Is WordPress a CMS?

cms press

Seems like every day I read a comment about “the WordPress CMS” (Content Management System), or how great WordPress is as a CMS, or something similar. I admit, I have to cringe. Not because I don’t like WordPress — because I do like it very much… but whether or not I “like” WordPress being described and sold as a CMS.

Purist will, of course, balk at the idea of lumping WordPress into the same class as other well-known Content Management Systems – like Joomla, Drupal, Concrete 5, DotNetNuke, and so on. I’m sure many of their arguments are valid, but at the same time, I’m also sure many of them will take their stance just because it’s “cool” to parrot someone else’s opinion on the matter.

So, let’s address the question using a bit of critical thinking.


Wikipedia describes a CMS as “a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface.” WordPress certainly satisfies that definition, as well as many other web applications. However, the definition is very vague and covers way too much ground in my opinion.

Perhaps we should look at how most of the well known CMS systems actually work to come up with standards with which we can make comparisons. So, let’s look at individual aspects (or personality traits) of other CMS’s and compare our findings to WordPress.

English: Does Your Website Need a Web Content ...

My first experience was with DotNetNuke, a CMS build on the .NET framework. The first thing that stood out to me – and why I thought of DNN as an example of a true Content Management System – was the way on-page “containers” were set up. Containers, in the DNN world, were actually like mini web pages within a larger web page. Each of the containers could be defined to hold a specific document type, or content type, or even an individual application. In other words, consistent placement of individual types of content on a specific spot on the page was the ultimate goal. In the DNN world (and I later discovered with most CMS applications), themes were built around this container paradigm.

WordPress, on the other hand, does not “enforce” this type of strategy. True, they do have container-like components – sidebar widgets, header banners, the content (post) area; but they are actually more of an afterthought built in to a theme dependent philosophy. Sometimes, WordPress containers are persistent between theme changes, but more often than not if you switch themes you are forced to redefine everything.

Strike one for WordPress (in regards to WordPress being a true CMS).

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The second aspect of most Content Management Systems that differs from WordPress is how the content is actually managed. In WordPress, content “type” is ultimately very important. A post is decidedly different from a comment, which is decidedly different from an image, and so on. Each is “handled” differently from the others. Recently, WordPress tried to improve this by storing as much as possible in the wp_posts table, and incorporated different post types to improve the “single level” philosophy of content, but it is still very programmatic (or script) oriented in it’s application.

Other CMS’s pretty much treat each type of content like any other type of content. Going back to the container issue – it matters not what’s in the container, it’s just a container. If I want pictures “here” and the guestbook “there”, I can just switch them without breaking the theme or site, and I don’t have to make script changes. It just happens – content type “independence” is very handy in that respect.

Strike two for WordPress.

English: Screenshot of the WordPress Plugin OSM

Finally, the dependence on themes and/or plugins to do some of the things most Content Management Systems have “built in” to them is absolutely ridiculous. Modifying a theme should not product an entirely different flow to a site (with WordPress, it almost always does), and requiring a plugin for something as simple as a basic contact form really blows my mind (that would seem to be a no-brainer). Plus, because the WordPress framework is so “loose”, it is far too easy for one plugin to mess up the results produced by another plugin or theme.

Strike three for WordPress.

So, now that it would appear that all of the “claims” by various authors and sellers of sundry plugin and themes and what-nots that WordPress is a “very powerful CMS” are suspect, what really should be call WordPress? Obviously, it has come a long way from being the blogging tool is started as (if simple blogging is your goal, Tumblr and Blogger are much better and easier candidates for that). Personally, I would like to have people refer to WordPress as a “Publishing Platform”, because that’s what it really feels like to me.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I like WordPress (a least partly because of my programming expertise – I can “hack” it easily and effectively). I think WordPress is very powerful while being very flexible. You can turn a WordPress install into anything from an eCommerce site, to a Membership Site, to a Newspaper, to a Social Network. With the right theme and/or plugins, of course. I find that fun and exciting.

