Software tools for managing additions and amendment to web site content.
Content management refers to when software tools (usually browser-based software running on a server) permit business users to contribute web content while an administrator keeps control of the format and style of the web site and the approval process. These tools are used to organise, manage, retrieve and archive information content throughout the life of the site.
Content management systems (CMS) provide these facilities:
• structure authoring: the design and maintenance of content structure (sub-components, templates, etc.), web page structure and web site structure;
• link management: the maintenance of internal and external links through content change and the elimination of dead links;
• search engine visibility: the content within the search engine must be stored and linked such that it can be indexed by search engine robots to add it to their index - this was not possible with some first-generation content management systems, but is typical of more recent content management systems;
• input and syndication: the loading (spidering) of externally originating content and the aggregation and dissemination of content from a variety of sources;
• versioning: the crucial task of controlling which edition of a page, page element or the whole site is published. Typically this will be the most recent, but previous editions should be archived and it should be possible to roll back to a previous version at the page, page element or site level;
• security and access control: different permissions can be assigned to different roles of users and some content may only be available through log-in details. In these cases, the CMS maintains a list of users. This facility is useful when a company needs to use the same CMS for an intranet, extranet or public Internet site which may have different levels of permission;
• publication workflow: content destined for a web site needs to pass through a publication process to move it from the management environment to the live delivery environment. The process may involve tasks such as format conversion (e.g. to PDF, or to WAP), rendering to HTML, editorial authorisation and the construction of composite documents in real time (personalisation and selective dissemination);
• tracking and monitoring: providing logs and statistical analysis of use to provide performance measures, tune the content according to demand and protect against misuse;
• navigation and visualisation: providing an intuitive, clear and attractive representation of the nature and location of content using colour, texture, 3D rendering or even virtual reality.
From this list of features you can see that modern CMSs are complex and many CMSs are expensive investments. Some open-source CMSs are available without the need to purchase a licence fee which have many of the features explained in this section. One example is Plone (www.plone.org) which is used by large organisations' web sites such as NASA. Dave Chaffey uses Plone to manage the contents for updates to this book which readers can find on his web site (www.davechaffey.com).
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