What is a CMS? Content Management System Explained

Julia Raznik

Written by Web Hosting Expert

Reviewed by Technical Editor

Updated June 9, 2022
What is a CMS? Content Management System Explained

What is a CMS?


A content management system is software that is used to make web content, where numerous contributors can create, edit, and publish the content. Through CMS you can manage your digital content on many different channels.

Digital content creation is growing, with a staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data produced daily! Everyone has the ability to create content in the palm of their hand, but how do you separate your digital voice from the rest? Having a system that allows you to create, integrate and manage your content may be the very thing missing from your digital toolkit.

This article outlines the key features and benefits of content management systems to help you with what you need to know.

How Does a CMS Work?


Without a CMS, If you want to a create content, you will need to write an HTML file and upload it to your server.

However, using a content management system, you can create your content in an interface that looks somewhat similar to Microsoft Word, which is much simpler and easier. The same goes for visual content. Instead of interacting with your web server directly, you can browse the media library.

By using a CMS, the content you create will show up for your audience exactly how you want it to look. With a CMS, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG).

How to Use a CMS/CMS Structure


A CMS consists of two parts:

  • CMA (content management application)
    The CMA is the visual interface that allows users to create, design, alter, and remove content from a website.

  • CDA (content delivery application)
    The CDA part runs the back-end services that maintain delivery and management of the content. Once the user creates it in the content management application, the CDA publishes it to the site for the visitors to see.

CMS Types


Types of CMS

CMS types differ based upon the way they can be embedded in your system. They include:

  • Proprietary CMS: This is a CMS that is built by a single organization. For this type of CMS, you will need to: purchase a license; invest in additional costs for upgrades and customization, make monthly or annual payments for updates or support; and invest in ongoing user support or technical training.

  • Open-Source CMS: With this type of CMS, you don’t need any upgrades licenses, or fees. You can basically have zero initial cost. You will, however, have to invest in: regular software updates or support, compatible plugins, templates or add-ons, customization, and technical assistance during the installation and setup.

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) Content Management System: This CMS includes technical support, web content management software, web hosting, and they are all covered in a single unit. However, you will need to pay according to the subscription plan. Usually what this subscription plan includes is: ongoing support; amount of transferred data; and content storage and data as required by you.

CMS Basic Functions


Basic function of Cms
  • Creation of content – A CMS allows you to make certain aspect of content creation easier, by utilizing industry-specific tools that are built in the software. These can be whole applications that have a detailed aim, or simple widgets you can use.

  • Collaboration – With a CMS, you are able to collaborate with a whole team of people so you can work simultaneously on certain content. You can’t foul up other people’s contributions because the CMS keeps track of every change made.

  • Flexible site structure – Each user is able to customize the structure of the website content. You can also segregate the content based on tags, categories, and so on. You can make easy changes in the content templates and the overall appearance with basic skills.

CMS Features


Social media integration
Social media integration

Optimize your content for social media platforms and add social media sharing buttons to your pieces of content.

Thorough Analytics
Thorough Analytics

Your CMS should integrate analytics tools as tracking engagement is an essential part of the content strategy.

Security
Security

You need to make sure that your website protects the data of your customers, as well as your company’s data.

Social media integration
Social media integration

Optimize your content for social media platforms and add social media sharing buttons to your pieces of content.

Thorough Analytics
Thorough Analytics

Your CMS should integrate analytics tools as tracking engagement is an essential part of the content strategy.

Security
Security

You need to make sure that your website protects the data of your customers, as well as your company’s data.

Why Do You Need a CMS?


A CMS brings many advantages to small companies, startups, and enterprises. Here are a couple of reasons why:

Easy to use:

For people who aren’t developers, it’s an easy way to fill out a form, and accordingly for that form, you have a page built for you. If you didn’t have a CMS, every time you wanted to make a change to your site (even something small like changing the title of an article), you would have to call a developer.

Even if you’re a developer, it would be nice to have an easier method of changing things instead of rewriting a bunch of code every time.

Cheaper than hiring a developer:

Hiring a developer to build a user management system, the ability to create and manage content, and everything else included in a CMS, is going to cost you a lot more. Plus, if you’re going to need to make frequent changes and updates, choosing a CMS will be more cost-efficient.

