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A Complete Guide To Content Management Systems in 2021

An Ultimate Guide to Content Management System CMS

According to Net Solutions’ State of Digital Transformation 2021 report, 68% of media industry leaders plan to invest in Content Management System (CMS).

Historically, a Content Management System (CMS) was a software platform with a significant aim to automate the tasks required to manage and publish content online — uploading content, formatting it for a webpage, and backstage tasks like improving SEO.

However, over the last few decades, the variety and volume of digital content and assets have exploded along with new channels, interfaces, and devices. Content nowadays is being delivered everywhere: from smartphones to televisions, and from watches to voice devices.

US smart wearables and smart speakers users penetration

Due to this rapidly increasing digital ecosystem, the definition of a Content Management System has evolved. This is one reason why so many businesses are now reassessing their CMS solution options.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

Content Management System (CMS) is a software that enables users to build, organize, deliver, and modify different content. It includes blog posts, eBooks, press releases, guides, and so on for websites, mobile applications, portals, and other online solutions to effectively help organizations control content and assets

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), Sitecore, Drupal, Kentico, and WordPress rank among the best CMS platforms.

Net Solutions’ Content Management System (CMS) Flywheel

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In simple words, with a content management system, you will be able to build a website, ignoring the codes so that your entire focus lies on forward-facing parts of the website.

So, how does a content management system work? Well, its working depends on the content management system you choose for your website; however, no matter what CMS you choose, you will get a dashboard to manage various features of your website:

For instance, in order to add a new content piece to your CMS, all you have to do is write your content in your content management system’s text editor without going deep into the nuances of coding.

Your chosen CMS, WordPress here, will perform all the coding at the backend so that the visitors can read your content easily and seamlessly.

The above section answers your question – what is a content management system; now, let’s get into different types of content management systems that help build an entire website.

What are Different Types of Content Management Systems?

Over the last twenty years, the content management system (CMS) market has evolved and reached mainstream adoption. According to Gartner’s estimate, 95% of organizations worldwide already have a CMS solution in place. There are different types of content management systems available today, listed in the following section.

Content Management System (CMS) evolution

1. Web Content Management System (WCMS)

A web content management system (WCMS) is a content management system (CMS) software that controls the content, mostly HTML content, consumed over several digital channels. It is used to manage and control an extensive, dynamic collection of web material (HTML documents and their associated images).

By 2021, 95% of buyers will select WCM as part of a well-defined digital experience strategy, prioritizing agility and interoperability. Gartner, Technological Convergence of Content Services

The web content management system is of three types: open-source CMS, commercial CMS, and custom CMS.

i) Open-Source Content Management System

You can download an open-source content management system (CMS) software at no initial cost with no license or upgrade fees. Open-source CMS is a perfect choice when there is minimal integration needed with an enterprise system. Examples of the top open-source CMS platforms include:

  • WordPress
  • Drupal
  • Joomla

ii) Commercial Content Management System

A single company builds and manages the commercial content management system software, and you need to pay a license fee to use the CMS software. The commercial CMS software is mostly ready-built for your business needs and is thus faster to implement than an open-source CMS. Examples of the top commercial CMS platforms include:

  • Kentico
  • Sitecore
  • Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)

iii) Custom Content Management System

The custom content management system is an exclusive and branded solution to your specific business needs. For instance, a new CMS built on the framework of an open-source content management system, bridging the gap between an open-source CMS and a commercial CMS.

Commercial CMS platforms periodically update their features, implying you have to wait for new features, which is not the case with a custom content management system.

Tip: For businesses with complex requirements, choose a customizable custom CMS platform that can be tailored according to their specific requirements.

2. Digital Asset Management System (DAM)

Digital Assets are the foundation of customer experience (CX). Timely, accurate, and controlled access to digital assets is very critical for any organization. It enables the distributed teams to find the right asset to deliver the right customer experience through the right channel.

But without the ability to access, manage, source, organize, harness, reuse, modify, and archive content from a single source – experience will be broken or delayed. A digital asset management system (DAM) acts as a tool to centralize assets, content, workflows, and operations across multiple business units, departments, and teams.

Benefits of DAM

  • Site authors can connect to centralized global DAM
  • Local authors can accept or reject changes to the master asset, maintaining local control of experiences
  • Assets served as references, eliminating replication and costly redundant storage

3. Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)

An enterprise content management system (ECMS) is one type of content management system that helps collect, store, deliver, and manage an organization’s unstructured data – email, office or scanned documents, reports, etc. It enables the organization to deliver the right content to the targeted audiences (business stakeholders, employees, etc.)

An enterprise content management system gives easy content access to all the organization’s stakeholders to make an informed decision and complete any project on time. Also, to ensure that no unnecessary content takes up space, ECM archives files after a specific retention period.

Enterprise CMS components

4. Component Content Management System (CCMS)

A Component Content Management System (CCMS) is a type of content management system that focuses on organizing content at a component/granular level. Contrary to page-by-page content management in CMS, CCMS enables organizations to track, manage, and store content in the form of components – words, paragraphs, phrases, or photos.

