EMU’s Content Management Software (CMS)
Let us explain the importance of a functioning CMS and why we chose the one currently in place: Radiant.
What is Content Management?
Content management, or CM, is the set of processes and technologies that support the collection, managing, and publishing of information in any form or medium. In recent times this information is typically referred to as content or, to be precise, digital content. Digital content may take the form of text, such as documents, multimedia files, such as audio or video files, or any other file type which follows a content lifecycle which requires management.
In the context of EMU and its website, Content Management (CM) refers to how we collect, organize, and publish information on the world wide web.
Content management is about getting the right information to the right person at the right time—at the right cost. By using the Internet as its primary publication medium, content management affords people much greater access to the information they need. When approaching content management, keep in mind that your Web site needs to organize, classify and store digital content efficiently so that it is easy for visitors to access that content.1
Content management software (CMS)
You might be surprised to know that EMU has been using CM (content management) software for years. By the standard definition of CM provided on the previous page, Dreamweaver is CM software and has been used by content curators/editors at the university since the late 90s.
There are, of course, different kinds of CM software with different architectures and design philosophies. Over time, CM software, like much of the software world, has been moving from programs on people’s computers (client-server) to online editing (web-based CM).
Dreamweaver is an example of CM software designed in the client-server model. Dreamweaver is a software application, like Microsoft Word, that is loaded onto your computer (the client). The web pages it works with are located on your computer’s hard drive, and are then synchronized to the EMU web server (the server). This means that the web pages “live” in at least two locations: the server and your client. There can also be other clients, such as other people in your department who also update website content.
Web-based CM software keeps everything in one place: the server. Not only is the content itself stored on the server, as in the client-server model, but the software to edit the content is also stored on the server. Now, instead of another program on your computer, you use standard web browsing software (e.g. Firefox, Safari) to access both.
There are a number of free and commercial web-based CM solutions available. EMU has chosen the free/open-source Radiant CMS.
What is “the CMS”?
The term CMS stands for “content management system,” a more specific term than CM (content management). When you hear university web folks talk about “the CMS,” they are referring to Radiant CMS, the free/open-source web-based CM product that EMU is now using to collect, organize, and publish its web content. It replaces using Dreamweaver to edit our website. This video explains some of the differences.
Why Radiant CMS?
There are many content management systems from which to choose (cmsmatrix.org lists more than 1,000!), so why did we choose Radiant? Radiant struck the right balance between features, ease of use, and quality. No doubt you can imagine many things it would be nice for a CMS to do but only a few of them are really core to publishing web pages. Features like image galleries or automatic page expiration are part of the long tail that would be nice to use once in awhile but aren’t really core to publishing web pages. With Radiant, we aim to hit the 80% window because in research and testing, we found that the more features a CMS claimed to have, the more complex it was and the worse it worked in practice.
Really, we just wanted something that was much easier for the average person to use than Dreamweaver. If more people are able to handle their own content themselves, we’re able to spend more time on advanced things, which are better handled by our skilled team than a computer program anyway. If we find we really have a need for something Radiant doesn’t offer, we can easily build a custom extension that works exactly how we want.
So when you get frustrated because the CMS doesn’t do everything you’d hoped, please remember your frustrations with the prior system! Web publishing is inherently difficult. If the CMS makes it just a little easier than Dreamweaver, then we’ve succeeded!