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What Is a CMS? Content Management Systems Explained

Short for content management system, a CMS is a piece of software that helps you create and manage content for your website using a human-friendly interface, rather than needing to work directly with the code.

Basically, a CMS makes managing a website much easier for people of all technical levels. Via that human-friendly interface, a CMS takes your inputs and turns them into a functioning website for your visitors.

The Benefits Of Using A CMS For Your Website

Obviously, the big benefit of using a CMS is how easy it makes it to manage content. That’s why it’s in the name!

But a good CMS will also help you handle other important aspects of your website like:

  • Extensibility – you’ll be able to add functionality and make design decisions without needing to work with any of the underlying code.
  • User management and access permissions – you can control who can access your website and what they can do (for example, maybe you want to give a freelance writer access, but only to write blog posts).
  • Media management – you can upload photos and embed videos into your content without needing to work directly with your web server.
  • Version control – you can easily see what’s changed on your site and view a full history of all edits.

A CMS Is Made Up Of Two Core Parts

If you further break down a content management system, there are two main parts that help create your website.

First, you have the content management application (CMA for short). This is the part of the CMS that you’ll work with on a daily basis. For example, here’s what the content management application looks like in WordPress, the most popular content management system in existence.

This is the dashboard where you can oversee all aspects of your site:

WordPress dashboard

And if you want to add content, you can use this simple text editor that’s a lot like typing in a Microsoft word document:

what is a cms interface

As you can see, there’s no trace of “code” when you manage your website – it’s all done through that human-friendly interface.

Of course, your website does need the “code” in order to work, and that’s where the second part of a content management system comes into play.

Once you’ve made your changes in the content management application, the content delivery application (CDA for short) is responsible for taking the content that you enter into the human-friendly interface and turning it into a working website that visitors from around the world can access.

Basically, it handles assembling all the code that controls how your website looks to visitors.

So let’s look at an example.

To create a new blog post, you would add and format your content in the simple editor:

WordPress EditorThen, the content delivery application turns that into the front-facing website:

WordPress Front-end

Almost all of the websites that you visit are powered by some form of content management system. Large sites with especially unique needs will have their own custom solution (think Amazon and Facebook), but most websites will use an off-the-rack CMS.

As you learned earlier, the most popular CMS in the world is WordPress. In fact, the WordPress CMS powers almost one-third of all the websites in the world. And when it comes to websites with a known content management system, WordPress’ market share is almost 60% (here are some of the reasons that WordPress is so popular).

WordPress is also the CMS that we used for those example screenshots above.

WordPress CMS

WordPress is an open-source CMS, which means that anyone can use and modify it for free. There are tons of other open-source content management systems, with two of the most well-known being Drupal and Joomla.

Then, you also have options that are not open-source like:

  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Weebly
  • Etc.

As well as more specialized offerings, like Shopify and Magento for eCommerce.

Why WordPress Is The Best CMS For Most Websites

There are a lot of reasons why WordPress holds such a dominant market share in the CMS market.

First, you can use it to build pretty much any type of website. While WordPress did start as a blogging platform, it’s long since become a full CMS that lets you create:

Beyond that base flexibility, WordPress is also easy to make your own because of its huge library of extensions called themes and plugins.

Themes help you change how your site looks, while plugins help you add new functionality.

There are tens of thousands of themes and plugins, so you can probably find some that meet your needs!

Finally, WordPress has a huge community, which makes it easy to get help whenever you need it. Whether you just want to ask a few questions in a Facebook group or hire a professional WordPress developer, you can find thousands of eager people willing to help out.

How To Get Started With WordPress As Your First CMS

If you’d like to launch your own website with the WordPress content management system, you’ll need to purchase web hosting and a domain name. Then, you can install the WordPress software on your web hosting and start adding content and customizing your website.

If you need a helping hand, Pagely is built to make running a WordPress site easy. We’ve been in the managed WordPress hosting business since the beginning, so we know the ins and outs of working with a CMS like WordPress. Reach out and learn how we can help you get started with WordPress.

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