A content management system (CMS) is a collaborative platform that allows multiple users to create, post, publish and modify digital content. Every website and web publishing platform runs based on a content management system model.

In short, a content management system is an application to manage content digitally. While some CMS platforms follow a strict and defined author or ownership, many systems offer a multi-user front-end user interface for content management and publishing.

A Working Definition

Many companies use website content manager software to organise and automate digital content and tasks. 

Popular CMS platforms offer a web-based site to publish and edit posts, pages, and archives. While most content management systems (CMS) support the running and distribution of digital content, some offer format management and indexing options with the help of plugins and widgets.

What Can You Do With a CMS?

A content management system (CMS) is software that helps organizations centralize and manage content across channels. A CMS allows multiple contributors to create, edit, organize, publish, and optimize content. This content can include blog posts, web pages, documents, multimedia, etc., and then surfaced to digital channels like websites, mobile apps, and more.

what is a content management system

Technically, a CMS allows a user to perform web-based publishing and content management tasks. However, the nature of CMS is to separate content and presentation. To keep all your data secure, CMS systems allow users to assign different permissions to multiple users for content management tasks such as editing, presentation, and publishing.

planning content with a cms  -  Content Management System
Typically, a content management system is used to manage
enterprise content, web content and marketing content initiatives. Image source: Unsplash @homajob

Key benefits of using a CMS:

  • Improves content production efficiency through reusable components, templates and workflows
  • Allows easier collaboration with built-in permissions and approvals
  • It provides flexibility to publish content across multiple channels.
  • Offers insights through integrated analytics on content performance
  • Enables better content discoverability through built-in SEO and optimization
  • Streamlines omnichannel digital experiences by connecting content to ecommerce, email, social media
  • Secures and backups important digital assets and documents
  • Reduces costs associated with content production and technology management

There are a few main types of content management systems:

1. Web CMS – Focused on managing content for websites:

  • Examples include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
  • Allow you to build, edit, and optimize website content and functionality
  • Offer SEO features, templates, and plugins to enhance websites.
  • Control user access workflows for streamlined web content creation.
CMS Websites | Content Management System | Content Management Websites | Content Management

2. Digital Experience/Omnichannel CMS – Manage content across channels:

  • Examples are Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager, Bloomreach
  • Centralize content to deploy across websites, mobile, email, social, etc.
  • Advanced features for digital experience optimization
  • Integration capabilities are key for omnichannel content.

3. Component/Headless CMS – Reusable content components:

  • Examples include Contentful, Storyblok, Contentstack
  • Create reusable content components for omnichannel delivery
  • Decoupled architecture for flexible content delivery
  • Integration with front-end and delivery frameworks

4. Enterprise CMS – Comprehensive features and governance:

  • Examples are Microsoft SharePoint, OpenText, SDL Tridion
  • Robust functionality for large, complex content repositories
  • Strict security, compliance, and access controls
  • Collaboration workflows and contributor management

Selecting the right CMS:

Important criteria when selecting a CMS platform:

  • User and contributor needs – what is intuitive for content creators
  • Omnichannel requirements – where and how to deliver content
  • Customization and integration needs – leveraging APIs and extensions
  • Budget considerations – balancing capabilities with total cost of ownership
  • IT infrastructure and compliance – hosting, security, scalability factors

Implementation of best practices:

  • Get stakeholder buy-in and executive sponsorship
  • Audit existing content and digital presence
  • Set up governance for contributor workflows
  • Develop customized taxonomies and metadata
  • Create user roles and permissions
  • Establish processes for maintenance, upgrades, support

Content Management System Features and Functions

A CMS’s features, while seemingly basic, are incredibly important for a business’s success. Whether a CMS is being used by an entrepreneur, a small company or a multi-industry corporation, a CMS’s features can make or break an entity’s growth, marketing ability and ROI.

An enterprise-ready CMS is surprisingly useful for managing small-scale content marketing activities. Also, small and medium-sized businesses can buy cheaper product editions, allowing them to leverage features, product output and growth. Below are today’s most-sought-after CMS features:

Flexibility in Content Management

A modern CMS offers a defined content presentation structure that lessens the tasks of the users. Gone are the days when the content creators had to design, create and edit the front-end displays for the best results. When working on a good CMS platform, all you have to worry about is the structure of the content.

