E-Commerce Technology Basics: Part One – Content Management Systems

As businesses continue to place an ever-increasing amount of emphasis on the online space, it stands to reason that gaining a thorough, up-to-date understanding of the internet (and the mechanisms involved in providing products and services via the internet) is of increasing relevance for any well-rounded business education.

A large part of these processes involve the basic considerations for publishing online, as every company continues to have a higher and higher demand for creating, manipulating and distributing digital content. Whether this is imagery, copy or even video, many companies might know how to effectively capture this data, but the efficient publication and distribution of it may remain elusive.

In this three part series, I describe the general concepts, technologies and techniques for publishing your content online, no matter how large your business is, or how you derive revenue. The first item for discussion may also be considered the most basic: Content Management Systems (CMS).

 

The Rule Book from The Mens Shop
The CMS behind The Mens Shop blog, ‘The Rule Book’, allows the upload of engaging non-product content that can be interwoven with product-based content.

Content is King!

Yes yes, we know. Content is king. Cliché, but true. Any online business, whether selling informational products or Mega Ab Flexer 2000s you will need to have a good content. And to publish that content you need what is called a Content Management System (or a CMS for short).

Ok, so the lingo is out of the way. Now what do we need consider when looking for a CMS, and what are some of the best and most popular products out in the marketplace today? Lets get stuck in.

What does a CMS need to do?

A CMS needs to work within your business framework. And by that we mean it needs to be able to manage and publish content either as your main website, integrated within your website, or as a separate blog.

It needs to have features that you need. Do you publish a lot of video content? Text? Images and galleries? These are just some of the things to consider when evaluating products.

Your CMS also needs to have good SEO and ideally the ability to add extra features as required, without breaking its ability to be upgraded. WordPress is a great example of this.

Consider how you market your content to other content channels too, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Does the platform you are investigating connect to thee other channels?

Lets have a quick look at some of the options in the market, and what makes them so popular.

WordPress

WordPress is, without a doubt, the most popular blogging/CMS platform in the world. You can use a hosted version on wordpress.com (meaning you don’t have to worry about upgrading it, server maintenance and so on) or you can download and install it on your own webserver.

We use WordPress a lot, and it is our favourite program because it has such a great feature set, and some really good extensions that you can install to improve it. Some quick features:

      • Multi user (Author, Publisher, Admin roles etc.)
      • Simple and easy to use publishing workflow
      • Great SEO extensions, and assist you in getting content to rank!
      • Lots of professional themes in the marketplace
      • Core platform can be upgraded easily, usually without breaking the site

Drupal

Drupal is another ‘open source’ community product, and can be installed for free. It has it’s own marketplace and community, providing extensions and modules to enhance the product. There are thousands of extensions to choose from.

Perhaps with fewer extensions and themes than WordPress, it counters this with some more flexibility for developers. Drupal as a CMS is a great base framework to develop a full ecommerce site if you wish. It is very flexible and you can turn it into just about anything.

Joomla

Joomla is also very popular, and has been around for years. It has a strong community, like WordPress, and is also a free product like WordPress.

Although it’s underlying code wasn’t as nice as the WordPress framework, it has recently launched a new version which is better to work with (for developers) and should be more ‘upgrade proof’ as well.

It too has a great range of themes and add on modules that can be installed.

In Summary

Asics.com.au
The Australian Asics website was built and maintained with the Kentico CMS platform.

There are lots of CMS products available, including the good ol’ Blogger platform, Typepad, and newer platforms for slightly larger business such as Kentico or Sitecore.

What is important is that the product you choose suits the content types you publish, works with your other systems that may be installed, and is easy to use. For most smaller businesses, the choice will be WordPress. But don’t stop just there. Use Google to look for Australian CMS products to support local business – and don’t be afraid to test drive a couple products to see what works best for you.

Also, open source products that have community contributed extensions (such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal) have some risks. Those risks center around security. Who is ensuring that the extension you just installed on your Joomla installation doesn’t allow a hacker to get access to your server? This has been an issue for quite some time.

So, make sure your development partner has good experience with your chosen platform, and has some great sites in their showcase. Talk to other clients to be more comfortable about your decisions. And if you go ‘open source’, use as few extensions as possible, and stick to well known, highly rated extensions, to improve your site security.

Next week, Nathan covers everything you need to know regarding Comparison Shopping Engines and Virtual Marketplaces in a nutshell.

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