What is CMS? [Everything You Need To Know!]

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Jul 19, 2022

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Let’s say you want to build a website, be it for yourself, for your business, or even for a client. How does one go about this?

The truth is, creating websites can be tricky. Far more than most would think.

That’s why if you don’t have experience in coding, your best bet is to use a CMS. Now, you’re likely wondering, what’s CMS?

Good question!

What Is CMS?

CMS means “Content Management System.” 

I know this doesn’t clarify much. But in a nutshell, it’s software that allows for the management and creation of web content through a central interface. Hence, content management.

The best way to explain it is through examples. WordPress is a CMS platform. So is any other product that allows you to create your own website. I will get to some of these examples in more detail later on.

CMS lets you build a website without having to code it from scratch - letting users contribute, create, edit, and publish. You don’t have to bother with HTML or CSS. All those systems are already in place. All you have to do is put them to use.

Types of CMS

Web development is just one of the more popular uses of CMS. In truth, there are many applications it could be used for. As such, there are various types of software, each specialized for a slightly different purpose.

Here’s what I mean.

Document Management System

This is a type of CMS tool used mostly by businesses.

A DMS is a system mainly used for going paperless and keeping track of digital archives. It’s software specialized for indexing and finding information. Files can be inputted into the system and categorized using metadata and search criteria. 

It essentially allows you to build a searchable database of your content. This content can then be easily found whenever needed.

Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise Content Management, or ECM, is a type of CMS platform used to store and manage content and documents. As you have likely guessed, it’s mostly used by businesses, or organizations, to keep track of records. Hence the name.

Does that sound similar to a DMS?

Well, you’d be right to think that.

You see, DMS is part of what makes up an ECM system. So in many ways, the latter is an extension of the former. The difference is that ECM is a collection of tools used to share, edit, and distribute documents.

For example:

OnBase and Microsoft Sharepoint are some of the programs that specialize in enterprise content management.

Component Content Management System

Among the more practical CMS types is CCMS - Component Content Management System.

CCMS can absorb the same content that you’d normally use with a regular CMS. Except this content is broken down into smaller chunks of data. These chunks can be words, pages, paragraphs, or other types of components.

But… why?

Well, a CCMS is a much more versatile version of a typical CMS system. You can edit the smaller chunks of data without having to re-do the larger picture. Plus, the individual components can be reused in the future and your time saved.

One example of a CCMS is Adobe Experience Manager’s XML Documentation.

Digital Asset Management

Digital Asset Management, or DAM, is a type of CMS framework used for managing all kinds of media files. This includes video, images, and documents.

Having a large collection of different file types can be quite chaotic. The purpose of DAM is to make sense of all this and make it easier for users to store and organize everything.

Website Content Management System

Here is where we loop around to the topic of CMS websites and website builders

A WCMS allows users to create and manage web pages and content. The kicker is, you don’t need to know about the back-end of websites or programming languages. It’s all taken care of already!

Creating a website using CMS can be cheaper and virtually effortless compared to building it from scratch.

How Does a CMS Work?

So all this talk about content management and databases sounds great, but how does it function?

Here’s how.

Content management systems are essentially platforms which allow users to manage, store and create data and content. All the while, the back-end of the platform keeps the system running.

Let’s say you are running blogs, for instance. Anything you publish on a blog is automatically taken care of behind the scenes. So you never have to deal with the actual code or programming involved with maintaining the web page.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

The front-end of a CMS is called a content management application, or CMA. This is what allows the user to manage the content that is being worked with - be it documents, webpages, or media files.

Meanwhile, the content delivery application, or CDA, is the back-end of the platform. This is what transforms the data you have inputted into something usable. If you decide to write a new blog post, the CDA turns your text into a functional part of the webpage.

This is essentially what goes into a CMS, and how the process of content management is streamlined.

Benefits of a CMS

Now that we’ve defined the basics, let’s get to the next question - what is CMS good for?

We’ve already gone over how it’s useful for creating web pages, but there are far more reasons to use a CMS than just that.

User-friendly

Whether it’s document management or the creation of web content, user-friendliness is what makes CMS appealing. If you want to update your business’s website, you can do it without having to deal with an IT professional each time.