But, I still can’t consider it a CMS. Maybe it’s just me…

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26 Responses to “Is WordPress a CMS?”

  1. Hi Tech Reply

    What Content Management System (CMS) Website Platform Is Most SEO Friendly? Hello
    What is the Content Management System (CMS) website platform is the most SEO friendly?

    View Comment
    • To start with, most CMS systems are not SEO friendly. Most need to take the help of plugins or programming workarounds. With that out of the way, from experience of the major popular ones, WordPress is the easiest to setup as an SEO friendly CMS. For Ecommerce Magento has put some effort in this direction.

      View Comment
  2. Subhash Prajapati Reply

    Why We Need Mobile Content Management System? Having a website which represents your personal business is a blessing in disguise as it helps in the effective promotion of the same. This website might require regular updating, but this doesn???t mean that every time an update needs to be made there would a need to a technical expert to be present to do so. Today with the help of Content Management System (CMS), the entire data or the content of a website can be maintained and managed using certain software and databases.

    View Comment
    • So that you can update your content anytime anywhere as loang as you have an internet connection.

      View Comment
  3. Abbas h Reply

    I Have Seen Website With Thousands Of Pages.How The Webmaster Develop These Kind Pages? I have seen website with hundreds even thousands of pages.How the webmaster develop these kind of pages?What is Content Management System?

    View Comment
  4. [Q] Reply

    How To Create A Content Management System For A Website? I’m building a website that would need a content management system for articles and for uploaded photos under a user Admin, this is a dynamic website and no i don’t want to use joomla and drupal.

    News: (id, articles, content) add, delete, edit
    Photo: (id, photo, description) add, delete, edit

    i really need help on this been trying to look for a good tutorial but i can’t get a grasp of it…

    View Comment
    • This is a huge project. You would need a very strong grasp of HTML / CSS / JavaScript as well as a server side language like PHP and a database like MySQL / SQLite / PostgreSQL.

      Unless you have strong skills in all those things, then you should just use Joomla or Drupal.

      Why not use something that is free, thoroughly tested and stable?

      View Comment
  5. Hi Tech Reply

    What Content Management System (CMS) Website Platform Is Most SEO Friendly? Hello
    What is the Content Management System (CMS) website platform is the most SEO friendly?

    View Comment
    • To start with, most CMS systems are not SEO friendly. Most need to take the help of plugins or programming workarounds. With that out of the way, from experience of the major popular ones, WordPress is the easiest to setup as an SEO friendly CMS. For Ecommerce Magento has put some effort in this direction.

      View Comment
  6. David Reply

    PHP Content Management System ( CMS )? Do you know any php cms that have following features

    1. Forum
    2. Classified Ads (paid & non-paid)
    3. Tell a friend
    4. Banner Advertising
    5. News (optional)
    6. Directory…like link directory (optional)

    and 7. Search Engine Friendly (optional)

    View Comment
  7. Tech Reply

    To Know More About Content Management System Website Maintenance.? Is it possible to maintain a cms shopping website in adding and deleting the products by a non programm?

    View Comment
    • Yes, it is possible if you use the right approach.

      The biggest problem is that CMS offerings have become so bloated and gadget-riddled and so full of confusing terms and options that the CMS itself is hard to get users to understand and use correctly.

      I now use and strongly recommend a simple content editing system called Unify. It is not a CMS- it’s a content editor, and this is what gives it impressive advantages over CMS systems.

      It is trivial to implement on any HTML web page. It does not require a special template of any kind, and it is exceedingly simple for users to learn and actually use.

      When users want to edit their web page content (text, pictures, videos) they log on, but they do not see a CMS interface- they see their own web pages. They click a small icon to edit the content they want on their own page, and they’re done in seconds. Practically no training or effort is needed.