The CCMS is an ideal choice of media publishing companies that ends up publishing content across various platforms like mobile, print, and PDF.

How Does a Content Management System Work?

Traditional content management systems with coupled architectures struggle to meet the ever-evolving requirements of delivering an orchestrated experience that spans beyond traditional web and mobile app channels into emerging channels.

Thus, choosing the right CMS architecture for your next project is vital to your content operation, both in terms of what is possible and how it gets done.

So, how does a content management system work?

The CMS software includes multiple application layers. The purpose of application layers is to support CMS functionality and guide how different software parts connect.

  • Content Layer: An application layer to manage the content (functions like editing, managing, and storing content).
  • Delivery Layer/Layout Engine: To assemble the content into a layout or to deliver it.

The delivery layer, through the medium of an API, requests content from the content layer to deliver content to the audience. That content then moves through a presentation layer. It takes what the delivery layer has produced and renders it on a screen.

Headless CMS vs Traditional CMS

Headless and traditional/coupled architectures are responsible for presenting the content from the CMS to the audience.

  • In a traditional/coupled CMS, the back-end functions like managing content and laying it out on a page are coupled with the front-end function of presenting it on a screen. Everything is managed by one application layer, and it is always almost page-based.
  • A headless CMS decouples or separates the back-end functions from the front-end presentation function. It lets developers render content objects for any application or device.

Headless vs traditional CMS

Why Headless CMS Scores Over Traditional CMS?

As we discussed, content, nowadays, is being delivered everywhere: from smartphones to televisions, from watches to voice devices. Thus, all of them have unique presentation requirements.

For instance, there is a difference between an Apple Watch, or Amazon’s Alexa, or Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality headsets. They only require the desired content from the CMS, not the page layout, styles, management framework, etc.

Headless content management systems retrieve raw content as data through API calls and enable developers to build as many front-ends or “heads” as your various channels support.

Pure-Play Headless CMS Providers Traditional CMS Providers Offering Headless and/or Hybrid Headless Approaches
Butter CMS Adobe Experience Manager
Contentful BloomReach brX
Contentstack CoreMedia Content Cloud
Crafter CMS Episerver
Prismic e-Spirit
Zesty.io Kentico Kontent

Hybrid Headless CMS: An Ideal CMS Architecture

By 2022, 80% of digital experience platforms will be deployable in a hybrid headless fashion.

A headless-only model comes with certain risks and a high level of digital maturity; thus, limited majorly to businesses that focus on using in-depth API skills to deliver streamlined digital experiences.

The hybrid headless CMS architecture, on the other hand, allows a website to operate in two modes: in a pure headless mode or a traditional, coupled content delivery mode. Through APIs, content can be accessed and delivered to multiple devices or channels throughout the customer journey.

Hybrid Headless Content Management System

How Net Solutions Helped one of IRUK’s top 50 Retailers — Euro Car Parts — Build a Content Management System?

Euro Car Parts (ECP), the UK’s largest car parts supplier, was founded in the year 1978. It has grown from a lone motor parts shop to over 200 outlets within a span of three decades. ECP turned to Net Solutions to build a multi-channel eCommerce solution as well as a content management system to organize its product catalogs.

There were some major challenges in front of us in the form of:

  • Managing multiple websites with the variant codebase
  • Disorganized product catalog
  • Slow search functionality
  • Low conversion rates

How Net Solutions Helped Euro Car Parts Build a Content Management System

What are Content Management System (CMS) Features?

Every organization’s business needs vary, and to choose the best CMS platform, you will have to ensure its features map with your business goals and needs. However, at the core, some key CMS features are or should be common to every content management system.

The following is a list of the ten must-have CMS features that can help you build and maintain a website.

  • Intuitive dashboard
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Easy administration
  • Built-in SEO tools
  • Multi-language support
  • Flexible deployment
  • Security
  • Support
  • Multi-channel publishing
  • Extensibility

What are the Benefits of a Content Management System?

Through 2022, 80% of marketers will continue to struggle to connect more than three customer journey channels seamlessly.

A content management system is not just a tool; rather, an approach that provides enterprises with a single platform to manage all the digital assets, thereby eliminating the requirement to juggle between multiple technologies.

This section covers a few content management system benefits that you can expect to be delivered to your website.

1. Multi-channel Management

Today, the digital landscape is rapidly increasing. An organization may have the main site, accelerated web pages, a few microsites for events and campaigns, an app or two, and in-context kiosks to deliver a seamless user experience.

82% of organizations are planning to prioritize delivering an omnichannel experience within the next two years. Net Solutions’ B2B Commerce 2020 report

It would be a lot easier if the combination of all these digital channels could live in one place to power your business, else a stakeholder’s job becomes pretty hard to manage different digital channels to store different types of content.

A content management system enables you to view, edit, and publish content to all your digital channels without having to access various systems and accounts for each touchpoint.

For instance, content common to both the website and your eCommerce platform can be pushed simultaneously, thereby negating the requirement to input information more than once, which can lead to an error.

Multichannel content management system capability

2. Security

With the advancement in digital technologies, the threat of a data breach also hovers over businesses, making security a vital consideration for any website.

