What is a Content Management System or CMS? Ultimate Guide

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CMS is a software application that can be accessed in a browser, providing a graphical interface that allows you to create and manage websites and their content without the need for coding. So, you could say that CMS is one of the easiest website creation tools.

With CMS, you can design a website simply by downloading and customizing ready-to-use templates along with available extensions. Some of its functions also include content management and changes, image storage, and website page creation.

There are many CMS available on the web, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you want to know more about the meaning of CMS, let's continue reading until the end! We will explain everything in this article. Let's Begin..!!

What is a CMS?

What is a CMS?
What is a CMS?

CMS or content management system is software that handles the basic infrastructure for creating a website. With a CMS, you don't need to bother taking care of the website programming part and can focus on handling the front-end part, such as customizing the design and managing content.

There are several types of CMS available, and the most popular are:

  • Open-source CMS – this software is maintained by a number of developers, not just one company that holds the rights. Third-party developers have access to the CMS source code and can develop and improve its functionality.
  • Cloud CMS – a ready-to-use system that can be accessed without having to download software or set up hardware. Users can manage web content securely via the cloud and present it so that it can be easily accessed from various devices.
  • Proprietary CMS – subject to licensing fees because it is the legal property of the company, organization or individual that created it. The cost can be a one-time upfront payment, a monthly subscription, or an annual one.

How Does a CMS Work?

To understand how a content management system works, you need to first understand the parts that make up a website and the process of creating a website from the start.

Basically, a website consists of two main parts: front-end and back-end.

The front-end is the external part of the website that visitors can see and access, such as blog posts, images and videos. These areas are generally created with standard markup languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Meanwhile, the back-end is the 'kitchen' area of the website, such as the database and website functionality. The programming languages used for the back-end include PHP, Python, Ruby, and Java.

So that a website can be put online on the internet and accessed by other people, you need to upload all website content to the web server manually.

The web server database will then store the content and then display it from the back-end to the front-end when visitors access your website.

Well, the function of a CMS is to simplify all of these processes so that you don't need to code, and can upload website content to the server much more easily.

Its user-friendly content editor also allows you to create content such as posts and pages without any hassle. In addition to handling text files such as .PDF, this software allows you to organize web pages, images, videos, text, and audio files.

Most CMS provide an interface that allows for a content revision process. You can use it to configure your website and manage the permission system. In essence, CMS is intended to make it easier for novice users who do not yet have technical skills.

But keep in mind that a CMS is different from an ECM or Enterprise Content Management System. ECM focuses more on document management and business-related processes, such as digitizing paper documents for better management, security and tracking.

So How Does CMS Work?

When compared to "manually" creating a website which requires special skills and tools, the process of creating a CMS-based website does not require that.

At least to create a regular website, you are required to write an HTML file which will later be useful for adding images, text and others and then uploading it to the server. After that, you have to add CSS so that the elements can be arranged according to the desired appearance.

It doesn't stop there, to create a regular website you are required to master certain programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, PHP, and so on.

This is of course different from using a CMS which has a simple way of working. Although how a CMS works depends on the specifications of the CMS used, generally this system works in the following way:

  • Users log in to the CMS system using their registered account and password.
  • After successfully logging in, users can add, edit and delete content on the website.
  • The content that has been input will be stored in the database. When someone visits your website, the content stored in the database will be displayed on the visited website page.
  • Users can also improvise using templates, plugins and modules available in the CMS to create a website appearance according to their wishes.
  • Some CMS also have features such as sound, image and video media management, which makes it easier for users to organize their multimedia content.
  • So that your website is noticed by search engine algorithms and is also useful for your website visitors, several CMS provide SEO optimization tools such as Yoast SEO, WooCommerce, Wordfence Security and Google XML Sitemaps.

What are the Functions of a CMS for a Website?

What are the Functions of a CMS for a Website

As the name suggests, the main function of a Content Management System (CMS) is to make it easier for users to manage content on a website. There are at least several specific functions of CMS as follows:

  • Content management: Users can add, edit and delete content on the website without having to know programming languages and of course your content can still be user friendly.
  • Media management: Users can manage images, videos and other files used to maximize website content.
  • Page management: Users can create pages, menus, and categories that help in managing content.
  • Templates and designs: CMS offers features to use templates and create website designs according to user wishes.
  • SEO Optimization: CMS comes with tools or plugins that can help in optimizing a website so that it is easily found by search engines.
  • Statistics Management: Users can access website statistics such as number of visitors, length of visit, and most visited pages.
  • Multi-language: CMS has a multi-language feature, making it possible to manage and display content in several languages on the website.

What's the most popular CMS system currently?

Currently, there are lots of CMS that you can choose from, and each targets different users. So, find out your goals first so you can choose the right CMS according to your needs.

Here are some of the most popular content management systems on the market.

1. WordPress.org

To date, WordPress is the CMS most widely used by users throughout the world, hosting 42.9% of websites currently available. This free self-hosted CMS was originally just a blog publishing platform with advanced content management tools.

WordPress can be used for all types of websites, from online stores to e-learning websites and simple portfolios.

There are tons of WordPress plugins and themes, most of which are relatively easy to configure. Therefore, WordPress is a CMS that is very flexible and easy to adapt to your needs.

As an open-source platform, WordPress has a large community and many forums dedicated to it. Website owners can discuss with other WordPress users or look for WordPress tutorials to get help.

Of course, all of this is very useful if you are still a beginner because there are many things you need to learn if you want to use WordPress.

2. Drupal

Drupal is another CMS that has quite a lot of users. Large-scale businesses and government agencies such as NASA, Tesla, Sony Music, and Nokia choose Drupal as their content management system.

