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What is a CMS (Content Management System)?

Find out what a CMS is and how it can help you create a website.

Do you want to create a website? You might have encountered some (technical) terms, such as CMS. Do you want to know what CMS means? Read this comprehensive guide! You will discover how a CMS works and which systems exist.


Brief Summary


CMS stands for a content management system. With a CMS, you create and manage a website without technical knowledge. WordPress and Website Builder are examples of CMS.

CMS meaning

CMS is an abbreviation and stands for ‘content management system’. It is software that lets you create, edit and manage a website without technical knowledge. In other words, you build a website without having to code from scratch. You do not have to work with programming languages like HTML, CSS and PHP.

How does a CMS work?

A CMS system consists of 2 main components: a Content Management Application and a Content Delivery Application. These 2 terms are challenging to understand, so we have an explanation below.

1. Content Management Application

A Content Management Application (CMA) allows you to add and manage content in a user-friendly environment. The CMA hides the code behind elements and shows their appearance. So you can immediately see what a button or piece of text will look like on your website.

2. Content Delivery Application

The Content Delivery Application (CDA) is the back-end of your website, also known as the back-end. The CDA adequately stores the content you enter into the CMA and is visible to your website visitors. You only need to press the ‘Publish’ button to put a page online. Code uploading to the server where your website files reside is a thing of the past.

What kind of websites do you create with a CMS?

You can create different websites with a CMS system, depending on your chosen CMS. Here are some examples:

  • Static websites (websites that hardly change)
  • Business websites
  • Blogs
  • Webshops
  • Forums
  • Communities
  • Social networks
  • Learning environments
  • Portfolios

Why use a CMS?

Now you’ve learned how a CMS works, you want to know what the benefits are of a CMS. Here are some of them:

  1. Manage easily

A CMS allows you to easily manage content without needing technical knowledge. So you can easily add texts, videos, images, buttons and more and publish them at the click of a button.

  1. Time-saving

A CMS also saves you time. After all, you work with a WYSIWYG editor, which means you immediately see what a page or element will look like. So you no longer have to work with codes and manually upload them to the server.

  1. Scalable

A CMS is scalable. You start with a base that you expand with useful features and cool designs. This allows you to create a website according to your wishes.

  1. SEO-friendly

Many CMS systems are optimised for SEO to make you more visible in search engines like Google. Using tools that help you optimise your website for SEO is also possible.

  1. Consistency

A CMS allows you to create a consistent house style for your business. This means, among other things, that the logo, website colours and layout can be found on every page. Of course, you can customise these elements for a page.

  1. Simple Collaboration

Finally, collaborating through a CMS is easy. Most systems offer different user roles as administrator or editor. For example, each member logs in with their account, and you can protect certain parts of your site. Moreover, CMS systems often offer a community area where users can help each other with problems.

Why not use a CMS?

A CMS does not offer you only advantages. Some disadvantages also exist, which we explain below.

  1. Difficult for starters

A CMS can be a challenge for beginner website builders, especially if you have no experience creating and managing sites. This means it will take longer to create a website because you first have to learn how a CMS works.

  1. Too many functions

You can get overwhelmed by the number of features. For some CMS systems, dozens of contact forms exist. In this case, it isn’t easy to make the right choice.

  1. Restrictions

A CMS is limited in terms of customisation. Are you looking for specific and unique features? It would help if you first investigated whether the CMS supports a feature.

  1. Security risks

A CMS is vulnerable because hackers are too happy to hack your website. Updates are offered regularly, but if you do not implement them yourself, you will be working with an outdated and vulnerable system. You also often have to take security measures yourself.

  1. Hidden costs

You may have to deal with hidden costs. Initially, a CMS may be cheap or free, but you often have to pay money if you want to use extra features or a different design.

What CMS systems exist?

Different types of CMS systems exist. Each system has its functions and purpose. Below are 5 types.

1. Headless

A headless CMS is a system whereby the front-end and back-end are separate. This means you only add and manage content via a back-end. A headless CMS is useful if you use different platforms to display content. This includes websites, smartwatches, public displays and smart speakers.

2. Proprietary

A proprietary CMS is a closed system. You only get access to the CMS if you buy a paid licence. You often get advanced features and personal support in return.

3. Open-source

The name gives it away: ‘open source’. You can modify, improve, and share the source code with an open-source CMS. So you can create a website that fully meets your needs. And because everyone is allowed to modify the source code, (technical) developments and problems are quickly addressed.

4. E-commerce

An e-commerce CMS is built to create and manage webshops. Such a CMS offers all the functions a webshop needs. Think of a shopping cart, checkout page and stock management.

5. SaaS

SaaS stands for Software-as-a-Service. With a SaaS CMS, the provider manages the server and updates so that you can focus on your website. In addition, you work in the cloud, which is practical if you want to manage your website from various locations and on different devices.