The flexible CMS user interface allows content authors to create a dynamic piece with SEO for the best traffic and boosted online visibility. This eventually helps the author to target a niche and audience for content monetisation.

Open Application Programming Interface (API)

Application Programme Interfaces offer a convenient platform for content creators, authors and website managers. They can analyse and share data, connect web pages with external web application systems and run their website smoothly. 

Regarding data sharing, the most critical issue is data loss and identity theft. API is a software intermediary that makes it easy for the users and website owners to create, share and connect.

E-commerce-based websites often include a secure payment option so that users can purchase their products and services without any hassle. For easy transactions, CMSs use API to connect with external systems such as ERP.

application programming interfaces - Content Management System
E-commerce website owners and content managers can easily integrate an external system, new apps, programs and even native apps with their CMS-based website without changing the web design or HTML. Image source: Unsplash @hishahadat


CMS platforms are designed to give users a personalised suite to edit, manage, create and publish digital content. These systems offer many personalisation options, such as adding unique header and footer, integrated apps and banners, and choosing a personalised template for their digital diary or website. 

Most CMSs offer several free and premium templates to select and create a personalised website as per the users’ interests.

Content Management Systems | CMS | What is a Content Management System? | Web Development

Themes and Changing Design

Many CMSs offer pre-designed themes with index, ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ pages, social sharing buttons, and headers and footers. 

Users always have the option to customise the theme and choose the colour pattern, add a personalised logo and select fonts. In this way, they can create the type of webpage that best suits their interest.

Easy Installation Wizard

With an easy installation wizard of CMSs, a non-tech-savvy person without any content management system training can create a website in less than an hour. 

The easy installation wizard, with pre-designed and predefined codes, helps to download the interface in minutes and allows users to set up the website by creating a personalised domain, logo, and pages.


A proper CMS will be able to cache. Caching is a process that stores copies of data or files in a temporary storage location (or cache) so they can be accessed faster. It is important to your website’s performance, and your CMS should support multi-level caching to assist with customisable content initiatives. Additionally, a solid CMS has the following:

  • Consistent performance reports
  • Cloud accessibility
  • Web farm support leverage
analysis of website performance - Content Management System
A CMS allows you to evaluate performance reports in one place. Image source: Unsplash @LukeChesser


Next, an effective CMS will need flexibility. Regardless of a business’s size, their CMS will need to integrate with the following:

  • Other CMS systems
  • Social networks
  • ERPs
  • Mobile apps

Additionally, a CMS should have ready-to-use connectors capable of ‘plugging in’ to today’s common platforms. This decreases development costs, and it makes a CMS accessible to constantly changing digital environments.


The online world can be a dangerous place. As you include more content providers, you’ll need a CMS capable of handling advanced security management operations. All security options should offer the following:

  • Content permissions
  • User roles
  • Module permissions
  • Customisability

CMSs offer permission control for each user, so the website owner can decide on assigning the level of access to each user. Additional helper plugins can help to secure the website data in a better way by backing up the data, monitoring the access IPs and blocking restricted users from logging in. That’s how you can manage your website without taking much hassle to keep the data secure.

bank card payment device - Content Management System
You need to select a CMS capable of meeting your business’s ever-changing needs – a mature CMS will have multiple authentication options so as to provide accessibility at all levels. Image source: Unsplash @hellooodesign

Digital Marketing Tools

Today’s best CMS products have in-depth digital marketing tools. Today, it isn’t enough to simply manage content. A business needs to have good outreach, and it needs fully integrated content marketing tools to manage the ins and outs of customer-centric marketing campaigns. Ideally, a CMS will support multi-channel marketing, helping users and consumers maintain access to quality content.

Training Services

Finally, a viable CMS will offer user tools. As a business hires more CMS editors, it’ll need more training. Understandably, a business’s time, training expenses and ability to enhance user experiences are limited. For this reason, a good CMS will offer the following:

  • Immediate access training
  • In-depth user guides
  • Up-to-date training services

Choosing a CMS

As per the current market share statistics, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are the three top CMS platforms. However, there are many other popular and old CMS platforms available, too. Here are the pros and cons of the hosting options below, promoted by Vandelay Design and Web Designer Depot:

Light CMS

Light CMS is powered by ElementFusion, a solid CMS geared towards designers. If you’re a designer, you can create a free Light CMS account and initiate a re-branded CMS experience.

