Content management systems

What is a content management system?


A content management system (CMS) is a computer application specifically designed to help you manage your organisation's digital assets, including your web content.

You can use a CMS alone or integrate it with other business applications. You can set it up directly on your network, use a web-based solution or run the software locally on your computers.

Categories of content management systems

Different types of CMS exist to handle different types of content. Common categories of CMS include:

  • web content management systems
  • enterprise content management systems
  • mobile content management systems
  • digital asset management systems
  • media asset management systems
  • document and records management systems
  • component content management systems

Each of these specific types of CMS has its own acronym. However, the generic 'CMS' term nowadays typically applies to web content management solutions.

What are web content management systems?

Web content management systems are applications that help you create, control and publish your online content, without having to understand the code behind them.

A web CMS generally consists of two elements:

  • a content management application providing a simple interface for non-technical users to add, manage and remove web content
  • a content delivery application providing back-end functionality for the delivery of content to the website

How does a web content management system work?

A web CMS works by allowing you to access your website's database via a simple, graphical user interface, usually through a web browser. Within this interface, you can access a range of content management tools to help you:

  • create and publish new pages on your website
  • update or remove existing content and pages
  • use pre-set categories, themes or templates to organise the layout of your pages
  • ensure consistent presentation of content across your whole website
  • manage the structure and navigation of your website, including menus and sitemaps
  • manage authoring permission levels and editorial workflows
  • store and retrieve different types of content (eg text, images, podcasts, videos) in your database

Larger businesses may need additional CMS functionality, such as multi-site or multi-lingual support. 

Your CMS should meet your specific business needs and cope with the different types of content you want to manage (eg text, audio, video, social media feeds, etc). See how to choose the best CMS for your business.

What are enterprise content management systems?

Enterprise content management systems typically store documents and other content that relate to the organisation's processes. They often combine different functions, including web content management, document and records management, workflow and collaboration tools, etc. Read more about enterprise content management.