CMS: The “Easy Button” of Web Development

Using a Content Management System – or CMS – is a great way for anyone to get into web development.

There are several on the market that people can pay for or use for free. One of the more popular CMS products is WordPress, which I use for both of my websites: and

WordPress is not the only CMS editor, though. In fact, those wishing to dip their feet into web development can use platforms like Drupal and Squarespace.

For the sake of this blog, we will be talking more about WordPress because of its simplistic yet dynamic backend tool.  Because WordPress is web-based, it offers both front end and back end capabilities. Front End basically describes what the users experience while on a WordPress site, and back end describes what the developer sees.

Before getting too deep into the subject, I wanted to mention a few things about how far CMS has come over the past 20 years. I worked for a company that created websites for car dealerships. When the company was formed, there really was not a universal platform to create and manage sites, so Automark developed a CMS to sell to the car dealerships.

Back in the early 2000s – very early 2000s – dealers will still on the fence when it came to the benefits of the internet. These dealers were still spending tens of thousands of dollars or more per month on print advertising. You may or may not be familiar with what I am describing here. Full-paged advertisements in the local newspaper with many images of vehicles, ballpark prices, very small text that most people never read, and a phone number for someone to call and schedule a test drive.

When Automark began offering a CMS called Pit Stop, they were telling the dealers to take a chance because these were trackable leads and sales which provided trackable data and a better return of investment. When they signed up, we pulled the dealership’s inventory, parsed it through a process and distributed it into a listing on their site. Connected to each car were forms like schedule test drive, contact us, value my trade, and request a quote. The process was more automated than it had ever been, and over time, the process would become almost fully automated – just look at Carvana, a site dedicated to the full automation of online car sales.

Not only did we offer that, but we offered a way for dealers to change the text on their own site or post special every week without having to call someone. They could track whether a special was performing and then tweak things until it produced leads.

By the time I left the company in 2009, they had revamped their CMS product so much that it looked like the beginning stages of WordPress. These days, that is all a dealer needs to be able to do what Automark did between 2001 and 2009.

But the process back then compared to now has not changed much.

It all started with a concept, or an idea of what a dealership wanted their site to do. Functionality. Without knowing what the function of something one wants to develop, they will be running around in circles for years – that goes with any company.

For dealers, functionality was to generate leads. For universities, the functionality of a site is to inform. For brewing companies, the functionality of a site may be to tell a story and sell a product. There are several functionalities, and no site should be limited to one; they can have several.

With an understanding of functionality, planning gets underway. This is where an understanding of requirements that need to be in place to obtain functionality is developed. What forms should be included? What about material, text, photos? What is the mood you are trying to create? Maybe a mood board is developed at this stage.

What about deadlines and goals? What about platforms that the site can be accessed on? Should the site be responsive – meaning, the site adjusts to the screen size – or should a mobile and desktop version of the site be created? I would suggest responsive because it would be one site for everything. These are all set and determined during the planning stages. Then the design process begins.

During the design phase, the colors are chosen. Oftentimes, a logo is a great place to start when it comes to determining colors. The layout of pages can be created using wireframes and hierarchy of navigation bars can be set by creating a visual sitemap. Designers should expect to create several mockups until the client is satisfied.

The site is then developed, tested, and delivered, and finally maintained.

How it is maintained is important.

Using CMS, a user can use a WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get – editor that is like Word. It allows the user to type and modify text, insert images and videos, and create a somewhat customizable page. Another option, if someone is inclined or knows HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – all front end – is to hand code everything and create a fully customizable site.

As you can imagine, hand coding a site is timely and tedious, but think of it like driving a stick shift versus an automatic: with an automatic, the transmission controls when the gear shift and can sometimes lag. With a manual transmission, the driver is in full control of when the gears go from first, to second, third to fourth, and fifth to sixth.

Time and knowledge are the main drawbacks, and today, people do not have patience to stick with one thing long enough to complete it.

In all honesty, CMS is a great option because it allows a developer to quickly develop a site and get it to the client to maintain, with a little training.

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