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What types of CMS are there? (with examples)

Published December 8th, 2022

Across every content management system (CMS), there’s a constant – a mature set of software disciplines, in a highly evolved technology stack. And that consistency has been a blessing for web developers for more than 25 years. But it’s made CMSs so popular that they’re overused and often misused. In perhaps surprising news to some, there are different types of CMS – each suitable for specific use cases – because CMSs are not a one-size-fits-all solution, for every situation.

Di Mace

Marketing Communications Manager at Tiny

Ever since 1994, when the very earliest content management system (CMS) applications were written by web design agencies, not software companies, they’ve never failed to add value to developers, businesses and users.

Business and brands have undoubtedly grown from the use of CMSs. Their bulging list of out-of-the-box functionality, enhancements to aid content creation, analytics tools, facilitation of social media sharing and timely security updates, have all contributed to the spread of websites and proliferation of content marketing.

However, having hastened the growth of audience interaction online, the CMS has also spelt out its own doom, by exposing the areas where traditional CMSs are no longer the right tool for the job.

The changing role of CMSs

From the outset, CMSs firmly established themselves as software platforms aimed at automating and simplifying the production tasks required to create, edit, format, manage, optimize and publish content online.

But over the last decade, digital content has exploded – both inside and outside organizations.

With more and more organizations taking the path to digital transformation, both digitization and digitalization have expanded the file types used for content, as well as the volume stored and reused in different situations. Creator collaboration and audience interaction has multiplied and remote working firmly taken hold.


Teams now rely on an increasingly sophisticated technology stack to do everything: manage content, drive experiences, provide underlying data, analytics and intelligent automations.

Those demands have stretched traditional CMSs, beyond their core competency.

An evolving content management infrastructure

Originally, CMS architecture was the standard for web development – making publishing and managing rich web content easier. Those foundational CMSs paved the way for both big and small companies to begin their digital journey.

However, most outdated content management systems now cannot handle the demands of modern technologies like omnichannel marketing, IoT, AI, and other emerging channels.

Those old, fragmented content systems that carry duplicated, decaying and unsearchable content are wreaking havoc across enterprises. Instead, companies are now investing in the right technology to achieve scalable, successful digital customer experience (DCX) delivery and optimization.

The organizations chasing digital transformation are focused on digital technologies across all areas of their business, to enhance content visibility (both internal and external), eliminate inefficiencies and fundamentally change how they operate and deliver value to customers. This rapid reach for holistic digital experiences has shattered the stranglehold of the traditional CMS over the realm of content production.

Forward-looking organizations have realized their content management infrastructure must drive, support and help them achieve their goal of digital transformation. It needs to help store, launch and manage digital content for a far reaching ecosystem of channels, like internal and external audiences, email, mobile apps, social media, websites and more.

What’s the difference between digitization and digitalization?

Digitalization cannot occur without digitization. First, information is digitized. Then digitalization occurs, when processes are changed. Gartner’s Glossary defines digitization as “...the process of changing from analog to digital form, also known as digital enablement. While the Gartner Glossary says “Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.”

That means a diverse set of tools is needed.

Most web CMSs can't offer everything that a business requires to meet these expectations – so multiple types of CMS are often integrated, to enhance the existing capabilities of their web CMS – and cater to specialized needs and niches.

What are the five ‘big’ types of CMS?

Each of the five main types of CMS has its own acronym, while the generic ‘CMS’ term is typically now used when referring to web content management systems.

While there are overlaps, each type of CMS has its own set of business benefits, and is identified by its intended use. The five main types are:

  • Web Content Management System (WCMS)
  • Digital Asset Management System (DAM)
  • Document Management System (DMS)
  • Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)
  • Component Content Management System (CCMS)

What is content management?

According to Wikipedia, “Content management (CM) is a set of processes and technologies that supports the collection, managing, and publishing of information in any form or medium.

When stored and accessed via computers, this information may be more specifically referred to as digital content, or simply as content.”

Content management is a far reaching and holistic approach to safeguarding, managing, optimizing and distributing your digital content and assets, so although each carries a distinct definition, the five types are often amalgamated. As an example, WordPress has evolved from a simple blogging platform to a full-fledged CMS (ie. WCMS), while it also incorporates digital asset management (DAMS).

The aim of these CMS blends are to deliver a wider range of functionality in a consistent, user friendly interface.

1. Web content management system (WCMS)

What is Web CMS?

A Web Content Management System (WCMS) provides authoring, collaboration, and administration tools to manage content that’s primarily intended for mass delivery via a website.

Also called a web CMS, it’s used to control a wide and dynamic collection of web-based material (HTML documents and their associated images).

However, unlike other CMSs, a web content management system does not deal with any form of content, other than web content.

Why use one?

Your web content management system is a critical component of your digital customer experience programs.

A WCMS is capable of publishing content automatically, which can streamline publishing processes for businesses and inherently carries all the business benefits of the traditional CMS structure.

Benefits of web content management system

  • Productivity – saves time by publishing automatically
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • User experience – improves creator (and reader) engagement
  • Mobile optimization
  • Provides digital presence and/or shopfront

Examples of WCMS

There are four subset types of web content management system: open source CMS, commercial CMS, and custom CMS.

