Both are built with WordPress, yet they look totally different. Both WordPress and Drupal have a good library of prebuilt themes to choose from. If you have experience and feel comfortable doing it, you should be able to install a theme on your own. If you want to customize an existing theme, or you can’t find a theme that meets your needs, you can hire a developer or firm, like Corporate Zen, to customize a theme or build and install a completely custom one for you.


For most people, a website with a good CMS will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. It may also inspire you to more regularly update your site’s content, which will make users more likely to trust your site. Regular updates could also lead to higher rankings in Google’s search results, and more visits to your site. Hopefully, you found this post useful and now understand what people mean when they mention CMS. Corporate Zen specializes in building custom WordPress and Drupal sites, so please feel free to contact us if you need help.

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