CMS - Content Management System, A Complete Guide

Table of Contents

Software for managing, editing, and creating content on websites without specialized technical knowledge is known as a content management system or CMS.

Basically, it’s a program for creating websites without having to create all the code manually (or know anything about coding).

Content management systems do all of the basic infrastructure stuff on your behalf so that you don’t have to worry about it and can concentrate more on the front end of your website.

Content management systems can be used for more than just websites – like document management.

How does a CMS work and how is it used?

Rather than writing code from scratch, CMSs provide a graphical user interface that allows web content to be created, edited, and published.

An application for managing content (CMA) and an application for delivering content (CDA) are two components of a CMS.

  • Users can create and modify content on websites using the CMA without having any knowledge of HTML.  
  • Content is managed and delivered by CDA once content has been created by a user in the CMA.

Do CMS, ECM, and WCMS have different functions?

Although CMSs, ECMs, and WCMSs all manage content, they differ in several ways:

  • The CMS system preceded the ECM system. In a CMS, digital content is created, managed, and stored. CMSs work best with structured content, such as documents and databases.
  • Structured and unstructured content are managed by enterprise content management systems. Such systems include security, strategy, and software.
  • WCMSs are similar to ECMs, but the only difference is that WCMSs are used for managing web content — like product pages on e-commerce websites. These tools support collaborative authoring and publishing.

Features of a CMS

Many CMSs offer a range of features, but the following are core features:

  • Indexing, retrieval, and search are intuitive. By allowing users to search by publication date, keywords, author, and other attributes, these features index all data for easy access through search functions.
  • Management of formats. It allows you to convert scanned paper documents and legacy digital documents into HTML and PDF formats.
  • Editing features. They make it possible to edit and update content after it has been published. In addition to keeping track of individual changes to files, revision control also tracks group revisions.
  • Publishing. Individuals can use templates approved by an organization along with wizards and other tools to create and modify content using templates.

Personalized marketing may also be possible with a CMS. Websites that offer one-to-one marketing can tailor their content and advertising to each user based on information which users provide or which websites collect.

The following CMS features are also popular:

  • URLs that are optimized for search engines;
  • An integrated help system with online forums;
  • Security and permissions based on groups;
  • Templates with full support and customizability;
  • Versioning and installation are easy with wizards;
  • Multiple language admin panel;
  • Minimum requirements for servers;
  • File managers integrated with the operating system; and
  • Audit logs integrated into the system.

CMS Advantages

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There are a number of benefits to using a content management system, including:

  • User-friendly. The software can also be used by those with limited technical knowledge thanks to its graphical user interface.
  • Information is easily searchable. An integrated search engine allows users to type in their search terms and get a list of results — similar to what a Google search provides.
  • Content management is easy. Both creating and removing content is simple. To keep websites up to date, CMSs enable users to unpublish content.
  • Accessible from anywhere. Content can be accessed anywhere with an internet-connected device, whether the CMS is cloud-based or on premises.
  • Multi-user capability. You can manage publishing permissions with a CMS.
  • You can update your content instantly. Content can be managed and updated using a CMS in real time without needing the help of a developer or other party.
  • Scalable. With a CMS, businesses can easily add new web pages without needing to hire a developer as their business grows.
  • Updates are easy. Just a few clicks are all it takes to apply an update.

A guide to choosing a CMS for your website

Before an organization invests in a CMS, there are almost too many factors to consider. 

Some features are essential to consider, including a user-friendly editor interface and a powerful search tool. However, for some organizations, the software they use is specific to their needs.

If the organization is large and geographically dispersed, for instance. If the CMS will require multilingual support, and what size support team is required to maintain operations, the CMS administrator must know how many people will use the application. 

Also, end-users and administrators should consider how much control they will have over the CMS. A diverse set of electronic data formats is also an important issue for organizations. Indexing can be accomplished for the digital content of all kinds.

