CMS or WCM - Which is Which?

By Mike Johnston September 7, 2011 (Updated: July 3, 2015) 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):


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):

You can see a full list of all platforms broken down into helpful categories within our directory here:

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.

Website Builders

Further to CMS and WCM there are also products called Website Builders. These products are hosted in the cloud (meaning you don't have separate hosting costs to worry about) and are designed to help you quickly and efficiently build a website or online store with ease. Most of the time, they are extremely easy to use and packed with features.

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


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.

If you need further help or clarification, post in our forums and we'll get right back to you!

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Mike Johnston

Mike Johnston Author

I am the guy behind CMS Critic. When not traveling, I am based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I live with my beautiful wife and kids. I provide business consulting, brand management services, web development & design, and consulting (CMS, CXM). I can also be found speaking at conferences and am successfully enjoying life as a Canadian entrepreneur.