What is a content management system (CMS)?

In the world of content marketing, there is probably one word you get to hear more often than “content" itself, and that is "CMS". CMS, or content management system, is critical to the success of almost any website.

Sometimes also referred to as web management system, a CMS is software that supports the creation and modification of digital content using a common user interface and thus supporting multiple users working in a collaborative environment. Available since the late 1990s, CMS has replaced full website coding that was necessary to do this kind of work before.

There are a great number of CMS to choose from, including:

  • WordPress, which is known for its quick installation and a vast choice of plugins
  • Joomla, which is extremely customizable and suitable for pretty much any purpose
  • Drupal, which is a free and open source CMS.

At the moment, there are about 1000-2000 open-source Web CMSs out there, broken down into 10 different categories, including documents, digital assets, portals and Web.

On a functional layer, every content management system can be broken down into four main processes: content creation, content management, content publishing and content presentation.

Content creation

At the front-end of any CMS, the content creation process is aimed to be as easy-to-use as working with any familiar text editor, such as Word or Pages. It requires very minimal knowledge of HTML — or no knowledge at all in most cases. This way, any non-technical person can easily create new pages and update content, for instance.

Content management

Once a page is created, it is saved into a central repository in the CMS, which stores all the content published on the site.

The central repository provides an automated range of workflow capabilities, making it easy to coordinate between departments that might be involved in the content management process. Therefore, more authors can be involved in the management of the site, maintaining strict control over the quality of content.

Content publishing

When content is finally ready to be published, CMS supports the procedure with its powerful publishing engine that automatically applies the pre-defined appearance settings to the content. To do that, CMS allows graphic designers and front-end web developers to specify the look and feel of the whole website, ensuring that the pages are displayed in a visually consistent manner over various devices. In addition, it enables you to schedule adaptations for specific dates and time slots.

Content presentation

In order to enhance the quality and effectiveness of the site itself, CMS builds a site navigation by reading the structure out of the content repository. This way, the whole site is dynamic and interactive.

The key features of CMS

The main purpose of any CMS is to efficiently (and effectively) manage web content, which includes, as mentioned before, creation and modification of content (such as editing and previewing), as well as its publishing, presentation, discovery through an enabled search function, and archiving. Therefore, CMS covers an entire content life cycle.

On top of that, CMS also gives an opportunity to take control over the structure of the site, the appearance of the published pages, and finally, the navigation that is provided to the users.

Some of the key features of working with a CMS include:

  • SEO-friendly URLs
  • Simplified user and group management
  • Group-based permission system
  • Unlimited looks without changing a line of content
  • Integrated audit log
  • Integrated file manager with upload capabilities
  • Admin panel with multiple language support
  • Minimal server requirements
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