The Difference Between a CMS and a Web Experience Platform

This much-debated topic requires further clarity that will, in turn, benefit both the platform provider and the buyer. Let’s start with a definition of each and compare the core differences between them that set them apart.

A CMS, technically a WCMS for Web Content Management System, is used to build, launch, manage, and host websites. In the case of CMS, the user experience is singular, displaying the same content and messaging to every user.

A Web Experience Platform is also used to build, launch, manage, and host websites. However, a Web Experience Platform delivers a different experience to every website visitor based on a plethora of data which is leveraged to personalize the user experience. With the ability to personalize content and deliver different user experiences to every customer persona, the opportunities are limitless.

Websites built on a CMS are focused on singular content and messaging while a Web Experience Platform can deliver unique web experiences with the content, medium, and messaging completely personalized to the user. Yes, content is still the operative term but it is no longer singular. In a Web Experience Platform, you have tons of content ready to serve up to a wide range of customer personas.

Currently, CMS companies are desperately scrambling to become Web Experience Platforms as they have noticed the tremendous benefit in doing so. Serving up personalized content tailored to the user, giving one user a different experience with your website than another, that is where the future of website management is headed.

As CMS companies scramble to pivot towards delivering tailored web experiences, existing Web Experience Platforms are far ahead of the game but not for long. It is likely that by the end of 2017 a majority of companies previously known as CMS providers will rebrand themselves as Web Experience Platforms. This will push the boundaries of programming languages, web design, and frameworks as well as the designers and engineers who use them, forcing them to adapt to the new standard in web development which will undoubtedly lead to new programming languages, frameworks, web design practices and much more.

Be wary of vendors that claim to be Web Experience Platforms. A lot of CMS companies are calling themselves Web Experience Platforms, even if they technically aren’t, and others are holding onto the CMS acronym while adding a Web Experience Platform, almost as an additive to the CMS. And everyone else is either a true Web Experience Platform or a CMS. You cannot be both at the same time, the entire purpose and vision of each product, despite being web oriented, is drastically different.

The Web Experience Platform, at times known as a Digital Experience Manager, will become the new standard as technology moves quickly and the entire CMS market migrates their focus to the digital experience. So if you’re looking for a website solution you now know the state of the union and can ask the right questions when looking for platforms to build and manage your website(s).

Begin with this question. Can you really deliver content tailored to the user? And I don’t mean an ad targeted at a certain user that takes them to a certain landing page. I mean someone visiting your website, and all of its pages, and seeing content specific to the customer persona they fall into.

For example, your company sells to marketers, developers, software executives, and agencies. So in the case of a Web Experience Platform, you create content for all of those customer personas and create a conditional structure to serve up the appropriate content based on the persona of the user which can come from several sources of data, namely behavior, cookies, browser history, viewing device, etc.

So reading this as a business executive you’re probably going to ask your IT or Engineering Lead tomorrow why you don’t have a Web Experience Platform. They probably won’t know what that is but tell them to step on it. Be there first, don’t join in at the last second because there isn’t a better time to switch as long as you find the proper vendor with a roadmap to increase the level of personalization the platform provides.

As an end user, a consumer on the web, guess what? Less closing out of windows, skipping through pages, and wasting time looking for the right content online— it’ll be tailor made and served to you. The effect of this shift will be felt across the digital world not just on websites but all digital devices as content becomes more personalized and the experience becomes the focus.

As a buyer, when debating whether or not to choose a CMS or a Web Experience Platform it's much like debating over whether to get a 2017 BMW 7 Series or a 1994 Honda Civic assuming they cost the same. Wouldn't you rather be driving the brand new BMW 7 series?

Web Experience Platforms are the next generation of Content Management Systems. Make sure your existing CMS has a product roadmap that leads to evolving into a Web Experience Platform and if not, find a Web Experience Platform that runs on all six cylinders.

About the Author

Shawn Moore is the founder & CTO of Solodev and the driving force behind the Solodev Web Experience Platform. A visionary leader, Shawn has strategically grown Solodev from inception to a successful company that services clients across the nation and has been named to the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing private companies for the past two years in a row.

Winner of several industry awards for Best CTO and CIO, Shawn Moore is changing the content management landscape with Solodev. With over a decade of executive experience serving as CEO of Solodev and COO for software company Helium Flash, Shawn has the industry knowledge and product passion that continues to drive the development of the Solodev Platform. He is a graduate of Stetson University and often speaks on IT related trends and topics at conferences and universities across the state.