CMS Benefits


Benefits of CMS
  • No Coding Knowledge Required
    As we previously mentioned, you don’t need any coding experience to use CMS. This software provides people who don’t have any coding background with the chance to create a site that is completely functional. Your web content can be easily uploaded to your website.

  • Easy Collaboration
    A CMS allows different people to collaborate on projects. Multiple people at a time can add, update, or edit content from their own computers. This means that your developers can customize your theme, your IT professionals can implement security protocols, and your digital marketers can produce content, all simultaneously.

  • SEO Features and Extensions
    A CMS provides numerous tools and plugins that will help your site rank better in search engines. Using third party tools, you can optimize page load times, create 301 redirects, add image alt text, create XML sitemaps and choose URL structures that are SEO-friendly.

  • Predesigned Templates
    Many CMS platforms offer a range of predesigned templates that you can use to customize your site. A beneficial template will guide you in your content development. It will prompt you to add relevant categories, tags or resizing of your image to the right dimension. All of these small details can save you some time.

  • Simple Updates
    With a CMS, you can make changes on your site, no matter how small or big, in no time. You can do all of these changes yourself, instead of hiring a developer to do it for you.

  • Support
    Even though not all software offers support, the more popular ones like Drupal or WordPress have an engaged community which runs forums and wikis. If you’re not a company that has IT specialists, these features can be quite useful when you run into a problem.

What Kinds of Websites Can You Build with a CMS?


Even though there is a general misconception that a CMS is just for blogging, the truth is that CMS is so flexible that it can be used for almost any type of website you want. However, CMSs are ideal for websites that are based around creating and sharing content. This means that they are ideal for:

  • Tutorial websites
  • News and Media
  • Portfolios
  • Simple blogs
  • Ecommerce stores
  • Online communities
  • Multi-site networks
  • Multilingual sites

Using the right tools, you can even create forums, private membership sites, and online stores.

How to Build a Website with a Content Management System?


Website building using CMS

In order to create a website with a CMS, you need to follow these steps:

  • Choose a CMS – There are several options out there, so choose the right one for you

  • Figure out the domain name – Choose a simple, yet memorable domain name for your site

  • Choose the hosting – Since not all CMSs come with integrated hosting solutions, select your hosting plan

  • Install the CMS – Once you’ve chosen your CMS, it’s time to install it

  • Install the plugins you want to use – Choose the plugins you want to use for your site and install them

  • Select and customize the design – Select a suitable theme for your site and work on customizing the design

  • Create and upload your content – After you’re done with the design, it’s time to upload some content

  • Launch your site – The final step is to go online.

CMS Examples


WordPress


WordPress is one of the most widely-used and popular CMSs. What makes this CMS stand out is the wide range of templates and design customization tools, its broad user community, as well as its extensive integration options.

Joomla


Another popular platform is Joomla. It’s not ideal for beginners as it requires a bit more skills, time, and effort to use. Joomla runs on open-source software and it can be used to start many different website types, such as landing pages and business projects.

Drupal


Drupal is great for small, mid-sized, and even large business projects. It has extensive design customization options, as well as handy and convenient user management options that lead to quick and safe content uploading.

Magento


In order to take advantage of Magento’s full functionality and extensions, you might want to put a little more effort in. However, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it is incredibly secure and flexible. With this CMS, you can transact in different countries, manage multiple stores, and use several shipping providers.

Summary


Content Management Systems are very beneficial, thanks to their SEO-friendly features, extendable functionality, cost-efficiency, easy of maintenance, quick deployment, and last but not least, their user-friendliness.

To make the most of these benefits, you will need to define what your technical requirements are, as well as your workflows and processes.

Choosing a CMS can be quite a challenge, thanks to the rich selection of available software types. When exploring CMSs, you should have in mind the special tools, integration options, the range of features provided and hosting options.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do I need a MAC or a special PC to use a CMS?

No, you don’t. Any computer with a web connection and an installed browser should be just fine.

Is a CMS hard to use?

No. CMSs can be used with minimal training, and you don’t need a programming background in order to use one.

Is there more than one Content Management System?

Absolutely! There are hundreds of CMSs available, and they all work in different ways.

What is the best CMS?

Everyone has their own favorite CMS, but the best one for you is the one that matches your business requirements.

Julia Raznik
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Julia Raznik
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