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Welcome to Wagtail CMS in Action

An excerpt from Wagtail CMS in Action by Kalob Taulien

What is a content management system?

Now, at this point you might wonder, “What is a content management system?” A content management system, or CMS for short, is a suite of tools and features that help you maintain a website, along with the written content, images, videos, documents and anything else that might be needed to create well thought out pages. Basically, a CMS makes it easier for you to manage your website. If you’ve ever read a blog or visited a news website, chances are good that they are using a content management system to help them build beautiful web pages, write appealing content, and maintain their branded designs. You have hundreds, if not thousands, of CMSes to choose from, and Wagtail CMS is a top contender for most organizations.

What makes Wagtail different?

This is where Wagtail shines. Although Wagtail has features for everybody, it doesn’t grant any lone person total system control. Instead, Wagtail wants you and your team to do what you all do best. Whether that’s writing (editing), SEO, coding, design, site administration, or anything else — Wagtail wants you to leverage your skills. The idea is that, with a good CMS, you are using all the top talent from your team. Or if you’re a single-person team, then you should be wearing different hats at different times and not trying to do it all at the exact same time.

Context switching

Why is this such a powerful concept to adopt? Well, the short answer is context switching, which is when you change tasks and all of a sudden you’re wasting time trying to remember where you left off and spending more time getting back into “the zone”. It’s hard to quantify but it absolutely does exist. Think of it like this: you sleep for at least 8 hours, hopefully, and then immediately wake up and go for a run. And when you’re done running, you immediately go back to bed and sleep some more. You’ll be far too tired, or too awake, to switch context, so you’ll end up running slower, or lying in bed doing nothing. That’s context switching in an extreme example. And it happens to developers all the time.

Wagtail and Django

Wagtail is built on top of an existing web framework (Django), the lines between what is Wagtail and what is Django can be blurry at times. Throughout the book, however, you’ll come to be able to discern the difference. But also keep in mind that it’s not a crucial subject to understand: you don’t need to know the difference between Wagtail and Django; it won’t make you a better developer — though it might help ease some of the initial confusion.

Figure 1. Shows the intricate interaction between Django and Wagtail. Because Wagtail cannot exist without Django, the lines between their activities can be blurry.

What you will learn in this book

If you’re still with me at this point, let’s talk about what you will learn in this book, and how you will learn it.

Is this book for you?

Now, I’d like to talk about whether this book is for you. You and I will write a fair amount of code and spend quite a bit of time together, so I want to make sure Wagtail CMS in Action is for you. I am making a few assumptions throughout this book, like the assumption that you know simple Python OOP. You don’t need to know about databases or web requests, and anything outside of standard Python I will do my best to explain to you along the way (like deploying a website). If you are a developer who knows some Python, this book is absolutely for you. Or if you’re a manager trying to decide if Wagtail is for you and your organization, this book will help you understand whether Wagtail is a good fit. However, if you’re not code-inclined whatsoever, or you’d rather create a website in an afternoon by clicking some boxes, then Wagtail won’t work well for you either (at least not at this very moment).

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