Content Management Systems, usually abbreviated to "CMS" are best thought of as website builders. In fact they are also commonly referred to in that way.
More specifically, CMS platforms are types of software that have been developed to enable websites to be built without coding. The content management system updates the code on your behalf, so you can easily make changes through an interface instead.
As you can imagine, choosing and using a website builder or CMS is critical part of any coffee website designing project.
In this article we'll walk you through what a CMS actually is and what you would need to know about CMS platforms to develop your own coffee shop or restaurant website.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CMS PLATFORMS
The Purpose of a CMS / Website Builder
If a website is built "manually" with those different code or web development languages, then keeping it updated and maintained becomes a challenge. Essentially without some kind of automation or system in place, you would have to change a line of code yourself to make even the smallest changes.
This workflow is simply not sustainable for most business owners, unless they also happen to be developers.
Thus, CMS platforms (or website builders) were developed to solve the problem of being able to build and maintain a website without having to change or add code everytime you need to update your content.
This is made possible by two different "parts" of the CMS:
The content management application (CMA), which allows you to interact with the CMS like any other online tool to publish and manage web content.
The content delivery application (CDA), which handles the backend database and coding to store, organic, and publish the web content.
Working with a CMS will mean using what's referred to as a WYSIWYG editor. The acronym refers to "What You See Is What You Get" and means that there's a point and click user interface that let's you actually visualize the changes you're making to the website as you make them, without writing our lines of programming code.
Example of WYSIWYG editor found in WordPress CMS.
Different Types of CMS Platforms
There are several ways of defining "type" of CMS. For the most part the types of different CMS platforms that exist are differentiated by the purpose they try to serve. For instance you could say there are many different types of content management systems, namely:
Component Content Management Systems (CCMS)
This is a type of CMS that manages content more granularly and at what is described a "component" level. Instead of managing pages a CCMS can centralize and manage content at a paragraph, word, topic, concept level etc.. by structuring content and data according to specific standards. Obviously for the purposes of web content management or coffee website's we don't need to spend too much time on this topic.
Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)
Sometimes thought to be a "type of CMS" the definition of a true ECM can be confusing. Simply put an ECM is intended to organize, manage, and control documents and processes to facilitate compliance and consistency for large organizations. So it's also not specifically relevant to coffee websites.
Web Content Management System (WCM or WCMS)
*This* is what we're talking about!
A WCMS is a type of CMS that specifically enables the management of dynamic webpages through templates and an interface that does not require knowledge of web development.
A WCMS is meant to simplify all aspects of building and changing a website.
With a WCMS, you can publish web pages though a graphical user interface (GUI) and tailor the colors, design, formats, and functions by working within the platform vs having to implement coding changes.
Hosted vs Self-Hosted CMS Platforms
Within the realm of web content management systems, there's two additional "types" of platforms to choose.
Those types break down as either Hosted or Self-Hosted CMS platforms.
Generally speaking with a hosted platform you get less customization options, but simpler and more streamlined user-friendliness.
Self Hosted CMS platforms include WordPress and Joomla (more on those in a minute) are self-hosted. This means the software is free but you in turn need to find, setup, and pay for your own web hosting.
Hosted CMS Platforms include companies like Shopify. The platforms charge you for their platform and generally operate like pad SAAS (Software-As-A-Service) companies where you rent the tool with a monthly subscription. The web hosting is built in to the subscription so all you need to worry about learning how to use their interface while they take care of the hosting costs.
Features and Components of CMS Platforms
A CMS should enable you to build your coffee or restaurant website and maintain it simply and without needing to code.
It should also allow you to customize the design and format of the website, and add functionality to it as you please through an simple to use interface.
More specifically, you'll find that most CMS platforms will offer a laundry list of features that make building quality websites intuitive and simple enough. For instance:
Web Page Templates
This is a feature which allows you to design and customize the layout of a page and the re-use that same layout across the entire website or, if you prefer, specific parts of the website.
For instance if your website contains blog articles that are typically built with a large header image followed by paragraphs they employ specific fonts and typography, you only need to define those once and then use that same template across all the blog pages you create.
Workflow and Approvals Processes
Most CMS platforms will have some way of allowing you to have multiple "authors" publish draft versions of web content, and that content is only published and publically accessible once it is approved by the website administrator.
Authorship, collaboration, and approval processed are almost always integrated into how the CMS works.
Themes allow you to build and customize the front-end design of a website without needing to code it from scratch.
Most themes will come with a foundation of layouts, colors, and website architecture that can be further tweaked and tailored. So the look and feel of the website is initially setup through the theme but then ultimately customizeable with a point and click interface.
Many CMS platforms will integrate with other website or marketing tools. For instance you'll find it easy to connect your website's forms and user data with email marketing applications / CRMs like MailChimp.
Other integrations include connections to social media accounts like Facebook or Instagram.
CMS plaforms also typically make it very easy to connect Analytics platforms like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics, so you can easily monitor and measure website traffic.
