Introduction to Content Management
Ariadne is among a new generation of tools to develop and maintain websites, from small to large. The concepts behind Ariadne are mostly based on ideas which have been around for quite a while now, but some concepts and features are also unique to Ariadne. Before we get to the details it is important to grasp the basic concept of Content Management.
When Tim Berners-Lee created the first Webbrowser in 1990, he could hardly have foreseen how big this WWW thing would become. He simply built a usefull communication tool for scientists, the world saw a large billboard and entertainment channel instead.
Current websites have changed a lot from the early days, when a logo and some contact details were often the entire website. Instead current websites have become large unwieldy collections of information in which concepts like 'branding', 'user experience' and 'workflow' have become very important. Keeping such a website uptodate is almost impossible without automated tools.
'Content Management Systems' is what the world calls these tools, and they come in a very large variety. Starting from simple tools that only help in uploading and editing files, to very complex and costly systems which handle all the information in a global Enterprise.
Ariadne can loosely be categorized as a Web Content Management System, since it is mostly concerned with all things Web. However it can do a lot more, actually it is a Web Application Framework, but content management is its most visible part.
Content is King
Chances are, you've heard the above adage before. It's an old statement, but still true. Your website's success depends on the content. A nice layout and good usability are important, but can't compensate for poor or outdated content.
In addition a CMS can help a visitor find the content he or she wants, through tools like full text searching, automatic sitemaps, automatic archives, etc.
Finally larger CMS systems can help you keep different versions or revisions of content available, publish sites in multiple languages, keep track of digital content and maintain editorial control over large teams of writers.
Roles and user management
User management is not only a question of who has access to what. It is usually more about dividing tasks and responsability, and providing the user with the correct tools for the job.
CMS systems are usually in one of two 'camps', the role-based user management camp and the capability-based camp. Ariadne is a bit of an outsider in that it actually supports both, but we'll come to that.
Branding is a bit of a buzzword in CMS systems today, but in fact it is a very simple concept. If you have a commercial website, chances are you've spent a lot of money on webdesign and a number of intelligent designers have thought long and hard on every aspect of the design. This is not something you would want to have each editor to learn. So instead, your CMS should make sure that the style guidelines the designers made are followed, with the least effort for the editor.
In most cases this is accomplished through the use of templates. These templates are built by the designers and programmers who designed the website. The template includes all the fixed content like logo's, menu's, banners, etc. They also include information about colors and fonts and other styles to use throughout the website.
An editor only has to worry about the content part, the system takes care of colors, font sizes, image sizes, logo's, menu's, etc.
Navigation and site structure
Menu's, sitemap, search form, breadcrumbs, etc. All these are tools which are important to visitors of your website. In fact, most visitors have come to expect these things to be available, and to be consistent. Hand-crafted websites can suffer from jumping or disappearing menu's or menu items, which only make visitors feel disoriented and lost. Some sites almost appear to purposefully resemble a maze.
Any good CMS should provide all the tools you need to built a consistent navigation for your website.
Many, if not most, current CMS systems are entirely webbased, or browser based. This means you don't have to install complex software on your computer, just an internet connection and the default webbrowser will do.
In some cases you don't even need the webbrowser, but you can access the content in the CMS as if it was on a network disk. Some CMS systems even integrate completely with your office system (word, Excel, etc.)
Not too long ago sites were commonly decorated with funny looking images of under construction and road work signs. Today any site which still uses these is seen as amateurishly out of date. A good CMS system provides the tools to work on new content or even a completely new design of your site, without the visitors knowing untill everything is ready.
Some systems use seperate servers, and 'synchronize' content between them. Some systems use versioning or branching, to allow you to keep working versions hidden untill everything is finished.