What is a content management system (CMS)?
A content management system, also known as CMS, is a software application that enables users to create, manage, modify, and publish digital content such as web pages, blog posts, etc. on a website without the need for specialized technical and coding knowledge. A website can be quickly built with this tool without needing to create all the code from scratch (or even know how to code).
A CMS provides an easy and cost-effective solution for content management, that allows companies to manage and distribute their content without investing in a full-time content development team.
Main parts of a CMS
From a technical perspective, a content management system consists of two core components.:
- A content management application (CMA) – This section allows you to add and manage content on your website.
- A content delivery application (CDA) – This is the backend process that properly stores the content entered in the CMA, and makes it viewable to your visitors.
When combined, these applications typically take care of all the code, database queries, and infrastructure on the backend level so that all the focus can be levied on the front end of the site.
Types of CMS
Some of the different types of CMS available these days are mentioned below:
- Coupled CMS: It is considered the most common CMS which provides an all-in-one solution. On offer is a fully functional backend tightly connected to the front-end that allows updating as well as publishing content to a styled front end. Features:
- Requires a dedicated web hosting
- Requires an administrator to set it up and configure the system installation.
- Example: WordPress, Drupal
- SaaS CMS: It is a complete end-to-end solution that provides companies with a straightforward web presence. Features:
- Hosted in the cloud
- No requirement for web hosting, setup, installation, or configuration
- Example: Acrobat.com, Google Docs
- Decoupled CMS: It is an advanced solution where the backend and the frontend are detached from each other. The whole process of creating and delivering content is accessed via an API.
- Examples: Adobe AEM
- Headless CMS: It has only a backend system to access a database and store content in a custom-built front-end web application. This is a good solution for organizations that need to be in full control and flexible about the access to their content. Features:
- More flexible than decoupled CMS
- Requires a developer to design, create and connect the frontend application.
- Example: Strapi, Cockpit
Basic features of all CMS
Based on the CMS definition, all content management systems present the below common features:
- They are digital
- Provide users with the ability to create, format, edit, and publish content
- Manage and store the content in a database
- Provide multi-user access
- Showcase the content
- Simple user-friendly interface in the form of a dashboard
- Free customizable themes
- Easy-to-use content editor
- Availability of plugins and extensions to add more features and functions to the website
Benefits of using a CMS
Along with providing an easy way to store and manage all your information in a single, easy-to-access database, an effective CMS also does the following:
- Stronger inner- and cross-team collaboration: As a browser-based CMS can be accessed from anywhere, it:
- Enables team members in different locations to collaborate on content projects in the same system and on the most current version.
- Allows access to the same content since it’s stored in the same place.
- Diminishes the need to send multiple files to multiple people and control multiple versions.
- Provides easy organization through its workflow management, content storage, and scheduling capabilities.
- Improves productivity: With better organization and tools at hand, it allows content creators to concentrate on the core job of creating quality content. They can spend more time refining and tweaking content copy, images, or video content and conduct A/B tests on new offers, CTAs, and subject lines.
- Easy content scheduling: It provides the ease of scheduling posts to be published according to calendar deadlines, business events, and product launches.
- Compatible with any size business and can scale as the need arises.
- Economical and controllable as it doesn’t require a high-priced web developer for routine website editing and maintenance. A non-technical user can easily manage sites and maintain content consistency.
Key capabilities to look for in a CMS
Having a clearly defined set of requirements is essential when conducting your research on content management systems. Before you finalize a CMS, we recommend looking for the following features and capabilities:
- Business functionality: Define what the business is trying to achieve for its website.
- A compelling content editor with both visual and code-based editing options. Drag-and-drop builders are a good option.
- Core CMS features such as the ability to add, format, and publish content while incorporating user roles.
- Access to third-party themes, plugins, and integrations to improve your site performance.
- CMS marketing features such as email marketing, social media, coupons, etc.
- Ecommerce capabilities that have the potential to sell products.
- Design flexibility including mobile responsiveness and custom code control.
- Content governance – Does content creation and management adhere to policies and procedures?
- Asset management capability – How the CMS deals with uploading, attaching, and editing assets such as images, videos, or PDFs?
- Technology and applications: What technology is the CMS built upon and is there a scope for improvement in the future?
- Security features: How secure is the platform and what type of features are incorporated?
- Support: Is long-term relevant support such as basic product patches, hosting, mentoring and guidance available for the CMS?
- Budget: Deciding on a budget is important as you may not want to pay for a feature or function you will never use.
- SEO-friendliness: Does the CMS platform offer any built-in as well as add-on features that will optimize your website to improve Google and search engine rankings?
- Some more considerations:
- Mobile approvals & authoring
- Multi-lingual support
- Integrations available
- Multi-website support
Some popular CMS
There are various CMS platforms available in the market these days. Each of them comes with a budget that satisfies the different types of business requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular CMS platforms:
- WordPress: It is a self-hosted platform hosting powering around 43% of websites on the internet. It is easy and flexible to customize with a plethora of plugins and themes.
Suitable for: Small businesses and freelancers
- Joomla: It is an open-source platform with built-in multilingual support, and advanced user and content management features which ideal for membership, community, and social networking sites.
Suitable for: Global organizations
Suitable for: Corporations and government agencies, universities
Suitable for: eCommerce businesses
- WebFlow – for agencies and web designers
- Ghost – for bloggers
- HubSpot CMS Hub
A CMS’s features are an important part of the decision-making process, but they should not be the limiting factor. You don’t want to spend too much money on features you will never use. On the other hand, you don’t want to be stuck with a content management system that won’t meet your needs in the future. Choosing the most relevant CMS can be a key to creating effective websites and content.