Acronym Monday: CMS

What does CMS mean in plain English?

In our technological world, there are hundreds of technology-related acronyms that programmers and developers have been able to define since they were in their coding diapers. Sometimes it doesn’t come as easy for everyone else. Wildcard deals with tons of non-technical clients, and we have perhaps just as many non-technical team members. In honor of these people, we have decided to take one day out of every week to explain some of these acronyms. We are calling this day “Acronym Monday” in an arguably fruitless effort to make Mondays exciting and something to look forward to.

Today’s Acronym Monday is brought to you by the acronym CMS.

CMS stands for content management system. This acronym is used almost interchangeably with WCMS, which stands for web content management system. The Wildcard team specializes in WCMSs which are simply CMSs for websites. So for the sake of this article, you can take CMS to mean WCMS. Before we get into what the acronym means as a whole, we will look briefly at each of the words individually, starting with “content.”


Content, in terms of a website, can basically be defined as anything you see while you are accessing the site. For instance, the text you are reading right now is considered content. And any images you might see are considered content, too. So are animations, videos, and even interactive maps.

Technically speaking, themes and background colors on a website are not considered content. They’re more like the bulletin board on which you fasten your content, the canvas onto which you paint your content, the skin of a cheek that’s bearded with a thousand tiny whiskers of content.

But we’re not technically speaking right now. For the purpose of this article, you can just think of them as content. We’ll worry about the difference later. Just be aware that there is a difference.


Management seems pretty self-explanatory. In our context, it is synonymous with the word “organize” or “organization.”  So managing your content means to organize it in a way that makes sense.


A system in this context is a central location you can go that makes it possible to perform several tasks in one place. More broadly speaking, it’s one tool to help you do lots of different things.

So when we put this all together, we can say that a content management system is a central tool that allows you to organize every visible thing on your website. The purpose of a CMS is to make it possible for non-technical people to modify websites. In other words, you don’t need to be a programmer to make changes.

What Makes a CMS so Useful?

A CMS is mostly there to help non-technical people, much like yourself perhaps, who aren’t savvy with code. For small and large business owners, it means not having to go into the code to make changes to the site. We know you've got bigger fish to fry than sitting around, fiddling with the CSS code on your website.

Websites without content management systems tend to be static pages—pages that rarely or never change—because it is so difficult to make changes. But with a CMS, just about anyone can go in and make changes easily and quickly to their website—well anyone with login access, of course. Everything is secured from unauthorized users.

Some CMSs go so far as to make the layout editable, which can save a lot of time and money on web designers. A good CMS takes what used to be possibly a five-person operation into the hands of a single, average-joe kind of user.

Open Source vs. Closed Source

If you aren’t familiar with the terms “open source” and “closed source,” I will briefly explain them. Open source software is essentially free in the sense that the source code that runs the system can be accessed and contributed to by anyone, so theoretically anyone can install it and use it. The problem with open source, if there is one, lies in its very nature. Since the code behind it is accessible to everyone, it’s also accessible to hackers. Open source content management systems should be less secure than closed source ones in theory, and that’s true in many cases. However, we have found the Plone content management system to be very secure. We use Plone on many of the sites we deploy for this reason.

The problem with closed source software is that there are far fewer people working on the code behind it, meaning a much smaller community to support you if you need help with something. Not to mention the cost factor associated with it (i.e. it can get really expensive just for licensing alone, but many organizations need more than that. Once you add in extended support and maintenance, you better be willing to pay for it). For most cases, we have found the shortcomings of closed source software to far outweigh the advantages. We only provide open source technology with fewer shortcomings and more advantages from both sides.

Notable Open Source Content Management Systems

Here is a list of notable open source content management systems:

  • Plone
  • Wordpress
  • Drupal
  • Joomla!

You are probably familiar with Wordpress, which is by far and away the most popular open source CMS platform out there today. It is used by bloggers, small businesses, and large enterprises. The reason it has gained so much popularity is that it is arguably the easiest CMS to use. But is it really?

There are plenty of others out there, and some actually are better for different purposes. For instance, Wordpress isn’t as appropriate for very large organizations as Plone is, and it’s nowhere near as secure. In fact, Wordpress has logged more than 15 times as many common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) as Plone has. So Plone is much more suited for security-conscious organizations.

Wordpress is popular among bloggers and very small businesses, because it's easy and cheap to set up a website. Wordpress is also advertised as an enterprise content management system, which means it can be used for large organizations. The problem with that is it's trying to be everything all at once, instead of focusing on what it's good at. Plone knows what it's good at, and that's enterprise content management. 

Notable Closed Source Content Management Systems

One of the most popular closed source content management systems is Microsoft Sharepoint. As a content management system, it seems to be on its way out. It’s true that Microsoft has set it aside to focus on other products. But Sharepoint is being coupled with a lot of other Microsoft Office programs that will simply change the way it’s being used. It’s just so uncertain, and with this transition, there are a lot of other licenses you’ll have to have to use Sharepoint. So while it’ll still be marginally supported, I’m not sure if it should be. If you’re using Sharepoint now, it might be best to transition to an open source solution.

If you want more information about how you or your organization can switch to a better content management solution, Wildcard can help. Email, call 715-869-3440, or visit for more information about how we can make your website dreams a reality.

Come back for next week's Acronym Monday for a discussion of the acronym CDN: what it means and when you need it.