The Anatomy of a Content Management System (CMS)

A content management system typically has four parts.

The collection system contains the tools and procedures. This system is used by the staff to gather content and to provide editorial processing. The collection system often consists of four different areas: authoring, aggregation, conversion, and editorial/metatorial services. Authoring is the process of creating content from scratch.

Authors mostly work with a framework that allows them to fit their content into the structure of the target publication. Authors should be encouraged to change the meta-information, since they often are the best people to determine whether its the right information for the work they are creating.

Aggregation is generally a process for streamlining content from different sources to be included in the CMS.

Conversion occurs when imported information needs to be restructured: tags may be either inserted or deleted, for example. One conversion problem involves identifying structural elements (footers, for example) that only have format codes marking them in the source content. Another problem is transforming formatting elements that do not exist in the target environment.

Finally, the editorial service applies the editorial format, while the metatorial service adds metadata that connects the current content with other content in the CMS.

Next, we’ll move on to some necessary systems. The management system is made up of the database and files of all the content and meta information. It also comprises the processes and tools employed to access, update, and administer the collected content and meta information. The management system stores the content and makes it possible for staff to select content and manage it. A management system must also be able to connect to other systems via web services, for instance.

The workflow system contains the tools and procedures that are used by staff to ensure that the entire process of collecting, storing, and publishing runs effectively and efficiently, and according to well-defined timelines and actions. A workflow system supports the creation and management of business processes. In the context of a content management system, the workflow system sets and administers the chain of events around collecting and publishing.

Finally, the publishing system consists of the tools, procedures, and staff employed to draw content out of the repository and create publications for a target, such as a web site.

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