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    Content Management System (CMS)

    A content management system (CMS) is a standalone or group of applications and tools that organizations use to create, edit, review, and publish digital content.

    While a developer can design a website from scratch, a CMS enables creators with non-technical backgrounds the opportunity to create web content.

    What is a content management system?

    A CMS is a software application that facilitates the creation, storage, configuration, and publishing of online web content. Content management systems offer a graphic user interface (GUI) on a device screen to access the platform via a web browser.

    Upon logging in, users can access several tools and applications built-in or downloadable from the CMS platform. These tools streamline content creation and management with building blocks that form an entire website or single webpage. 

    While developers manipulate code to adjust webpage margins, color scheme, font, a CMS allows users to drag-and-drop specific blocks for text, images, or graphics and configure additional web content settings. 

    CMS Features

    Content creation

    Create a web page, insert static and dynamic data, and format content

    Content storage

    Store web pages and content for continued, consistent access

    Workflow management

    Ease workflows with user roles; index and search features


    Publish web pages and organize the display of public web pages and site theme

    CMS vs. Website Builder

    Content management systems and website builders offer users the ability to create, edit, publish and manage web content. Where they differ is their features and intent. 

    While a CMS manages a website’s content, a website builder goes further in offering custom domain name purchases and web hosting. Often used by organizations to build sites fast, the downside of website builders is their lack of content-specific features. 

    While it might take longer to finish a website with CMS, users have complete control of the website design, multimedia, content tags and categories, users, and more.

    Why do I need a content management system?

    CMS platforms ease website and content creation for users who otherwise wouldn’t be able to without technical programming skills. Without a CMS, interested users would need to know HTML (bonus: JavaScript), compile their webpage in assembly language, and upload it to a web server.

    Content management system examples

    WordPress has long been the most popular CMS brand for creating websites. As of 2021, the open-source platform holds over 64% of the market, valued at over $20 billion. Beyond WordPress, the industry remains competitive. 

    Marketable Differentiators for CMS

    • Ease of use for non-technical users who want to create web content
    • Design options for creating content and maximizing its appeal to viewers
    • Data portability for moving content between platforms or websites
    • Plugins, extensions, and add-ons for designing and managing web content
    • Technical support and assistance for troubleshooting and guidance

    CMS: Free vs. Subscription 

    While several top CMS vendors offer their service for free and market their solution as open-source, there is always a cost attached to web development. A user could use a free CMS, but they still have to pay for domain registration and hosting. Add in the price of premium plugins, and it’s worth considering an upgrade to a subscription plan where several tools are built-in.

    Designed by Sam Ingalls. © Webopedia 2021.

    Content Management System Vendors

    Top picks

    Superlative CMS
    Best Overall WordPress
    Best for Developers Joomla
    Best for Managing Data Drupal
    Best for Beginner eCommerce Shopify
    Best for Advanced eCommerce Magento
    Best Templates and Designs Squarespace

     Honorable mention

    • BigCommerce
    • Bitrix24
    • Bynder
    • Ghost
    • HubSpot
    • Magnolia
    • PrestaShop
    • Textpattern
    • TYPO3
    • Weebly
    • Wix
    • WooCommerce