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What Is a CMS (Content Management System)? A Beginner’s Guide

Daren Low
June 17, 2024


It’s no secret that building a website can be a difficult process, especially if you’re trying to do it all by yourself. Getting the technical side of things done can be a hassle, especially if you’re no expert in coding.


But what if I told you that you could make the process of building and managing your website’s content easier? All thanks to a content management system – or CMS.



There are many different types of CMS, and picking the right one can be daunting. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about CMS.


What Is a Content Management System?


what is a cms


A CMS is a software application or set of tools that are used to create, manage, store and publish digital content. And when we say content, it can include text, images, videos, audio files, and other digital assets.


There are many different types of CMSs available, ranging from simple, self-contained applications to complex enterprise-level systems. Some popular examples of CMSs include WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal.



What’s The Difference Between CMS & Web Hosting?


While CMS focuses on the content of a website, web hosting provides the infrastructure that enables the website to be accessible on the internet.


In order to understand the difference between a CMS and a web hosting service, it’s helpful to think of a website as a house. The CMS can be thought of as the foundation and framework of the house, while web hosting provides the land on which the house is built.


Choosing the right CMS and best web host for a website is an important decision that will have a major impact on the success of the site.



What Makes Up a CMS?


A CMS typically has two main elements:


  1. Content Management Application (CMA)
  2. Content Delivery Application (CDA)


1. Content Management Application


A content management application (CMA) is the core part of a CMS. It provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for users to manage website content. A CMA typically has two main components: a content editor and a publishing workflow.


The content editor is used to create and edit content. It includes a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, which allows users to see how the content will look on the website without having to know HTML or other coding languages.


While the publishing workflow allows users to control who can see and make changes to the content before it’s published.


2. Content Delivery Application


The CDA is responsible for managing and delivering the content created in the CMA.


Once the content is created, the CDA will take over and provide the necessary back-end services to make sure the content is delivered as intended. This includes things like handling requests from users, managing permissions, and managing the delivery of the content itself.



How Does a CMS Work?


person editing a blog in wordpress


To understand how a CMS works – let’s take a look at WordPress – a popular open-source CMS that powers millions of websites and blogs around the world.


When you create a WordPress website, you install the WordPress software on a web server. This gives you access to the WordPress admin area, where you can create and manage your website’s content.


Content in WordPress is stored in a database. When someone visits your website, WordPress retrieves the relevant data from the database and displays it on the page.


One of the advantages of using a CMS is it makes it easy to manage large amounts of content. As you use WordPress, making changes like adding, editing, and deleting posts and pages can be done just by clicking. You can also categorize your content, making it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for.


It also allows you to make changes to your website without having to edit code. This makes it much easier to keep your website up-to-date, even if you’re not a technical expert.


If you’re thinking of creating a website, then consider choosing WordPress web hosts and installing WordPress on your server. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to start creating and managing your content.



What Are the Core Features of a CMS?


There are many core features common to different CMSs. Here are some of those:


1. Website Dashboard


As the name suggests, a Website Dashboard is a feature that allows you to manage your website’s content from one central location. This can include everything from creating and editing pages to adding and managing users.


One of the key benefits of using a CMS is that it’s easy for multiple people to work on a website without worrying about stepping on each other’s toes.


For example, if you have a team of writers who are all creating content for your site, they can do so from their own user accounts within the dashboard. This means that they can all work on their own sections of the site without having to worry about accidentally overwriting someone else’s work.


2. Themes to Customize


wordpress theme

WordPress free themes.


A key feature of a CMS is the ability to customize the design of your website or blog without having to code HTML or CSS.


If you want to customize the design of your website or blog, but don’t have the time or skills to code, then using a CMS with themes is the way to go. Themes are pre-designed templates that you can install on your site to change its look and feel.


There are thousands of themes available for popular CMSs like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. All you need to do is find a theme that you like and install it on your site. Once installed, you can use the theme’s settings page to customize the look and feel of your site without having to touch any code.