Different web content management systems compared

Open Source CMSCommercial CMSCustom CMSSaaS Website Builder CMS
Examples- WordPress
- Drupal
- Joomla
- Opencart
- Magento
- Kentico
- Sitecore
- Shopify
- Microsoft SharePoint
- IBM Enterprise Content Management
- Pulse CMS
- Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)
Not applicable- Wix
- SquareSpace
- GoDaddy
- Weebly
Fees + CustomizationFreely available, the CMS software can be downloaded at zero initial cost, with no license or upgrade fees. Fees may apply to customize beyond the core offerings.A single company builds and manages the CMS, and you pay a license fee to use the software. Further fees may be needed for upgrades, customization, as well as ongoing training or support.Is an exclusive and branded solution, built to your specific business needs. Often bridges the gap between an open source CMS and a commercial CMS.A no-code all-in-one website builder that exists in a cloud-based environment, within the parent company’s closed system. Often uses easy drag-and-drop page building functionality. Fees apply.
Speed-to-marketPerfect choice when there is minimal integration needed with other types of legacy systems.Software is mostly out-of-the-box ready for your business needs.Businesses with complex or specialized needs can customize the CMS platform so it’s tailored according to specific business requirements.Many offer excellent website design tools and templates that are fast to set up and maintain.
Perfect for very small businesses needing an all-in-one solution.

2. Digital asset management system (DAMS)

What is digital asset management system?

A Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) provides a centralized library that manages, organizes and manipulates rich digital assets (also called media components).

Images, audio, video, graphics, presentations and other media are centralized along with workflows and operations across multiple business units, departments, and teams.

Why use one?

A DAMS secures all your digital assets in one place.

Digital assets are the foundation of your overall digital customer experience (DCX) and because a DAMS is generally cloud-based, users can access assets from anywhere, at any time – making this type of CMS incredibly efficient.

Digital asset management benefits

  • Centralized library or repository
  • Easily publish content to third-party distribution services, portals, and social media
  • Efficiency for multiple users

Examples of DAMS

Brainfolder, Bynder, Canto, MediaValet,Cloudinary and Bynder.

3. Enterprise content management system (ECMS)

What is enterprise content management system?

An Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) manages a wide range of structured and unstructured business content, that's not necessarily for mass consumption.

It typically stores documents and other content that relate to the organization's processes such as emails, instruction manuals, business documents, and reports. They frequently combine different functions, including web content management, document and records management, workflow and collaboration tools, etc.

Why use an enterprise CMS?

A ECMS helps to collect, store, deliver, and manage an organization’s cross-functional data and documents (structured and unstructured).

It enables businesses to more efficiently deliver the right content to business stakeholders, employees, and contractors to make an informed decision and complete projects on time.

Benefits of enterprise content management

  • Efficiency – increases productivity
  • Flexibility – store any type of file format, not just documents
  • Cost efficiency – combines a number of content management tools

Enterprise CMS examples

Zoho Docs, eFileCabinet, DocuShare, Atlasian, Confluence and Box.

4. Document management system (DMS)

What is a DMS?

A Document Management System (DMS) is a software solution that enables an organization to automate the creation, storage, tracking and retrieval of its electronic documents within a single database platform.

It’s designed to maximize the efficient modification, digitization, filing and accessing of structured documents and images. A DMS is the prerequisite precursor to a paperless office.

The more advanced capabilities in a DMS can include object linking, workflow, external sharing, auditing, record retention capabilities, co-authoring and more.

Why use a document management system

A DMS solution fast-tracks document digitization – effectively ending out-dated processes and ensuring legal compliance – and is often associated with electronic signatures or certifications.

Along with other associated software solutions, a DMS forms one part of an overall enterprise content management system (ECMS) system (see above) and is considered a subordinate, partial solution within an ECMs more comprehensive concept and implementation.

DMS advantages

  • Accessibility and trackability of documents
  • Support legal and regulatory compliance
  • Aids version control of documents
  • Suitable for highly regulated industries

Examples of DMS

Google Workspace, Dropbox, OneDrive, and iCloud.

5. Component content management system (CCMS)

What is CCMS?

A Component Content Management System (CCMS) handles content at the granular or component level – words, phrases, paragraphs or photos – instead of page-by-page.

A CCMS focuses on organizing, tracking, storing and optimizing the use of content. It’s the perfect choice for a publishing or media company that distributes content across multiple types of platforms like mobile, print, web, chatbots, social media and in various forms.

Why use one

A CCMS is designed for maximum content reuse – components are only stored once, in a centralized repository. It is also called structured content management.

Since it’s primarily designed with reusability in mind, it does not use the conventional folder-like hierarchical storage structure and can enhance the workflow of teams working remotely.

Benefits of a component CMS

  • Reusability via single source
  • Saves time and resources – avoids time wastage searching for specific pieces of content
  • Transparency – encourages collaboration
  • Enhances workflow management
  • Omnichannel publishing

Examples of CCMS

Paligo, Documentum, Author-It, Xyleme, Vasont, XDocs, SDL Live Content.

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Similarities and contrasts of different types of CMS

Gartner estimates that 95% of organizations worldwide already have a CMS solution (of some form) in place, which demonstrates the widespread use of this pioneering software. Although each type of CMS has a different area of expertise, different use and different function, they’re all aimed at managing content – in all its forms – making it easier to find, store and distribute.

CMSs also play a pivotal role in driving an organization’s goal of digital transformation and providing a seamless digital customer experience (DCX) across all channels.

Although they all strive to achieve the same overall goal for content, they do differ when it comes to specializations and the purpose they serve:

  • A WCMS supports web content and publishing
  • A DAMS maintains a broad range of content assets
  • A ECMS manages and distributes structured and unstructured enterprise-wide content
  • A DMS manages documents in forms that that aid legal and regulatory compliance
  • A CCMS supports reusability across omnichannel publishing

CMSs are invaluable tools. However, with so many types of CMS available, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your current needs and future situation.

The ultimate key is understanding how each of them works and knowing the purpose (and people) they serve.

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Di Mace

Marketing Communications Manager

Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.

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