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A beginners guide to content management systems

Written / updated by Thomas Skov Iversen
content management systems for beginners

A few years back, the only way for you to develop a website, was to write all the HTML and CSS codes by hand. These days are however over, thanks to the modern and quickly developing content management systems. This article will be a short beginners guide to content managements systems. I will try to explain what CMS is all about, and give you some examples of popular content management systems.

A content management system will make your life as a website developer a whole lot easier, as you will not need to be an expert in HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and MySQL to make a highly professional website. Writing the code for a whole website by hand is however still a good way of creating websites, since it will allow you to create unique and customized sites. Off course, if you don't have the time nor patience to learn web development languages, then content management systems is the perfect choice for you - especially if your are a beginner!

What is a content management system then?

A CM system is not a piece of software or program you have installed on your pc, but rather a content editing system which you can access on the web.

The system will allow you to "build" your website, using a wide selection of different plugins and ad on´s available for the various systems. Content management systems can be thought of as being a large box of lego bricks - You can then choose what specific bricks you want to build your website from. Another way of explaining what a CM system is, is to look at it as a regular text editing software like word, where you can write text and insert pictures directly from a standard control panel. Consequently you will not need any technical programming skills to create and manage a website.

In addition you are able download ready-made themes and templates for your CMS website, which you can then ad content. Some themes are free while others cost money. Using themes and templates you will be able to set up a website or blog in just a few weeks.

Many content management systems, especially open source, are build using PHP and MySQL. I therefore recommend you to learn the basics of PHP and MySQL, before staring a CMS based website. Knowing the basic PHP and MySQl will help you understand, how the basic elements of a content management system functions. If you want to learn the PHP and MySQL basics, then offers free PHP and MySQL video tutorials for beginners.

Free PHP video tutorials for beginners
Free MySQL video tutorials for beginners

Open source (free) content managements systems - which one do you pick?

Now you might be thinking ”Which one am I then to choose? Are they all equally good?”

To be honest, it is very much dependant of your individual needs, which one you should choose! Even though they are 100% free, most content management systems has a lot to offer. So the answer must be... try a couple of them out - it wont cost you a cent anyway!

To help you pick out a few to try, we have put together a shot list including a description of some of the most popular systems - Maybe one of them is perfect for you!...


Beginner CMS, wordpress

Wordpress is one of the most popular content management / blog systems on the market right now. Wordpress is a straight forward and easy to use system, supporting both personal blogs or even fully functional websites.

Plugins for Wordpress are plenty, making it possible to build both large and complicated websites. Best of all - Everything is free! Wordpress is however know for being a blog system, and therefore it do not perform as well on the website part, as the systems mentioned below.

Some aspects,like SEO, is not 100% optimal in Wordpress - This is however a general problem among content management systems. That being said, it probably wont take long before issues like these are solved with a simple plugin.


Beginner Content management systems, drupal

Drupal is an incredibly powerfully and all round system. It is build using modules, which can easily be adapted for all your personal needs. There are also a wide selection of plugins and adons available for Drupal.

Drupal will take a bit longer to master, compared to other content management systems. For that reason, it is not the best choice for website developers and bloggers looking for a quick and easy solution.



Joomla is a very popular CMS / content management system. It is an open source system, which means that you don't need to pay anything to use it. If you a willing to pay a little money, then there are a plenty of professional themes and plugins available for purchase. Joomla can be used to build a wide range of different website types. Especially static websites including blog features, polls, news feeds and search functions are very easy to manage and implement in Joomla.

The system is "ready to use", and you don't need to be an IT-Expert to get it to work. You should however be prepared to install a lot of extra plugins and features, to get exactly the look and functionality you want - And since it is definitely not all expansion plugins that work as they should, this can cause a lot of problems later on.


CMS for beginners, Concrete5

And then an underdog…
Concrete5 is an up-and-coming content management system, packed with a lot of potential. Concrete5 offers both great features and a very user-friendly control panel, making it relatively easy to use - even for beginners! Unfortunately Concrete5 do not have as many users as for example Joomla and Wordpress. Consequently there are not as many plugins and extensions being developed for Concrete5. The user base is though growing fast, and this problem will probably solve itself! - Anyways...Try it out and judge your self!

Content management systems for beginners

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