By publishing tools we mean those features that allow content to be managed for different people and times. For instance some more sophisticated CMS platforms facilitate content personalization where content and layouts can change depending on the visitor, and most at least offer the capacity to schedule content when promoting limited time offers (for example).
Examples of CMS Platforms
There's many different types of CMS software providers. They all mostly serve the same purpose, but some are specifically suited to e-commerce while others are very general or "all-purpose" in terms of their funtionality.
Pricing for a CMS software can vary as well. While each platform is similar in terms of functions and interface very often they do require a learning curve to build familiarality.
Some examples of the more well recognized CMS software include:
One of the most well known CMS Platforms and currently the most used.
WordPress is among a few content management systems that are considered to be "open-source". Open Source, in this context, means the software is free. Of course, web hosting, wordpress plugins, and more technical support from web developers still cost.
Still, WordPress being free makes it compelling for anyone looking to build a website.
WordPress, originally used for blogs, is also incredibly agile as a platform and suits most types of websites. WooCommerce, an extension (or "plugin") of WordPress, is also open source and build on WordPress as a e-commerce focused CMS.
Another advantage with WordPress is it opens the door to plugins and themes.
WordPress plugins like the aforementioned WooCommerce are used to enhance the functionality of a website. Some plugins allow you to integrate with other applications, some allow you to make more bold design changes, and some enhance your website performance and page speed.
Themes, as previously discussed, allow you to select the basic structure and design of a website and then customize it according to your tastes.
Example of WordPress editor used to create and publish pages.
Like WordPress, Joomla is also free and open-source.
Joomla is also developed with PHP, and uses a system similar to WordPress "plugins" to extend the functionality and design of websites. These plugins are referred to as "extensions" in the Joomla ecosystem. Organizations and companies like Harvard and Nintendo use Joomla, demonstrating it's agility and enterprise level capacity for web content publishing and management.
Example of Joomla interface used to create and publish pages.
Shopify positions itself as an "e-commerce platform for online stores" but essential it operates as a CMS. Shopify also extends its functionality with add-on, and instead of plugins or extensions it allows the installation of Shopify "apps".
Unlike WordPress and Joomla Shopify is not free and instead operates as a proprietary CMS. While most CMS platforms, including WordPress, can be enhanced and transformed into full e-commerce website's (with various added plugins), Shopify is different than many CMS platform's in that it natively supports sales and order management, payment gateways, and online commerce specific insights.
Hasbro, Netflix, and Redbull are just a few of the major brands who use Shopify for their websites.
Example of Shopify interface used to create and publish pages and manage products.
Magento is another open-source (sort of) CMS platform built with PHP. Similar to Shopify Magento was built for e-commerce functionality primarily. Magento actually offers both an open source and a paid version of the platform.
Magento Open Source is the "free", open-source version of the platform. While the native functionality is basic, the Magento development community is robust and able to add modular plugins to extend the functions and features of the platform.
Magento Commerce is the paid version, built on open source technology but offering stronger ecommerce related functions and capabilities.
Example of Magento interface used to create and publish pages and manage products.
How to Choose a CMS for a Coffee Website (or Restaurant)
While different CMS platforms will share the same basic functionality, there will be differences in the type and amount of features they come with - along with the learning curve associated with each.
These platforms are not unlike any other type of business software, they vary in complexity and customer support. Of course they also vary in price.
If you're building a coffee shop or restaurant website, chances are you're looking for some specific types of features but, on the other hand, you are likely not thinking of launching a +10,000 page website, so some of the more advanced publishing and authoring functions don't necessarily need to be considered.
If you want something very affordable, and very easy to adapt to a range of needs you might consider WordPress. There's a reason its one of the most popular CMS platforms and has been for some time. For Coffee Shop website's specifically, there's nothing you would want in terms of features that WordPress won't be able to accomodate.
If you're looking to sell coffee online and really build out an e-Commerce store, than you can adapt WordPress with the paid WooCommerce plugin to achieve that.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a CMS platform that comes with all the online store / ecommerce functions already integrated AND you want the simplest platform to use, than you may find the paid CMS platforms like Shopify more appealing. Especially if you're primary focus is the business of your coffee shop or restaurant, Shopify at least provides great support documentation and customer service in exchange for the monthly subscription cost.
For more information on why we recommend Shopify fo coffee shop websites checkout our Shopify FAQ.
Example of Coffee Menu available online. Likely a key requirement for the coffee or restaurant website.
Overall the best approach is to making a decision is to take an inventory of your requirements and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Will I need ecommerce functionality?
2. What is my budget? Am I willing to pay ~$35 per month for the CMS?
3. Do I want to invest time in learning to use the CMS? Or do I need something very fast and simple?
4. Will I be working on the website alone? Or will I have multiple collaborators and need to manage different authors and access rights to the website?
5. Do I need the website just to exist for my brand, or do I want to use it to really promote my business with newsletter / email campaigns, limited time discounts, monthly subscription products, or loyalty programs?
Taking account of the answers to these questions will help you better evaluate what CMS works best for your needs.