CMS – What is a Content Management System?

Content management systems are a way of managing website content. They are programmable and have a variety of uses for large and small businesses alike. CMSes allow users to manage their own content or control the site’s editing system without having to rely on outside parties such as web developers, who would have charged a much higher rate for custom programming.

Content management systems give businesses more control over how their site content is viewed. A web designer can configure input forms, workflow processes, access restrictions, metadata rules, and other settings to allow the business owner to manage all content without compromising security. Editors may also manage digital media assets including photos and videos through CMSes.

Many CMSes use open-source software or offer an open-source option. This software can be installed on a server or may be hosted by a third party in a model called SaSS (software as a service).

CMS History

There are a number of content management systems in use on the web today, but the early days were much different. FileNet was founded in 1985 and is regarded as the first true content management system. In 1995, FileNet rolled out Vignette a comprehensive integrated document management solution that included document imaging, document management, and workflow, and from that moment it truly became a CMS. In late 1995, Vignette debuted with the goal of making web publishing more accessible and more personalizable, and is usually credited for inventing the phrase “content management system.” In 1997, StoryBuilder was introduced by Vignette. In the second half of the ’90s, a slew of enterprise CMSs emerged, including Interwoven (1995), Documentum (1996), FatWire (1996), FutureTense (1996), Inso (1996), and EPiServer (1997).

How does a CMS work?

Many of the most common CMSs, such as Joomla and Drupal, have a structure that is similar to a general website. They have a home page with a list of links to all other pages on the site. But unlike a static website, these pages can be changed by an editor without editing code. This aspect of CMSes makes them a good option for managers that want to control their site’s content but aren’t necessarily trained in web development.

The editor uses a point-and-click system to build the site, either by dragging and dropping blocks of text or images onto a page template or choosing from pre-configured templates. Editors can also pick colors and design features to customize their site. Some CMSes, such as WordPress, are built around content types — a structured way of organizing the information on a given page. A common content type might be “blog post” or “product.”

What is a CMS for?

While Web CMSes are often used to build websites, their capabilities go far beyond what you might expect. They can be set up for smaller projects, such as managing a single department site or an organization’s intranet content.

CMSs are also frequently used in digital marketing where marketers create short-lived content around events or products and want to manage, update, and report on this content all in one place. Businesses use CMSes to power their digital publishing platforms. Almost any company with multiple departments might also find a CMS useful for storing internal documents or even catalogs of media assets.

CMSes for e-commerce platforms

In addition to traditional websites, CMSes are also used for e-commerce platforms. The most common platforms include Magento and Hybris. These sites use special templates and tools that help create a seamless online shopping experience that can be managed by non-technical users without compromising the site’s security.

CMS sorts – what types are there?

There are a number of different CMS sorts, including:

  • Open-source – These open-source options allow users to manage their own servers or have them hosted elsewhere. Most have some form of free license for basic functionality and then offer additional features through a paid subscription.
  • Commercial – There are many commercial CMSs on the market that allow users to manage their websites. These come in all shapes and sizes, from basic to feature-rich. Commercial software is often much more expensive than open-source, but you might find it’s worth the cost for its ease of use or extra tools.
  • Custom-built – This is a website created from scratch by developers who build it from the ground up, usually with a specific set of features in mind. Custom-built websites offer more flexibility and a wider range of functionality than a prefab CMS.
  • SaaS – Software as a service is where content management software is offered by a third party in a model called SaaS (software as a service). SaaS solutions are typically white label solutions, meaning they are customizable and hosted by the vendor. They could be both fully proprietary or based on open-source solutions.

Examples of CMSes

WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento are among the most popular CMS types. They are popular because they are open-source, simple to use, and can be extended with additional features through third-party extensions.


WordPress is a free open-source simple platform for websites, created by volunteers and supported by a large community of developers and users. WordPress is incredibly easy to use with a built-in content management system that allows you to easily create and manage different types of content on your website. WordPress is both free and open-sourced, which means it’s constantly being improved by thousands of developers. It is one of the most popular CMSs in the world, powering millions of websites, partly because it’s great for Search Engine Optimization. This makes it a great option for small businesses looking to quickly create modern sites without spending too much time or money on development.


Joomla is a nonprofit, open-source content management system. Joomla is the second most popular CMS on the market today. It’s written in PHP and built on a MySQL database backend. Due to its flexibility, it’s used not only by bloggers but also businesses of all shapes and sizes—even Fortune 500. It has a very active community of users around it, so you’ll always find help if needed.


Magento is a commercial open-source platform for e-commerce websites. It’s one of the most popular options in this space with tens of thousands of sites making it the default option for many companies when they’re ready to start selling online. Magento is a powerful option that gives users a lot of control over their website, but it requires technical knowledge and a large budget to get the most out of it.


Drupal is a free and open-source content management platform. This CMS is open-source with a strong community of developers who create and share thousands of extensions, or modules, for it. Drupal has a steep learning curve and is not considered beginner-friendly as WordPress and Joomla can be. But its flexibility and extensibility make it a great option for larger projects and companies.


WooCommerce is a popular e-commerce platform that allows users to turn their websites into online stores. WooCommerce integrates with WordPress, giving website owners the extra functionality they need to sell items directly from their site.

It is a really good solution for smaller shops that don’t want to pay the fees associated with other e-commerce platforms, but it can also scale to fit larger stores.


Prestashop is an open-source e-commerce CMS. It’s a good platform for creating online stores, and it supports multiple languages and currencies. Prestashop has plug-ins that allow users to add new features, and its community provides helpful documentation so users can get the most out of it. Being open-source, it can be downloaded for free, but it does have a range of paid plug-ins to extend its functionality.


Shopify is an e-commerce platform for building online stores. It helps companies set up their online presence with hosting, domains, security features, and more. Shopify gives users access to thousands of themes that have different designs and layouts, so you can create a unique website that fits your brand’s image. There are also tons of different apps you can add to your Shopify website, which opens up a variety of possibilities for how you sell products.

What are the advantages of CMSes?

CMSes allow you a new level of control over your website. You can easily manage your content, change your layout and design, upload images and videos, and more with a CMS.

Another advantage is that you have full access to all the code of the platform so you can customize it as needed. This allows for a greater degree of creativity and lets you truly make your site feel like it’s yours.

Many CMSes also have a user-friendly editor that makes it easy to format content. This can save a lot of money on hiring a web designer to create custom layouts, as anyone who is familiar with the platform will be able to handle simple design tasks without much trouble.

Which CMS should I choose?

The CMS you choose will depend on your needs and what you plan to use it for. When deciding which is the best fit, consider the following:

  • How much control do I want?
  • How familiar am I with technology?
  • Do I require a complex site with many features?
  • Do I need a website that is mobile-friendly?
  • Do I want to be able to update my website myself?

Shopify will work best for all-in-one e-commerce websites, while Drupal is great for businesses that need complex sites with many features, however, the availability of specialists might be limited. WordPress can handle all types of websites but requires you to have some technical knowledge or a friendly techie if you want to make it reliable and secure. Magento is the best option for e-commerce sites that need to be custom-built to a degree but need a strong foundation.

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