To help you choose the right CMS, here are some additional tips:

  1. Employees and leadership should be consulted. What will be the goal of this new CMS and who will use it are crucial to understanding. Marketers, content officers, technology staff, and others should play a role in a business’s marketing strategy.
  2. Analyze the business needs in the present and the future. A CMS should cater to the needs of an organization today and in the future. A business should consider integrating the CMS with its current tech stack, and deciding whether its RESTful APIs will lead to future-oriented features.
  3. Investigate your options. A short-list of software options that meet the needs of the business should be created; businesses should also contact users with similar use cases to find out how they have experienced the product.
  4. Prepare a request for proposals. In this way, vendors can address the needs of companies and explain why their software is the best fit for the job.
  5. Analyze the vendor’s response. Enterprises need to evaluate the vendor’s support, training, and functionality. Businesses can demonstrate their systems and determine what integrations they offer by requesting demos.

Different CMS examples

There are many free and subscription-based CMSes available for personal and enterprise use. 

Here are some examples of the more popular content management system providers:

  1. WordPress

A free and open-source web content management system powered by PHP and MySQL. It is possible to use WordPress in the cloud or to install it locally to act as its own website server. It allows for a lot of customization, including a variety of themes and WordPress extensions. The platform is also popular for blogging.

      2. Backdrop CMS

A free and open-source content management system (CMS) developed as part of the Drupal project and designed to meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. By itself, Backdrop is merely a content management system, but can be enhanced with a variety of extensions.

      3. Joomla

Based on an MVC framework, it is a free and open-source CMS. Joomla is coded in PHP script and includes functions like caching, blog posts, RSS feeds, search engines, and translation tools.

     4. HubSpot CMS 

The paid version of this CMS includes drag-and-drop page builders, website themes, and SEO recommendations. In addition, HubSpot offers its free CRM platform in each CMS package, giving users a comprehensive view of both content and customers, under one roof.

      5. Magnolia 

This is a free, headless CMS that can be integrated with a variety of marketing tools — including CRM systems, marketing automation tools and analytics. The CMS supports three distinct facets: optimization, personalization, and managing digital assets.

     6. Wix 

You can choose either a free or paid plan for this CMS. Among the features are collaboration tools, enterprise-grade security, third-party integrations, as well as the ability to add custom code. Customers can also get 24/7 support from Wix.

The 7 Most Important CMS Features

1. Cybersecurity

It remains risky to navigate the web. There are too many security attacks to opt for a standard CMS without adequate protection of your company data. Websites today can be accessed and controlled by hackers essentially unintentionally.

A major vulnerability was discovered in WordPress in 2017 that compromised thousands of users’ websites. WordPress had alerted users of the breach, but it was companies who were responsible for making the necessary modifications.

Users started looking for alternatives to content management systems in response to that threat. A good content management system will handle your security updates automatically. Nowadays, finding a service that will automatically push updates to your device when vulnerabilities are found is more important than ever.

The concept of providing your clients with protection against DDoS attacks should be considered by content creators and publishers, as well as the addition of two-factor authentication. 

2. Multilingual Capability

Around 80% of Internet users are not fluent in English and need content localized into their native language, or translated.’ Global firms that cater to international customers should also have multiple translation options on their websites.

So, in order to achieve these objectives, choose a CMS that supports the following multilingual functions:

  • Global market and language site architecture. In this way, you can create local, regional, or international versions of country sites.
  • XML or standard formats can be imported and exported. Having a standardized format for importing and exporting text will make it easier to work with your translation provider.
  • The entire Unicode character set is supported. By doing so, your website can display languages that do not use English characters, such as Hindi or Yiddish.

3. Content Distribution

As the communication landscape changes, the importance of addressing all digital touchpoints increases. Aside from handheld devices, there should be content tailored for Virtual Reality [VR], Artificial Intelligence [AI], Augmented Reality [AR], and Internet of Things [IoT].

Due to the constant influx of technological variables, brands must remain proactive in making sure they offer omnichannel customer service. It is pretty easy to achieve that with headless content management systems or their more user-friendly hybrid form called decoupled content management systems, which are popular with marketing departments in enterprises. 

