content management system (CMS)

A content management system (CMS) is a system used to manage the content of a Web site. Typically, a CMS consists of two elements: the content management application (CMA) and the content delivery application (CDA). The CMA element allows the content manager or author, who may not know Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), to manage the creation, modification, and removal of content from a Web site without needing the expertise of a Webmaster. The CDA element uses and compiles that information to update the Web site. The features of a CMS system vary, but most include Web-based publishing, format management, revision control, and indexing, search, and retrieval.

The Web-based publishing feature allows individuals to use a template or a set of templates approved by the organization, as well as wizards and other tools to create or modify Web content. The format management feature allows documents including legacy electronic documents and scanned paper documents to be formatted into HTML or Portable Document Format (PDF) for the Web site. The revision control feature allows content to be updated to a newer version or restored to a previous version. Revision control also tracks any changes made to files by individuals. An additional feature is indexing, search, and retrieval. A CMS system indexes all data within an organization. Individuals can then search for data using keywords, which the CMS system retrieves.

A CMS system may also provide tools for one-to-one marketing. One-to-one marketing is the ability of a Web site to tailor its content and advertising to a user's specific characteristics using information provided by the user or gathered by the site (for example, a particular user's page sequence pattern). For example, if you visit a search engine and search for "digital camera," the advertising banners will advertise businesses that sell digital cameras instead of businesses that sell garden products.

Two factors must be considered before an organization decides to invest in a CMS. First, an organization's size and geographic dispersion must be considered especially if an organization is spread out over several countries. For these organizations, the transition to CMS is more difficult. Secondly, the diversity of the electronic data forms used within an organization must be considered. If an organization uses text documents, graphics, video, audio, and diagrams to convey information, the content will be more difficult to manage.

Contributor(s): Klaus Svarre
This was last updated in January 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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