That said, Light CMS is limiting for end users. Designers can generate revenue through individual clients, making it a fantastic small business option. As it scales, however, the platform’s monthly fees will need to be accounted for. 


Vae, which used to be called Verb, is an e-commerce-centric CMS platform. It offers email marketing, too, making it one of the market’s top-performing digital marketing CMS options. While typical CMS options include modules, templates and blocks, Vae hands users total control over CSS and HTML files. This markup permits dynamic content generation, element maintenance and intensive management options.

Vae, however, is highly particular about e-commerce. While the system is flexible, its functionality may be limited to some users. Vae offers a built-in subversion repository, video encoding tools, AJAX support, email marketing tools and a wealth of other benefits. Still, these options come with a hefty monthly fee spanning between $19.95 and $249.95.


The ever-popular Squarespace offers easy-to-use content creation tools. It has an integrated blog, portfolio website and powerful tools to generate robust yet simple content design. It uses a build-as-you-go approach, helping users generate material on the fly.

Squarespace doesn’t have an admin panel, and all processes occur in real-time, which may not be useful to larger businesses with set-in-stone content creation and output plans. Squarespace uses a function-oriented angle, too, which relies heavily on a point-and-click interface.

Content Management System
While most CMSs offer a free framework for building a website or creating a digital webpage for your product or service, it might not support some vital plugins and APIs or application programming interfaces essential for a digital publishing platform. Image source: Unsplash @igormiske

Benefits of Using a CMS

Manage Your Content

You have the authority to write, edit, create and manage your digital content just the way you want. Even formatting web-based content is easy when you have a CMS platform because it lets you manipulate the coding and design just by using shortcodes or by installing some plugins.

Secure Data Access

In this vast digital content publishing world, securing your data is the key. A CMS platform allows you to offer selective access to each user, which includes separate permissions for authors, editors, contributors, and administrators. Plus, you have the choice to give restrictive access to contributors, too.


With a CMS, your task of search engine optimisation is minimal. With helper plugins, you can easily target keywords, write metadata and eliminate no-follow links to make each of your posts more SEO-friendly.

Easy Updating

Even while having an administrative interface, you can update your website to stay compliant and updated when you have a CMS. Most content management systems offer auto-updates or one-click updates that are quick and effortless.

close up of ma - Content Management System
CMS platforms offer plenty of free-to-paid plugin choices to perform critical tasks and add functional designs to your webpage or digital content. Image source: Unsplash @sabrituzcu

To answer ‘What is a content management system?’ –  it’s an incredibly potent business tool, when used effectively, that can assist multiple users in creating and publishing content. 

Understanding the benefits of a CMS and how it can serve your needs is vitally important. Based on your business and marketing requirements and digital content distribution demands, you need to select the right CMS for your needs.

No matter what your need for digital content management is, a CMS platform can drastically simplify your system maintenance, website management, and digital content publishing tasks.

FAQs about Content Management Systems:

Q: What is a CMS?

A: A content management system (CMS) is software that helps organizations centralize and manage content across digital channels like websites, mobile apps, and social media. A CMS provides tools for multiple contributors to collaboratively create, edit, organize, and optimize content.

Q: What are the benefits of using a CMS?

A: Benefits include improved content production efficiency, easier omnichannel content publishing, enhanced collaboration, built-in SEO optimization, integrated analytics, and secure content storage. A CMS streamlines digital experiences.

Q: What are the main types of CMS platforms?

A: The main types are web CMS, digital experience CMS, headless/component-based CMS, and enterprise CMS. Each fulfils different needs regarding content scope, architecture, integrations, etc.

Q: How do I choose the right CMS?

A: Consider your content types, publishing needs, audience channels, contributor teams, technical capabilities, budget, and security requirements. Align CMS strengths to your priorities.

Q: What are CMS best practices?

A: Get stakeholder buy-in, audit existing content, customize taxonomies, establish governance, train content creators on the platform, and have rollout/upgrade procedures in place.

Q: How much does a CMS cost?

A: Costs vary widely based on the type of CMS, implementation size, hosting model, features required, and vendor. Both open-source and proprietary CMS options exist.

For more advice or information, get in touch with us today. 

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