37.3% of business leaders cite digital security as one of the biggest challenges organizations face on the road to digital transformation. Net Solutions’ State of Digital Transformation 2020

No one can ever guarantee complete website security; however, top CMS platforms always keep themselves updated to deal with significant security issues. Security concerns usually occur when users do not update the CMS software or additional plugins. Thus frequent maintenance of your CMS ensures the robust security of your website.

3. Increased User-Friendliness

Deprived of a content management system, each member of your team will have to get acquainted with the working of each tool to complete a single task in multiple ways. This can result in frustration for users who understand what they want to do but need to first figure out how a particular system handles such a task.

With a top CMS solution integrated into your website, there is just a single workflow to create and a specific single set of tools to learn.

Whether you want to manage a product catalog or update web pages, you need to carve out some time to learn one process. It leads to more consistency across every project and more time dedicated to maximizing consumer interactions rather than fussing with tools.

4. Data Analytics

Analyzing strategies across multiple systems is a cumbersome yet vital task to keep potential customers happy. From trying to find comparable statistics within each one to analyzing a multi-platform campaign, identifying weak areas and effective messaging can only be done once you’ve compiled all the data and then put it together to make comparisons meaningful.

65% of the businesses said personalization would be their top eCommerce technology budget priority in 2021.Net Solutions’ State of Digital Commerce 2020 report

The data of all your campaigns from all your channels beginning in your CMS become accessible with the click of a button. When you have centralized data collection and analysis tools integrated, identifying the trends and behaviors necessary to provide personalized content becomes straightforward.

What are Examples of Content Management Systems?

While there are a lot of content management systems out there, and many have an impressive list of features, not every content management system suits the task at hand.

Here are top content management system examples that have proven their worth in managing and improving digital customer experience.

Vendor CMS CMS Architecture Digital Marketing Effectiveness Score (Gartner) Digital Commerce Score (Gartner)
Adobe Adobe Experience Manager Traditional CMS 3.93 3.71
Sitecore Experience Manager Traditional CMS 3.87 3.72
WP Engine WP Engine Traditional CMS 2.35 2.65
Acquia Drupal Cloud Traditional CMS 3.53 3.51
Kentico Kentico Kontent Headless CMS 2.35 2.70
Magnolia Magnolia Traditional CMS 2.52 2.69
Bloomreach Bloomreach Experience Manager (brXM) Traditional CMS 3.24 3.07
SDL SDL Tridion Sites Traditional CMS 2.77 2.72
Episerver Episerver Content Cloud Traditional CMS 3.47 3.35
Oracle Oracle Content and Experience Cloud Headless CMS 3.26 3.19

Kinds of Websites You Can Build Using Top Content Management System (CMS) Platforms

As discussed, most content management systems come with a certain list of useful features that help build various types of websites. To make things simple, we mapped the top CMS features with the different use cases of content management systems, highlighted in the following table:

Use Case
Requirements
Recommendation
Microsites i) User-friendly backend
ii) Readily available plug-ins or extensions
iii) Easy-to-use
WordPress
Regular Content Websites i) Advanced CMS features such as creating pages, articles, polls, and surveys
ii) Basic design or branding
Joomla
Massive Content, Multiple Webmasters i) A significant number of pages with community features
ii) Highly secure
Drupal
Enterprise Portals i) Manage multiple websites from a common CMS
ii) Multiple user types
iii) Have social networking and e-commerce features integrated
Kentico

CMS vs DXP: The Difference Between CMS and DXP

In the last 20 years, the CMS has evolved and seen its growth in the form of sophistication. However, doubts like whether CMS is a DXP and vice versa revolve around. To be clear, CMS is not a digital experience platform (DXP). To understand the difference between a CMS and a DXP, let’s understand the focus of each platform:

  • CMS: The primary focus of a content management system is on the content creation life cycle, dealing with orchestration and seamless content delivery, which is critical for an excellent digital experience.
  • DXP: The main focus of DXP is on the 360-degree user experience. A DXP is one step ahead of CMS, thus called a mutated evolutionary version of CMS, enabling smart and seamless delivery across different channels like websites, apps, smartwatches, IoT devices, smart TVs, etc.

The common bridge between CMS and DXP is the intent. The end-goal of both platforms is to maximize the customer experience by anticipating their expectations.

CMS vs DXP

Conclusion

We are in the middle of the most significant transformation — the fastest digital upheaval there’s ever been.

The parameters — ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, data centricity, and smart devices — are uniting at a rapid pace. This union will impact each and every aspect of content production and delivery.

One of the most intelligent decisions you can reach is to honestly assess your internal capability to deliver your own web content management system (CMS) solution. However, the reality is, most businesses do not have the resources and expertise to run things themselves. Thus, if you have still not engaged a partner as a part of your CMS evaluation stage, it’s high time to find one.

Surabhi Shukla

About the Author

Surabhi is a proficient PHP developer and has worked on frameworks and CMS like Joomla, CakePHP, Drupal, and Magento. She is also a Magento certified developer and Developer Plus. When not at work, she relaxes by listening to music and is an avid reader.

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