3. Content Editor


A content editor is a key feature of a CMS. It enables you to create and manage digital content without having to code HTML or CSS.


There are two types of content editors: the first one is the WYSIWYG editor, which, again, is mainly focused on the preview of what your content will look like when it is published, and the second one is the text editor, designed to give you more control to make up your content.


4. Plugins and Extensions


wordpress plugins

Featured plugins by WordPress.


Plugins and extensions extend the functionality of a CMS by adding new features or changing the way existing features work.


Both plugins and extensions are created by third-party developers, not by the CMS provider. This means that there are thousands of plugins and extensions available for the most popular CMSs.


5. User Management


Lastly, user management. User management enables you to create and manage users, groups, and permissions as the user manager. This allows you to control who can access your CMS and what they can do with it.


There are two types of user management: local and global.


  1. Local user management enables you to manage users, groups, and permissions for a specific site or blog.
  2. Global user management enables you to manage users, groups, and permissions for all sites and blogs on a CMS.



What Are the Benefits of a CMS?


person coding a website

No coding is required to set up your website.


A CMS can offer several benefits to website owners and operators, including:


  1. Increased efficiency and productivity
    A CMS can help website owners and operators to work more efficiently and effectively by automating tasks such as publishing content, managing users, and approving comments.
  2. Greater control over the website
    A CMS can give website owners and operators greater control over the content and structure of their websites. This can be especially useful for bigger websites that have many pages and more complicated navigation.
  3. Improved security
    A CMS can offer improved security for a website by providing features such as user management and password protection.
  4. Enhanced flexibility
    A CMS can offer enhanced flexibility to website owners and operators by providing a range of features and options that can be customized to meet the website’s specific needs.
  5. Scalability
    A CMS can be easily scaled to accommodate the growth of a website. This can be important for websites that are expected to receive a large amount of traffic or that need to support a large number of users.



What Are the Disadvantages of a CMS?


There are a few disadvantages to using a CMS.


  1. One disadvantage is that it can be challenging to find the right CMS for your needs. It’s important to do your research and ask around before making a decision.

  3. Another potential downside is that some CMSs can be difficult to use and may require training or a learning curve to get the hang of things.

  5. Additionally, if you want to customize your site beyond the basic template options, you may need to hire a developer or learn how to do it yourself.



What Is the Difference Between a CMS, ECM, and WCMS?


CMS, ECM, and WCMS are different despite their similarities as content management tools.


  1. Content Management System (CMS)
    As CMS allows users to create, edit, and publish content, it’s only best for a structured type of content.
  2. Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)
    A ECM is a tool that’s designed for managing both structured and unstructured content, including but not limited to security, software, and strategy. ECM systems can help organizations organize and manage their content in a way that’s consistent across their entire organization.
  3. Web Content Management System (WCMS)
    A WCMS is designed to help manage the creation, storage, and presentation of web content. It’s similar in some respects to an ECM, but what sets it apart is its focus on web content, such as product pages.



How Do You Pick the Right CMS?


When trying to determine which content management system (CMS) is best for you, there are a few key factors you should consider.


One of the most important things to think about is what kind of content you will be managing. If you need to manage a lot of different types of content, such as text, images, videos, and audio files, then you will need a CMS that can handle all of those types of content.


Another important factor to consider is how much control you want over the look and feel of your website or digital publication. If you want to customize the design and layout of your site, then you will need a CMS that allows for that level of customization.


And you should also think about how much technical expertise you have. If you’re not familiar with coding or web development, then you’ll need a CMS that’s easy to use and doesn’t require any special skills to manage.


What is the cost of a CMS?


The cost of a CMS will vary depending on the features users can use. However, on average, a CMS will cost between $100 and $500.


So – What CMS Are You Considering?


There are numerous content management systems available on the market, and it can be tricky to pick the right one for your needs. However, by doing your research and knowing your website’s intended use, you’ll be able to find the perfect CMS for your needs.




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