What are CMS developers

April 04, 2021 | 4 min read

Self-hosted website builder CMS is built using programming languages, frameworks, libraries and databases. In many cases they have a monolithic architecture hence developers may be required to be full stack - they need to know both Frontend (FE) and Backend (BE) technologies inc. a database used in a CMS. 

It is worth noting that CMS developers may not always be required to know as much about Frontend related technologies and security and performance stuff as Frontend developers because a lot is often handled by a CMS out of the box.

The knowledge of a CMS is critical. For example, to work efficiently with WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento or any other similar CMS, developers need to know how they work under the hood. 

Since website builders are often used to create blogs, landing pages, business websites, e-commerce platforms, SEO is an important requirement. 

ℹ️ SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is critical for ranking in search engines such as Google, Bing, Yandex and driving organic traffic to websites. 

WordPress is written in PHP language and can use MySQL or MariaDB databases. HTML, CSS, and jQuery JavaScript library are used in Frontend. WordPress has a plugin architecture and is easily customizable using add-ons (plugins).

WordPress CMS developers must be proficient with the above-mentioned technologies as well as have experience with creating plugins and themes (customisable design) and writing scalable, reusable and secure code.

The required skills for a CMS developer can be summarized as follows: 

  • The architecture and features of a CMS in question - this makes one a CMS developer
  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery library, JavaScript and maybe other frameworks and libraries
  • Backend programming languages, a backend framework and libraries (if used) for the CMS in question
  • A database (most likely SQL)
  • SEO basics
  • Understanding of SSR
  • Understanding of the plugin architecture and how to build plugins (where applicable)

ℹ️ jQuery was a very popular JavaScript library released in 2006 and most if not all legacy projects depend on it. 

ℹ️ SSR stands for Server Side Rendering and is a process of preparing the page with all the needed data on the server and sending it to the browser where it only needs to be rendered (displayed to visitors) without doing anything extra (e.g. making any additional API request). SSR plays a critical role in SEO.

SaaS website builders CMS can be CMS based, for example, WordPress.com is using a modified version of WordPress.org under the hood. Think of it as a cloud platform for WordPress. Other SaaS CMS may use no CMS but various Frontend and Backend technologies instead.

Headless CMS are different in a way, that they have a secure API instead of the client-facing website (where content is presented for visitors) and are likely to have a microservices-based architecture.

Most likely, companies that hire candidates for headless CMS development will look for Frontend and Backend developers rather than full stack.

However, it can be that the authoring app is built as an SSR application using JavaScript and Node.js and maybe even an SSR framework. In this case, companies may look for a full stack JavaScript/Node developer. 

Backend/Node developers will be required to have experience with creating secure and scalable APIs (REST API or GraphQL)

Similarly to website builders, working with self-hosted headless CMS requires developers to know the core feature of the CMS in question.

In the case of SaaS headless CMS, candidates aren’t CMS developers. They use regular FE and BE technologies that are used in most projects.

The bottom line:

  1. CMS developers working with self-hosted CMS are required to know the ins and outs of the CMS in question.
  2. Although CMS developers are full stack, they do not need to be as proficient with FE technologies as FE developers. 
  3. CMS developers must have experience with databases and backend programming language.
  4. CMS developers must have experience with a backend framework if CMS in question is built on top of it.
  5. SaaS headless CMS usually use regular FE and BE technologies. Hiring for headless CMS development is similar to hiring FE and BE developers.
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