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CMS or WCM - Which is Which?

By Mike Johnston September 7, 2011 Articles and Editorials  Comments


One of the more common errors made when evaluating products designed to enable an online presence is the misunderstanding of the difference between a WCM and a CMS.

In order to help alleviate this confusion, I thought I'd offer up how I view the two, so you can get a better understanding when trying to decide which solutions to explore as part of your short listing process.


A WCM is a Web Content Management system. These systems are designed to provide your organization with a means of putting your business online with relative ease. A WCM, on a basic level, will offer such features as: easy content editing, versioning (revisions of your content), media management, workflow management for content approvals and publishing, template modification and an easy to use dashboard of sorts to provide you with an overview of your site(s). Most CMS vendors offer WCM within their enterprise suites but they can also be offered as standalone packages for smaller organizations.

Examples of web content management systems include (but are not limited to):

  • Percussion CM1 (
  • Endplay (
  • DotNetNuke (


A CMS, on the other hand, is a system that provides a way for multiple users to collaborate, interact with and control access to data through a common interface. While some CMS vendors may bundle their content management systems with WCM components, this is not always the case, nor is it mandatory.

Examples of content management systems include (but are not limited to):

  • Autonomy (
  • Alfresco (

The biggest issue nowadays is the misuse of the terms and this can often lead to a great deal of confusion as some WCM vendors may call their systems CMS, when in fact, they are not.

For those interested in learning about what a Portal is (so may terms, so little time!) you can read this excellent write up by Paul of Liferay: which gives a great overview and explanation - Thanks Paul!

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Mike Johnston

Mike Johnston Author

I am the guy behind CMS Critic and the Co Founder of Website Builders Critic. When not traveling the world attending and covering conferences, I am based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I live with my beautiful wife and kids. Visit me on my wife and my blogUnicorns in the Mist.