What does this mean for you, though?

If you’re a small business or working on a personal website, you can do it ALL on your own. You don’t need to hire anybody to do the work for you or enroll in a coding boot camp. It’s all done through an intuitive central platform. This is the good thing about all types of CMS.

Prebuilt Templates

Customizable and prebuilt templates allow you to visualize how certain websites or blogs are going to look.

This is part of the reason that makes a web content management system so easy to use. If you go to a WCMS like WordPress, you will be given a wide variety of templates. Any of these can be selected as the basis for new websites.

This allows you to preview what your new blog or webpage will look like before you’ve even created it!

Collaboration

If you’re part of a large company, you might need to make your files accessible to everyone in it.

Yet another perk of ECM and DMS.

Content management services specialize in collaboration. Everyone who is part of the system can interact with and access the files within the database. An enterprise content management system lets you quickly find the documents you need and from there, you can send them to whoever needs them.

Easy Maintenance

If you’re running a CMS website, maintaining it is really easy.

Why?

Because all the tools are already in place. You don’t have to worry about anything breaking down, because all back-end is taken care of. Whenever you need to update something, the platform lets you do so quickly.

SEO-friendly Features

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is integral for every business. Luckily, CMS platforms are great for that too!

Many platforms have integrated features like permalinks or metadata descriptors. This is going to help boost your web content to the front pages of search engines, making it easy to find.

The great thing is, this isn’t only the case for the text on your website. CMS applications let you link tags and titles to your images for image optimization.

Why do that?

This is what’s going to make your image findable on Google Image Search and other engines, naturally, further driving traffic to your website.

Security Tools

Some CMS have special security tools meant to scan for vulnerabilities within your website or data.

This is where the differences between open source and closed source become important.

One of the benefits of CMS is that it’s open-source - meaning anyone can see the code and tinker with it so problems or weaknesses can be found much more easily. However, such a system is more commonly exploited and targeted for online attacks.

On the other hand, the code of a closed source CMS is handled entirely by the provider. This makes it more difficult for malicious attackers to break through the defenses.

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. It’s just not as common, since most vulnerabilities are patched out by the development team.

Cost Efficiency

Now, this obviously varies from system to system. But CMS features can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

It’s a good idea to invest in a CMS that handles all your documentation or web content. That would be much more cost-efficient than manually having to handle all that data. In the long term, it allows for much more flexibility and time efficiency.

Developer and Community Support

Many CMS services, especially the open-source ones, are amazing because of the community built around them.

What do I mean by that?

Community-made plugins and extensions can be a useful extra in optimizing your websites or databases. Furthermore, if you ever run into a problem, you can head to the forums and ask for solutions or advice.

As for developer support, if a CMS is maintained well, it will receive regular support and updates. If you happen to come across something the community can’t solve, you always have customer support to fall back on.

Examples of CMS

So what are some actual CMS examples?

I briefly mentioned a few above, but it’s time to delve a bit deeper into each one and discuss their pros and cons.

WordPress

Who hasn’t heard of WordPress?

Out of all the websites on the internet, WordPress makes up a significant chunk of them (37% to be exact) and WordPress CMS is the leader with over 65% of the market share. It is a free and open-source system that allows users to create and manage websites. The reason for its popularity is its incredible customizability and accessibility.

Remember the prebuilt templates? WordPress has an incredible selection of them on offer and is constantly being added to.

Not only does it offer a rich variety, but it also allows you to tweak and personalize pretty much everything, all with relative ease. 

In short, WordPress is ideal for beginners and small businesses or bloggers.

Joomla

Joomla is another popular CMS that prides itself on its thousands of extensions. Much like WordPress, it’s a collaborative effort that many developers over the years have contributed to.

Should you use it?

Joomla is similar to the other platforms in many ways but differs in one major area - it is best for larger websites. It’s structured in such a way that there won’t be any performance hiccups when you scale your website.

This platform is ideal for more complex sites with more flexibility than that of WordPress. So more medium-sized business websites and sites with extensive content like Wikipedia opt for Joomla.

This platform further offers advanced features for customizability that aren’t typically found in other website content management systems.

