A content management system, commonly shortened to “CMS”, is software that helps users manage website content without coding or any specialist skills.
If you build a website from scratch, you need to create HTML files for your content, organize them, and create or edit and upload them every time you update your content.
A CMS stores all your content in a database and has a user-friendly front-end interface to add, delete, or update content on the database.
Some examples of popular content management systems include:
Hosted website builder services also use their own SaaS (software as a service) cloud-based CMS. These include:
eCommerce site owners can use a CMS to add products and pages to their site, update content, upload images, create contact forms, and every other aspect of building and running a website.
Your CMS keeps the design of your website separate from the content and functionality so it’s easy to update or change the look of your website completely without the need to edit all the files.
Content management systems also have a system in place for assigning user permissions. This means multiple users can log in to work on the site. While some users may have full (admin) permissions to carry out all functions, others may only be able to submit or publish content.
There are many different CMS platforms available. WordPress is currently the most popular CMS, powering almost 65% of websites that use a CMS.
What is an eCommerce CMS?
An eCommerce CMS is a CMS that’s designed to create online stores and has special features for listing and selling products or services.
Magento is the best-known CMS that’s designed specifically for creating eCommerce sites.
BigCommerce, Shopify, and PrestaShop are examples of eCommerce content management systems. These systems work as an online store builder and CMS in one.
Other website builders that feature an eCommerce CMS include Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy Website Builder.
You can also use WordPress as an eCommerce CMS if you use a plugin like WooCommerce.
How a Content Management System Works
To update your website using your CMS, you first need to log in. As the CMS software is installed on your web server, you can update your website from anywhere as long as you have the username and password.
After logging in, you’ll access an administraton panel. The exact functionality will depend on the CMS you’re using, but standard features usually include the ability to:
- Add and edit content and publish it to or un-publish it from your live site
- Upload and manage images, videos, and other media,
- Change your site’s appearance
- Manage users
- Edit general site settings
- Import and export content or make backups
- Reply to and manage comments
If you’re using an eCommerce CMS or a plugin like WooCommerce, you’ll also be able to:
- Add and edit products
- Update stock quantities
- Manage orders
- View and edit customer details
- Set payment options and manage your checkout
- View analytics and run reports on sales and other data
Using WordPress as an example, this is what you’ll see when you go to add a new page to the site.
WordPress uses a system called blocks to allow you to add different types of content like text and images to your content pages.
When you add text content you can adjust the formatting by changing the font size, making it bold or italic, creating lists, and other format options similar to what you’d use in word processing software like Microsoft Word.
You can also add a title for your page, add it to a category on your site (this will change where it appears in your menu and other navigaition) , allow or disallow comments, adjust the URL of the page, and choose a featured image (in WordPress, this is the thumbnail displayed on lists of blog posts or other pages where you’re linking to multiple content pages.)
Once you’ve created your content, you can change the visibility to public, private, or password-protected, and publish it immediately or set a time and date to schedule for future automatic publication.
The Benefits of Building Your Site on a CMS
Not all websites use a CMS and you don’t necessarily need to use one either. If your website consists of static content and you don’t make updates very often, you don’t really need a CMS. However, for most sites it makes sense to use a CMS for easier content creation and management. Here are some of the benefits to consider:
- Easier to create and edit content – There’s no need for technical or coding skills so anyone on your team can update your site once they’re trained in using your CMS. You don’t need a web developer to make every update.
- Easier collaboration – You can set up different user account in a CMS and set permissions for varying levels of access. Revision controls in your CMS also mean that you don’t need to worry about two people updating the same content at the same time.
- SEO optimization – Every good CMS is designed to be SEO-friendly. While you still need to pay attention to how you create your content, the general page structure should be set up with SEO best practices in mind.
- Design flexibility – As a CMS keeps your content separate from the design, you can easily change your template or theme or make other design changes without affecting your content.
- Pre-designed templates – Most content management systems come with a selection of website designs to choose from so you can get your site up and running and looking great in record time.
- Built-in integrations with other apps and services – Most content management systems allow you to connect with other apps to extend their functionality and integrate with services for email marketing, taking online payments, and more.
- Easy to manage products and orders – An eCommerce CMS will make it easy to keep track of your inventory and manage orders. You can connect your website database with other inventory management and order systems to sell across multiple channels.
What is the Best CMS for an eCommerce Site?
There’s no single “best eCommerce CMS” as different systems are suitable for different needs and purposes.
WordPress with WooCommerce is a very popular option. Magento was built and designed specifically for creating eCommerce sites, so it has some very useful features.
If you prefer a fully hosted solution, BigCommerce, Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix all combine the features of a visual drag-and-drop website builder with a fully functional eCommerce CMS
These are just the most popular options and there are many other choices of CMS. It’s worth doing your research and trying out a couple so you can find the one that fits your workflow best and has the features you need.