Making Decisions About Project Technology

What is a content management system (CMS)?


“A CMS is a software tool that allows you to create, edit, and publish content. While early CMS software was used to manage documents and local computer files, most CMS systems are now designed exclusively to manage content on the Web.

The goal of a CMS is to provide an intuitive user interface for building and modifying webpage content. Each CMS also provides a web publishing tool that allows one or more users to publish updates live on the Web. The editing component is called the content management application (CMA), while the publishing tool is called the content delivery application (CDA). These two components are integrated together in a CMS to streamline the web development process.

Content management systems are available as installable applications and web-based user interfaces. While CMS software programs, such as Adobe Contribute, were popular for a few years, they have largely been replaced by web-based CMSes. Most people prefer a web interface, since it simplifies the website updating process. Additionally, most web-based CMSes are updated automatically, ensuring all users have the latest tools to manage their content.

Several web-based CMS tools are available. The following are some of the most popular ones:

  1. WordPress – free web software designed for creating template-based websites or blogs
  2. Blogger – Google’s blogging tool designed specifically for maintaining a blog
  3. Joomla – a flexible web publishing tool that supports custom databases and extensions
  4. Drupal – an open source platform often used for developing community-based sites
  5. Weebly – a web-based platform for building simple personal and business websites
  6. Wix – a collection of web publishing tools for creating a highly customizable website

Some CMS tools are free to use, while others require a monthly fee. Many CMSes provide free basic components, but charge for high-quality templates, web hosting, custom domain names, or other features. Before deciding on a CMS, it is a good idea to review multiple options so you can choose the one that best fits your website goals.”

What CMSes get used in digital scholarship projects?

Common platforms for digital projects include…….

  • WordPress: a blogging platform that includes customizable plugins and can create user-friendly static sites
  • Omeka: a digital archiving platform that includes robust metadata and some exhibit design and display options
  • ESRI StoryMaps: a digital storytelling platform that can include text, media, and interactive digital objects (videos/maps/etc.)
  • Static web pages: loads from HTML files and does not include an underlying database or digital infrastructure


1-Break into groups of 2 and select one of the projects listed below. (3 minutes)


2-As a group, work through the following reflection questions: (20 minutes)

  • What materials are displayed?
  • What metadata is available?
  • How complex is the website?
  • What is your experience navigating the website?
  • What aspects of the digital project does the website highlight (i.e. interactivity, simplicity, storytelling, narrative, searchability, etc.)
  • What are the platform’s strengths? What are the platform’s weaknesses?

3-Large Group Shareouts (5 minutes per group)

Share some of your conversation and reflection with the larger group.

4-Individual Reflection (10 minutes)

  • What kind of platform(s) might be a good fit for the digital project you will be working on this year?
  • What questions do you have about making decisions about technology options?
  • What might be a next step for getting answers to those questions? Where could you go to learn more about the affordances and limitations of specific options?