Decorative double Helix

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A content management system, or CMS, is software to help businesses manage and modify website content in a more simple and efficient way, often without having to code or maintain deep technical knowledge of website development. A CMS manages the infrastructure of a website so that front-end presentation and functionality can be a larger focus, ultimately helping drive the business value of a website without getting caught in the weeds of development. At the enterprise level, content management systems support a variety of users in collaboration by integrating document and digital asset management.
For initial website development, a content management system simplifies creation by providing an interface for site structure and page building that is significantly easier than writing static HTML files and uploading them to a server. A CMS also serves as a host for media, where images, documents, and other media can be stored for direct access rather than needing to connect to a business’s own web server. At the enterprise scale, this allows for mass changes to web page structure and design without needing to edit each individual page. A business can adjust branding and design at a high level, allowing the CMS to cascade these changes down to the entire website and application.

What a CMS can do:

In simplest terms, a content management system is a tool for hyper-efficiency in website creation, management, modification, and display. For example, an enterprise would use a CMS in these ways:

Content Creation: Using a template, content authors can quickly build impressive and responsive web pages without needing to write extensive code. Features that make a CMS user-friendly include drag-and-drop components, editable text fields, social media sharing blocks, eCommerce connections, and more.

Content Modification: Much like the simplicity of creation, modification can be done by virtually anyone regardless of technical expertise. Authors can make updates to content, preview changes as they would appear if live, review and share updates, and approve for live publishing. A strong CMS can make these published changes go live immediately across all channels or save them to be scheduled for future dates.

Content Display: With a proper CMS, this content can be delivered across multiple channels like email, mobile apps, webpages, social media, and more. As mentioned with content modification, changes can be published immediately or scheduled out. Visitors to sites will then see changes without latency, improving the customer experience.

How much does a CMS cost?

Some content management systems are free. Most free offerings require an investment beyond monetary costs, like additional time to fully leverage the system or a higher level of technical knowledge to be able to modify or integrate with outside applications. A CMS is generally of most value to a mid-size or enterprise-level business because of the scale that content management and delivery efficiencies become available. Many of these costs are highly individualized for specific use cases or numbers of users, as well as additional software paired with the purchase of a CMS. Because of the value that a CMS provides to a business, it should be expected that a larger investment sometimes in the millions of dollars will be necessary – but it will likely deliver dividends well beyond that in a multitude of ways.

Are CMS easy to use?

With any technology, ease of use depends on the solution you choose! An open-source CMS will likely require a bit more technical knowledge for you to be able to modify or fully leverage APIs that add additional value to the CMS. Despite that need, nearly every CMS comes with out-of-the-box features and dashboards, drag-and-drop capabilities, and simple interfaces. To get the most value from your investment in a CMS, you should plan on using training or tutorial documents from the provider or even look to hire or train a team to be working specifically within your CMS.

Should I have a CMS?

Having a CMS depends on the needs of your organization, and your future digital goals. Having a CMS can save you time and energy by making webpage creation and editing much easier and much more responsive. Depending on the size of your business, or your intended reach, a CMS can help with scaling in size or geographic reach. Not to mention, a good CMS provides some tools or the ability to integrate with tools that provide incredible data behind your digital presence.

That said, a CMS should be considered and utilized by any business with a digital presence. Whether you start with free-to-use, open-source software or a licensed system, a CMS with removing plenty of headaches from building and expanding your online reach. In many cases, only a base level of technical literacy is needed to extract value from a CMS. As consumers search more and more for web-based offerings in the form of eCommerce or knowledge bases like blogs and other media, having a CMS to support the management and delivery of content will only help you connect with customers more fully because of a better end-user experience.


A content management system, or CMS, is software designed to support the creation, modification, and delivery of web content in a more simple and efficient way at scale. There are a variety of options available in the market, both open-source and licensed, with different feature sets and capabilities. The selection of a CMS, as well as the cost, depends entirely on the needs of the business. A content management system should be seen as critical to the ability to create powerful customer experiences.

About The Author

Hank Thobe

Business Director at Arbory Digital

Technical Project Manager and Business Director leading and supporting AEM experts to provide high-quality services and solutions for various industries and sectors.

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