      If you use the link below, you can watch a video that shows how in 60-seconds you can use Unify to make a web page editable, and then actually begin editing it. Amazing!

      View Comment
  8. Anonymous Reply

    Aspects Of Learning Content Management System? Which amongst is the best aspect of LCMS:CMS or Webinar or Email Marketting

    View Comment
    • Well if you want to know the aspects of Learning Content management system then i would suggest you to first go through webinars and understand what they say after which you can go for email marketing. but the best way to learn that is join a workplace who practicing Content management system, practical knowledge is really important.

      View Comment
  9. Vipin john Reply

    What Is CMS?? Content Management System? Heard that Joomla & WordPress are CMS’s…

    What is really CMS??

    TNK U

    View Comment
    • Content Management means that you can basically create all the content for a website without actually needing to know any HTML as you’ll be providided with an editor like you use in Word.

      Joomla is a very complex system though so I would advise starting out with wordpress first.

      Hope that helps


      View Comment
  10. Ilikepizza Reply

    (CMS) Content Management System…what Is It ? Talking about websites…can you explain in simple terms what this is ?

    thank you

    View Comment
    • CMS means Content Mangement System. A Content Management System is quite simply- a system that manages content. A CMS is a tool that enables a variety of (centralised) technical and (de-centralised) non technical staff to create, edit, manage and finally publish (in a number of formats) a variety of content (such as text, graphics, video, documents etc).

      A content management system is frequently a web application used for managing websites and web content, though in many cases, content management systems require special client software for editing and constructing articles. Most CMS allow you to administrate users and give them roles …editor, manager, administrator, etc. Your can also have regular users if you are creating member-based site.

      These are some typical CMS features that can be very useful …
      Easy handling of users according to roles, eg admin role, editor role, viewer role etc.
      Easy update of website content using backend forms.

      It saves you a lot of time when you need to update you content. CMS costs a little more than your typical website. But, it will save you thousands in the long run as you can edit the content yourself.

      View Comment
  11. Chris Reply

    Is Dreamweaver An Example Of A CMS? (Content Management System)? If not what are some examples?

    View Comment
    • No. Dreamweaver is a GUI web design HTML/CSS editor. It is a program that is used to create HTML and other code to upload to a web server.

      A CMS is a program that runs on a web server and stores the contents of web pages seperately from the design of the web pages. This allows it to provide easy-to-use facilities for editing, managing and updating the contents of the pages.

      Most blog sites run a kind of CMS, so that the blogger only has to type the text of the blog, and doesn’t have to edit HTML to create a new blog post.

      WordPress, Joomla and Drupal spring to my mind as examples of CMS, though there are many more. Some CMS are tailored for a particular type of website, while others are more general-purpose. A lot of larger websites run a custom-made CMS that’s designed specifically for the needs of that site.

      View Comment
  12. P H Reply

    Which Content Management System To Utilize For A Multi-User Site? I have a concept for a multi-user site and am looking for suggestions on which CMS to move forward with. I have made multiple sites through drag-and-drop content management systems like Weebly, as I have limited HTML/CSS experience and no PHP experience.

    I am looking for a drag-and-drop CMS that is capable of allowing users to have their own username/password/login, preferably with an individualized interface similar to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. (but doesn’t necessarily have to be an individualized interface — e.g. Reddit/forum-based). I would also like it to be capable of functionality such as sharing to social networks, or if not that, the ability to “+1” topics similarly to that of Reddit. If learning WordPress or the like is necessary, then that is the route I will head, but I’d like to keep things as code-free as possible for the time being if that is a plausible option.

    I also realize that hosting, etc. could become an issue long-term via simple content management systems, but am willing to risk that for the time being. Any guidance/direction would be greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can answer any questions or clarify anything.

    View Comment
  13. Jay Reply

    Web Content Management System? Can you integrate a web content management system into an existing website? If so, how difficult is it? What web content management system do you recommend and approx cost.

    View Comment

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