What is a Traditional CMS?

Joshua Robitaille on Martech

Traditional CMSIntroduction 

The right content management system (CMS) can be a key piece of the business puzzle. The concept of CMS can be dizzying to someone who is not familiar with the way digital content is managed. 

There are literally hundreds of content management systems which can be used to present the digital content, and it is absolutely crucial to understand different types of CMSs and their relevance. In this article, you will learn about traditional content management and tools so you can narrow down your choices and determine whether or not a traditional CMS is ideal for your business. 

What is content?

With all the hype about content marketing and its vitality, taking a step back and understanding what ‘content’ is in the first place might help develop a better understanding of how content is managed on online platforms. 

Content is generally defined as the information and experiences that are expressed to an audience through some medium, as text or any of various forms. It presents both information and the way it is communicated. The key to ensuring the success of your communication lies in identifying and optimizing the following components of ‘content’: 

  • Information
  • Purpose 
  • Audience 
  • Form
  • Channel 

What is content management (CM)?

Once you have created the content, you need to manage it throughout its lifecycle. Content management is the process for collection, organization and the overall management of information. 

For as long as content is being created, we have been developing solutions to manage it. The Library of Alexandria was probably the first human effort to manage content in an easily accessible manner. We can say that the librarians were the first content managers. 

When stored and accessed via computer, the information can be called as digital content. The human librarians can't manage digital content; for that, we need technology to manage and present the most complex forms of content. How can you manage your content for your digital audience? The next point will lead you to the answer. 

What is a content management system (CMS)? 

The word CMS probably pops up when you search for how to create a website for your business or portfolio. A content management system is a set of applications or a software which used to create, display, edit, organize, and publish digital content on the World Wide Web. It stores files and provides access to their data which is version controlled. 

WordPress is a perfect example of a CMS which makes it possible for you to create and publish content on the web or in a single computer. Most content management tools include web-based publishing, indexing, format management, search and retrieval, history and version control. CMSs also allow you to administer users and assign permissions to each. 

A CMS is generally comprised of many components such as a repository, an editing interface, publishing mechanism, etc. These parts might be separate, autonomous entities of the system; however, a non-technical editor can take these parts as a monolithic whole. You can use content management solutions from managing a website to storing enterprise documents such as emails, business plans, branding guidelines, and more. 

Different types of CMS systems

The CMS market does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution. Different types of CMSs are designed to meet the different needs of users in a range of different industries. They can take many forms with varying degrees of applications and complexity. Now that you understand what is a CMS, we can go ahead and discuss some of the common types of content management systems: 

1. Web Content Management System (WCMS)  

Simply put, WCMSs specialize in managing and delivering content to websites. You need a WCMS to easily control the dynamic collection of web material including HTML documents, visuals, and other forms of media. The good news is that you don't have to be a professional programmer to operate simple web content management tools. 

2. Enterprise content management system (ECMS) 

An ECMS is used to manage all aspects of content within an organization. General business content such as memos and employee resume is not always intended for mass consumption. Enterprise content management tools can be changed in scale and size for use throughout the organization. ECMSs are also called document management tools. 

3. Digital asset management system (DAMS) 

DAMS helps you organize, store, and retrieve rich media and manage digital rights. Rich digital media include videos, images, podcasts, animations, and other forms of multimedia content. Digital asset management capabilities are now increasingly being incorporated into content management systems. 

4. Record management system (RMS) 

Managing records of an organization throughout the record-life cycle can be a daunting process. The function of an RMS is to streamline documentation process through efficient creation, maintenance, and deletion of the records. The right RMS can help boost operational efficiency and add value to an organization’s information assets.  

Understanding traditional content management systems (CMS)

Traditional or coupled CMS tools combine content management, delivery and presentation while featuring WYSIWYG editors and ready-made visual themes. They require IT developer resources to manage, update, and maintain the CMS installation and other core operations.  

With a traditional CMS, everything can be managed at one place: you upload and create content, experiment with the content to see how it is displayed and click ‘publish’ to implement changes without writing a line of code. Isn't it frictionless? Every element is interconnected; technical architecture tightly links the backend (database and code) to the frontend (design and layout). 

Traditional content management software are high-end, low-cost tools designed to meet different organizational needs. With hundreds of features and plugins, you have the freedom to enhance the way you manage and present content to your audience. 

How a traditional CMS is different from a modern CMS 

Traditional content management technologies are ideal for simple information architecture. However, you need a more advanced CMS to build complex sites. This is where you need to understand the difference between a conventional and an advanced or a headless CMS. 

Wondering what is a headless CMS? It is the result of the need to have technologies with even greater capabilities and flexibilities. A headless CMS focuses on solutions to store and edit content and breaks apart the chemistry between front and backend. It stores content, provides a dashboard to edit it and an API to pull that content into your own application’s front-end. 

The Most popular traditional CMSs

If you are looking to build a personal portfolio, a blog, or a business website, traditional CMS architecture can be a good choice. With built-in themes, templates, and a customizable front-end, you can manage and publish content on the go. Have a look at some of the most popular traditional CMS technologies. 

1. WordPress 

With a market share of about 60%, WordPress is probably the most popular CMS used by over 19 million websites. It is an open-source website creation tool that is easy to use and build powerful blogging sites. Famous blogs like Mashable and The New York Time’s Blog and many other Fortune 500 companies use WordPress to manage their digital content. 

It needs two components to work on your web server: PHP and MySQL. PHP is the language in which WordPress is written, and MySQL is an open-source relational database management system. You can install various WordPress plugins to enhance the functionality of your website. Besides, you need little training in web development to create your own website on this user-friendly CMS platform. 

2. Drupal 

Drupal is another free, traditional CMS with a large community. With Drupal, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, like WordPress. When it comes to functionality, Drupal is better than WordPress. Many free pre-built modules allow you to improve the overall functionality of the system. 

So far as the disadvantages of Drupal are concerned, it can be an overkill for simple websites; a lack of quality, limited free themes, and fairly complicated theme systems make Drupal not an ideal choice for small companies. 

3. Joomla 

This traditional CMS can be utilized for many projects from inventory control systems to business websites. Supported by a large ecosystem, Joomla is widely used to manage and publish content for non-profits, small businesses, and large organizations. Plugins and add-ons can also be added to the system. However, Joomla does not have as high-quality themes as WordPress, and it also lacks in terms of user-friendliness. 

Why Do you need a CMS? 

Can you build a website without using a CMS? Yes, you can. However, you need to reinvent the wheel and create your own platform. Why recreate features and functionality that are already available in the existing CMS technologies? 

Considerations when looking for a traditional CMS for your business

The choice between a traditional and a headless technology comes down to the nature of your business. Following are some scenarios where a traditional CMS can be a good choice: 

  • You have skilled developers in your team 
  • You are going to build a basic marketing site and you don't have any other applications that require CMS capabilities. 
  • You can outsource your development work to an affordable web development agency
  • You don’t have complex or excessive digital information to display 
  • You have resources required for maintenance, customization, and enhancements
  • Your project will not be affected by front-end restrictions  

As you probably observed, the pros of a traditional CMS tend to be the cons of a more advanced CMS. Ask yourself, is a traditional CMS meet your content management requirements? If yes, what traditional CMS will be a good fit for your application? Select a CMS tool while taking into account your current and future needs. 


The word traditional sometimes refers to something old-fashioned or outdated. However, traditional content management systems are not obsolete technologies. If your team lacks technical knowledge and your business model is simple, use a traditional CMS like WordPress which offers easy-to-use WYSIWYG editors and tutorials explaining how to use the system.