4. Tools for optimizing search engine results (SEO)

CMS, WCMS, and ECMS all require Search Engine Optimization. The following factors should be considered when evaluating CMS from an SEO-friendly perspective:

  • Meta-data & page titles must be customizable
  • CSS should include drop-down navigation
  • Making sure the URL is search engine friendly
  • Using rel=canonical tags to consolidate duplicate URLs
  • The creation of XML sitemaps should be possible
  • For content display, frames should not be used or relied upon
  • 301 Redirects should be included, not 302
  • Page generation is supported with rel=”next” and rel=”prev”
  • Alt tags are mandatory
  • Navigate using breadcrumbs
  • Ensures fast loading of pages

5. Prompt customer service

For determining how well customer service is handled by software companies, Gartner Peer Insights is a great resource. A CMS’s quality depends on how well it meets the needs of its users. Peer Insights from Gartner allows users to see reviews by company, job description, and rating. Make sure your team is confident before making a purchase by reading user reviews.

6. Mobile-responsive design

The right CMS will adapt the design of your current site to any device or IoT. This way, your website is “mobile-friendly.” Personalized viewing experiences based on device capabilities and screen dimensions is a key part of providing a mobile-friendly experience.

CSS3 is the technology behind responsive design. The latest version of Cascading Style Sheets improves on the previous version (CSS2) of the language. New HTML5 features such as rounded corners, animations, shadows and multicolumn layouts are among the many long-awaited features in CSS3. In addition to using drag-and-drop layouts, responsive design optimizes a website with other responsive rule sets as well.

7. Integrating seamlessly

When CMS was new, content was created in silos. To become a mobile CMS today, sharing and WYSIWYG are required. Component-based technologies are necessary if publishers are to deliver rich, touchscreen-enabled experiences on every screen. Integrating the CMS with monetization now allows for native monetization to take place.

How do Content Management Systems differ from one another?

There are a few options for traditional CMS. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace. A decade can seem like an eternity. Traditional content management systems have only existed for thirty years. There have been numerous variations over that time.

What is a traditional or coupled CMS?

Traditional architecture is composed of the frontend and backend of a website. Content is managed by a backend system that is bound to the frontend system.

This means editors are working on the part of the website that visitors will see when they write and publish in a website’s backend. Moreover, all applications for designing and customizing websites are also located in the backend.

Traditionally, a CMS consists of the following components:

  • A front end that displays HTML pages with published content
  • The backend of a content management system
  • Content is stored in a database
  • Publishers and designers use this application to create and apply design schemas to content.

Decoupled content management systems: what are they?

An architectural approach that decouples the backend from the frontend of a website is called a decoupled CMS. Generally, a decoupled CMS has the backend and the frontend working independently from each other. It means when content is created and edited in the backend of a website, the API transmits it to the frontend system and it is then published.

So, for instance, developers can develop and create with more flexibility on a decoupled CMS, while marketers can use less complicated software. The result is a solution for everyone.

A decoupled CMS consists of:

  • Publishing frontend that is connected by API to the backend of the content management system.
  • Content is stored in a database
  • Editorial content may be created and managed by editors using an admin interface composed of an application (depending on the platform).
  • Content can be published to any device

How does a Headless CMS work?

Similar to a decoupled CMS, headless CMSs lack a defined publishing system. It can be difficult for marketing efforts to succeed with a completely headless CMS. 

Headless CMS systems provide basic content management and editing capabilities, but publish the content to a web-service or API so it can be accessed from any system with an Internet connection. In this way, headless content management systems can deliver content to any device: a website, a wearable device, an app, or any device connected via Internet of Things (IoT) without being constrained to a particular format.

The components of a headless CMS are:

  • A backend for managing content
  • APIs
  • Content can be published to any IoT device and does not have a predetermined front end

What is the public’s preferred CMS platform moving forward? The designing, developing, and deploying of content is no longer the responsibility of IT. In addition to providing marketing the ability to work independently, Decoupled Web Content Management systems allow them to create once and deploy anywhere.

About the Author

My name’s Semil Shah, and I pride myself on being the last digital marketer that you’ll ever need. Having worked internationally across agile and disruptive teams from San Fransico to London, I can help you take what you are doing in digital to a whole next level.

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