Drupal

Drupal is free and open-source as well. While its popularity may not be as large as that of WordPress, it still powers some prolific websites and, in general, caters to a different clientele. It is geared specifically towards corporations needing larger and more complex websites.

The main selling point of Drupal is that it’s been designed for complete freedom when it comes to content and website development. It allows you to be in total control of all the content and design.

The company publishes regular security reports as well and is generally more transparent than many other CMS applications.

A very important point about Drupal is that it is significantly more sophisticated than the other examples we mentioned. Not an ideal platform for beginners!

Squarespace

Squarespace is cloud-based content management software built around accessibility. It really couldn’t be any simpler to use, featuring drag-and-drop functions and some of the best template designs on the market.

While it is generally more popular than Drupal or Joomla, it is not as versatile. However, it is fantastic for building portfolios and beginner websites.

How To Create a Website With a CMS

Don’t know where to begin with your website?

Well first, you have to select a platform. Rest assured that WordPress, as a content management system, is a great place to start. There are many other options out there that are just as viable depending on your skill level and knowledge.

Next, think about your budget. Different systems provide varying plans for their websites. If you want to have an original domain name ending in .com, you will have to spend money on hosting. But services like WordPress allow for free domains ending in (website name).wordpress.com.

Whatever you pick, make sure your domain name is memorable and easily searchable. After all, this is how everyone will remember your website.

What’s after that?

Make sure you get familiar with your CMS technology of choice. Website builders have a lot of features that can quickly get overwhelming. So, go step-by-step! Slowly and carefully is best when you’re dealing with software that has this many capabilities.

Select your design for your webpage. Many services offer pre-built, customizable templates which allow you to preview how your website might look. Pick the one you think suits your purpose the best. 

Don’t worry too much, though. The name of the game is customization, so you can change that design later on.

Once all that is done, you can get started with building and eventually publishing your first pages!

Wrap Up

CMS stands for Content Management System. A system for managing content, okay, but what kind of content?

Well, anything you can think of. Most commonly it’s website content, but it can be anything from media files to documents, folders, you name it - it can be managed.

There are many CMS types out there, each serving a different purpose. A website content management system or WCMS is used to simplify making websites. You’ve likely heard or even used them in the past - WordPress and Joomla are some of the more popular ones.

But that’s not all.

Other CMS services are used by corporations to store their data and easily manage it. Enterprise content management, or ECM, is a set of tools used for exactly that. Businesses use it to create a searchable database of all their documentation using metadata and search terms.

Whenever a file needs to be worked on, it can easily be found and sent to anyone else within the system.

The great thing about CMS is that the entire back-end is taken care of behind the scenes. You don’t have to spend time managing and maintaining the system yourself. Or if you’re looking to create a website, you don’t have to do any of the coding or programming. You can simply use a template and customize it.

Let’s get more specific.

Some examples of CMS used for making websites include WordPress, Squarespace, Drupal, and Joomla. All of them have their set of strengths, but they all have the same basic objective - to allow you to make a website with relatively little effort with little to no experience in programming.

So, why would you want to use one?

As you’ve likely figured out, it’s really easy… at least compared to doing all the work yourself. If you want to make a new webpage, you don’t have to call a web developer. A CMS can do it for you.

Security is also one of the many pluses in addition to the many uses of CMS. Any vulnerabilities the platform may have, are quickly remedied by the development team. You don’t have to concern yourself with hacks and attacks.

The bottom line is, if you are looking to create a website for your business or yourself, a CMS is the way to go. It requires no coding knowledge and there are countless choices out there to suit your needs.

FAQ.


What exactly is a CMS?

It is a program for managing digital content. This can be anything from web content to digitized files, documents, media, and so on. What is CMS as an abbreviation? It stands for Content Management System.

What is an example of a CMS?

Most website builders are a CMS. Platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and Joomla are management systems specialized for web content. Other CMS systems are better suited for managing documents such as OnBase and Microsoft Sharepoint.

Is WordPress a CMS?

Yes, WordPress is a website content management system or a WCMS. It’s the most popular CMS website builder out there.

Is CMS good for SEO?

Typically yes. Many CMS platforms have integrated SEO features like metadata, tags, and image optimization.

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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