1st September 2014

Using Magento as a Content Management System

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When choosing the most suitable ecommerce platform for your online store, the primary considerations normally revolve around the functionality offered for order, product and customer management. However many stores also want to offer their customers further features to enhance their onsite experience, that are not directly facilitated by catalogs and products. For these store owners the Content Management System (CMS), can become an equally important part of their decision.

When choosing Magento as their ecommerce software, many are concerned by the apparent lack of flexibility with the CMS functionality provided by default, leading them to look at integration between Magento and other platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.

Having worked with clients on a large number of Magento stores over the years, we find the Magento CMS functionality suitable for fulfilling the majority of use cases. Here is an overview of the CMS functionality provided by Magento out of the box:

CMS Pages

CMS pages are used for pages on your ecommerce store that fall outside the Catalog » Product » Checkout user flow. They could be very simple text pages (such as a Terms & Conditions page) or more complicated interactive, media-rich pages.

When you create a CMS Page in Magento, you will be presented with a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) text entry box, allowing you to add text, images, media, CMS Blocks and CMS Widgets into the page without any Coding/HTML knowledge.

CMS Pages allow you to choose specific templates and layouts for design purposes, as well as set the URL path and add additional Meta Data for the associated SEO benefits.

CMS Blocks

CMS Blocks are similar to pages, but are not accessible independently. For a CMS block to appear on site it must be inserted into a CMS Page, Catalogue, Product or other System Page, or into a CMS Widget.

As with CMS Pages, there is a WYSIWYG input box available for you to add a variety of content, but unlike CMS Pages, CMS blocks can be added in multiple pages and multiple regions. For example, a CMS Block could be used to create a block that displays information about your shipping/delivery prices or policy. This single block could then be placed in the right sidebar of all pages on the site, making management a breeze.

CMS Widgets

CMS Widgets are where you can get really clever with your CMS content, allowing you to insert elements in special formats. This could range from a relatively simple rotating banner; the sort you may have as the focal point on the homepage, to a top three most popular products block, or an interactive feature such as a nearest Store Locator with map integration.

CMS Widgets can be inserted into CMS Pages or Blocks, or themselves can have CMS Blocks inserted into the widget. Widgets can appear in a variety of regions, or pages, and can have a variety of options or methods of input.

Going Further

Should the above CMS functionality not afford the full level of control required for your store, then there are a huge range of Magento Extensions available that extend the platform for specific functionality. AWBlog and the Webforms module both allow commonly requested functionality at no additional cost.

Custom modules

There may be some circumstances where the above options simply do not fit the brief. However that doesn’t mean that Magento cannot provide the CMS functionality desired. The way the Magento codebase is constructed means that custom modules can be crafted for pretty much any scenario, putting our clients in full control over their platforms. This allows content to be updated by them more regularly, with greater ease, and at lower cost.

If you have any questions or recommendations for using the CMS side of Magento then drop us a comment below. Or if Magento is something you’re considering for a new project, get in touch to discuss in more detail.