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What's a CMS? Why do I need one?

The first generation

In the golden old days of the early internet, websites were the domain (see what we did there?) of IT folk and web gurus. From 1994 until around the early 2000s, websites were designed, developed and maintained by a special breed of people who either could build a database from scratch or could write code in languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, to name just a few.

Read more: Learn to Speak CMS - A Geek-Speak Cheat Sheet

Marketing's job at the time was to give direction on what the site should say and how it might look and then pass along some copy (probably adapted from a brochure or press ad) that the web gurus would translate into code that would magically appear on the web.

In the mid 2000s, digital marketing became paramount and many companies began to push for a bigger focus on websites and e-commerce. The need to populate websites with fresh content and to quickly adapt to design trends was a catalyst for the first round of Web Content Management Systems.

Read more: CMS, WCM, UXP - HUH?

These web CMSs aimed to take much of the IT part out of the equation and make it simple for marketing people to upload content to their websites.

Working in the CMS, marketers could store, manage and publish content to their websites without knowing any code or having to ask for help from their resident web gurus. Finally, marketing began to be empowered to take control of their own online brand.

The new breed of CMS

As the digital landscape has changed, the marketing focus has evolved to customer engagement through multiple channels. Channels, in this instance, are the various routes that people take to interact with your brand online. It could be through your the desktop, your social media networks (such as Facebook or LinkedIn), your extranet, or via mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

It's not only channels that have changed - there's been an explosion in the variety of mediums that digital marketers are using to engage. These mediums include things like blogs, social posts, videos, webinars, infographics and interactive guides. All of these assets must be able to be pulled through the CMS and published on your website.

This has resulted in what we're now calling a 'web technology platform' - a CMS that doesn't just manage content, but unifies the entire marketing technology ecosystem. This creates a consistent customer experience, no matter where the user is engaging with the brand.

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