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What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

by Iwan Price-Evans on Web technology • May 18, 2022

A content management system (CMS) allows website owners to create, edit, publish, organize, and maintain web pages and supporting assets such as image files.

A CMS typically provides a simple user experience for creating websites without necessarily needing to write code or manage backend development.

What Does A CMS Do?

Most content management systems have the following features:

  • Domain / DNS configuration
  • Web server hosting
  • File storage
  • Website navigation
  • Templates, themes, and customizable styles
  • Page creation tools, which might include:
    • Rich-text editors
    • Drag-and-drop layout editors
    • Image editors
    • Blogging features such as authors and tags
  • Interactive content types such as forms, surveys, or polls
  • Version control
  • Customizable modules and scripts such as JavaScript
  • Plugins and third-party integrations
  • An API for custom integration and automation.

Why Do You Need A CMS?

A CMS makes it much easier for most people and teams to manage websites.

  • You can create and publish content without necessarily needing a web developer.
  • You can organize your web content and files easily.
  • You can use an ecosystem of third-party and community plugins, assets, and integrations to accelerate content creation or add new features.
  • You can use a CMS to separate the function of content management and front-end and back-end development.

The Benefits Of Using A CMS

There are several benefits to using a CMS.

  • It makes web content creation accessible to people without web development skills.
  • You don't need to manage your own web servers (unless you want to self-host).
  • It can accelerate project delivery, especially for small businesses without a web developer.
  • You can get popular templates and styles optimized for performance and conversion rates.
  • Web developers can leverage pre-built systems for organizing and managing content and files, abstracted from other parts of web development.

Which CMS Should I Choose?

There are several different content management systems available today. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

In general, there are two main categories of content management systems: open source and proprietary.

  1. Open source content management systems are free and easy to use. They are typically easier to install than proprietary content management systems. However, they lack some features that proprietary content management systems offer.
  2. Proprietary content management systems are more expensive than open source content management systems. They also tend to be more feature-rich.

What Is An Example Of A CMS?

  • WordPress is a popular CMS that comes in two varieties:
    • Wordpress.org provides a self-hosted WordPress CMS that is very customizable. Web developers can add plugins and custom scripts while unskilled content creators can easily create and publish pages using the friendly GUI.
    • Wordpress.com provides a fully hosted and managed CMS. It is less flexible than the self-hosted option, without support for plugins. However, it is easy to use and can help individuals and small businesses get started fast.
  • HubSpot CMS is best suited to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that need a stable platform, a simple content creation experience, and integration with HubSpot's CRM and other tools designed for B2B and SaaS businesses.
  • Drupal is an open source CMS best suited to experienced web developers. You need to install Drupal on your own self-hosted or cloud-hosted web servers. Drupal is very flexible and customizable but usually requires a developer to manage it.