The 5 best CMS systems

The amount of CMS systems available is enormous. So it can be challenging to pick just one to start your website. That is why we have picked out the 5 best CMS systems for you below.

1. Website Builder

Website Builder is a CMS for beginner website builders. You don’t need technical knowledge because you work with a drag-and-drop editor. You don’t have to code, making this user-friendly CMS suitable for everyone.

Website Builder at one.com

At one.com, it’s easy to get started with Website Builder. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a template; this is the look of your website.
  2. Customise the template to your taste and add useful features.
  3. Publish your website, and you’re done.

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2. WordPress

Are you looking for more advanced features than Website Builder? WordPress is a good choice.

WordPress is an open-source CMS with many features. Once you have installed the CMS, you can expand the base with thousands of WordPress themes (designs) and WordPress plugins (functions). With the user-friendly Gutenberg editor, you can easily add texts, images and other functions to your website. Note: WordPress is more complex than Website Builder, so technical knowledge or time to get to know the cms is useful. However, you get a lot of flexibility in return.

Reading tip: WordPress or a website builder?

WordPress at one.com

Also, for WordPress, you have come to the right place at one.com. With WordPress hosting, you can install the CMS in just 1 click and start your site immediately. Moreover, you get exclusive access to more than 40 professional themes developed by our web developers. Do you not want to worry about server management? Managed WordPress hosting is the solution for you.

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3. Drupal

Drupal is a CMS that allows you to create applications and websites. This makes the CMS especially suitable for web developers, marketers and agencies.

The basic core

Still, you can use Drupal to create a simple website because of its basic core, so you don’t have to code from scratch. This core consists of 3 parts (content, performance and security) that you extend with so-called Drupal modules and themes built by the community. Do you want to use external tools? That is also possible.

For Drupal, you need web hosting. After purchase, download the Drupal software and place it on your web hosting package.

4. Joomla!

You also build websites or applications with Joomla! Joomla! is an advanced CMS that requires you to take the time to understand how it works. Technical knowledge is, therefore, a must for Joomla! Yet you can also create simple websites with the CMS.

3 extensions

Joomla! works differently than WordPress. You use so-called built-in templates with 3 extensions within them:

  1. With components, you add features, such as a text space.
  2. Modules provide a function in a specific place, such as a search box in the header.
  3. Plugins are small features, such as an order button.

If you want to use Joomla!, purchase web hosting and download the CMS software to the server.

5. PrestaShop

PrestaShop is an all-in-one solution that focuses on building and managing an online shop. The CMS is mainly suitable for medium to large complex webshops. You can also access built-in functions and themes to make an online shop according to your wishes.

All the functions for your online shop

PrestaShop offers all the features an online shop needs for the back and front ends. Think about product management, shipping methods, shopping cart, taxes and payment environment. The developers of PrestaShop have also thought about marketing tools and responsiveness. Would you like to expand your online shop with helpful features? You can add so-called modules.

For PrestaShop, you must buy web hosting to download the software to the server. PrestaShop can be a challenge for beginner webshop builders. Do you have no technical knowledge and want to start an online shop? Choose Website Builder’s online shop. Do you want to manage a website or blog besides an online shop? WordPress combined with WooCommerce suits you best.

What is the best CMS system?

What the best CMS system depends, among other things, on your level of knowledge, wishes and requirements. Someone with no technical knowledge may not like Drupal, and someone else may find it the best CMS. So there is no correct answer to this question.

Which CMS should I choose?

You may be wondering which CMS system is best for you. Again, this depends on your level of knowledge, wishes and requirements. For example, do you have no technical knowledge and want to set up a website or online shop quickly? Website Builder will suit you best. Do you have an intermediate technical understanding, and are you looking for many possibilities to develop a website or shop? Choose WordPress (and WooCommerce). Do you want to create an advanced website or application? Look at Joomla! or Drupal. Are you looking for an all-in-one online shop solution? PrestaShop is a good choice.

Reading tip: Which hosting to choose?

What do you need to use a CMS?

To use a CMS, you need 2 things: a domain name and hosting.

  1. A domain name is your website’s address so visitors can reach your site. At one.com, you can easily register a domain name, for example, .uk, .com and .site.
  2. Hosting is a space on a server on which all website files are stored. At one.com, you can choose between web hosting on which you place the CMS software yourself or hosting on which the CMS software is installed for you so you can get started immediately.

Create your website with a CMS

Do you have a CMS in mind and could use some help creating a website? At our Academy, you’ll find helpful guides and tutorials to get started:

In brief

A content management system helps you create, edit and manage a website without the need for technical knowledge. In this article, you have learned how a CMS works and its advantages and disadvantages. You have also been introduced to different types of CMS systems and know what you need to get started with a CMS. Good luck with your website!

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