Drupal promises good loading speeds and a tight level of security. In addition, Drupal provides built-in modules to maximize the function and appearance of your website, allowing integration with various analytics, marketing and eCommerce tools.

You need Drupal hosting services and basic coding skills to build a website using Drupal. This CMS platform is aimed at professionals, so it may be a bit confusing for beginners compared to WordPress.

3. PrestaShop

PrestaShop is a CMS that is widely used to create small to medium scale online stores. One of the advantages of PrestaShop as a CMS is the uncomplicated initial learning process and the availability of access to user-friendly e-Commerce tools. Users who don't have a technical background can also create a professional online store with this CMS.

Apart from being easy to use, PrestaShop supports many currencies and languages, and provides SEO tools to increase the ranking of your online shop website in SERP. To use it, you need PrestaShop hosting.

However, this platform cannot be adjusted to suit needs, especially for large-scale businesses. You have to buy premium modules and templates to accommodate your online store.

4. WIX

Wix is a Content Management System (CMS) developed by the company Wix.com which was founded in 2006. When compared to the other CMS above, Wix is a type of CMS that offers an all-in-one solution for website creation. 

For example, when you become a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal user, you must have web hosting and a domain from a third party to be able to operate the CMS.

This is different from WIX. You can use the web hosting and domain packages they offer at the same time. This integrated system can be said to be the advantage of Wix, so it is quite popular among business people and individuals who want an all-in-one solution.

5. Magento

Magento is a popular eCommerce platform for medium to large scale online stores. Several companies like Samsung, Nike, and Ford use Magento thanks to its advanced customization options and scalability.

Magento comes in two versions, namely the open-source and Commerce versions. The open-source version is available for free, and includes features such as global sales, website search, and catalog management.

To get premium functionality and support, you have to purchase the Commerce version of Magento, which is priced according to your own needs.

6. Joomla

Joomla! is another one of the best open-source content management systems. Like WordPress, Joomla supports all types of websites, both for personal and business use.

One of the coolest advantages of Joomla is that you can manage content in separate sections, which is especially helpful if your website has several types of content. Joomla's revision feature also allows you to safely modify files.

However, you must have basic technical skills to use Joomla so this CMS is more suitable for developers and users who are experienced in the field of web development.

If you want to use this CMS, don't forget to choose the Joomla hosting service because this service provides various user-friendly hosting management tools to make your work easier.

What are Advantages and Disadvantages of CMS?

CMS is an ideal choice for website owners. However, there are also some drawbacks to using a CMS. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of CMS for creating and managing your website.

1. Excess

  • Easy to use – With a CMS, you don't need advanced coding skills. You can also get support for extensions and templates if you choose the premium option.
  • Cost efficient – Most CMS platforms are free, and offer free extensions and templates.
  • Easy to adapt to your needs – There are extensions and plugins that can be installed to add new features to your website according to your needs. Additionally, there are many options you can choose from official directories and third-party websites.
  • User management – One of the CMS functions is to provide user management features. For example, WordPress allows you to set user roles and privileges in managing a website.
  • Easy setup – Most CMS can be installed for free. So, you only need to buy a cheap domain and hosting package.
  • Comprehensive documentation – There is a wealth of online documentation, Q&A pages, descriptions of ecosystems and templates, tutorials, and videos to help you start from scratch

2. Lack

  • Security risks – If not updated regularly, extensions and templates can trigger vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. Therefore, hackers tend to target websites that use CMS the most.
  • Minimal SEO features – Some CMS platforms may provide some SEO tools, but your website will still require manual SEO efforts and additional extensions to rank high on SERPs.
  • Limited flexibility – It can be quite difficult to implement certain features in some CMS if you don't have technical skills or without using the services of a developer.

How to Choose the Right CMS?

There are many things you should consider when choosing a CMS because each has its own advantages and disadvantages. We recommend that you choose the most suitable for your project.

Here are several factors that must be considered when choosing a CMS:

  • Website type – To create an online store, choose an eCommerce CMS, such as WooCommerce or Magento. Meanwhile, for small and simple blogs or businesses, WordPress could be the right choice. However, if you want to create a website for a medium-sized business, you can choose Drupal.
  • Cost – To put a website online with a CMS, you need to buy a domain and web hosting first. Although most plugins, extensions and themes are available for free, you have to prepare a budget to use the premium version.
  • Scalability – Choose a CMS with extensions and a complete template directory so you can find the most appropriate option when creating a website. Don't forget, check the server requirements set by your chosen extension.
  • SEO – Your chosen CMS should be able to optimize web pages for search engine crawlers.
  • Marketing – It's best to look for a CMS that can accommodate email marketing and social media marketing to maximize your SEO efforts.
  • Security – Make sure the CMS's built-in security features are up-to-date and able to anticipate all types of malware.

Still confused about which CMS to choose? Please read our article about the best CMS platforms for creating websites.


With CMS, you can create a modern website without having to master a programming language first. In fact, the cost of creating a website becomes more affordable using this platform. Apart from its ease of use, CMS is also famous for its flexibility in modifying the appearance and content in it.

So, if all the options we have provided here are still not able to suit your needs, we still have 3 other recommended content management systems:

  • Squarespace – An eCommerce-specific CMS with mobile apps to help you manage content anywhere.
  • Ghost – headless CMS with a separate repository from the content serving area.
  • Webflow – A WCMS with tons of customization options and good format management features making it suitable for designers and agencies.

Ready to get started? Try one of the CMS we recommend here to create your dream website!

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