5 Characteristics of A Modern CMS

Jason Smith

Monolithic, legacy and traditional; these are some of the words used to describe the outdated CMS platforms that struggle to keep up today. Now, buzzwords like headless, multi-tenant, and hybrid have replaced them as a means of describing the modern CMS.

But what exactly is a modern CMS, how is it different from a traditional CMS, and when we move beyond these buzzwords, what are some of the things that it should have?

Evolution of the CMS

The CMS landscape can be a complicated one as every year some new technologies and terminologies come into play. It can be difficult for any person to keep up with the latest trends and understand what they should be looking for in a modern CMS, but the key terms to focus on include headless and hybrid.

A headless CMS acts as a content management system without the presentation or front-end layer. Companies find themselves embracing these headless technologies to deliver the experiences that their customers crave so much. Businesses are trying to move past the traditional web-only experiences they relied upon before. They are instead moving to embrace the influx of IoT, voice and other emerging channels. The way to do this is through a CMS with headless capabilities.

However, these headless solutions are not without drawbacks. While developers and IT staff revel in the lack of a presentation layer, allowing them to integrate a headless CMS with every channel where content needs to be delivered, headless CMS platforms place limitations on the marketers that create the content in the first place.

As a result of the limitations of headless technologies, companies may soon begin to embrace the next wave of CMS innovation, the hybrid CMS. A hybrid CMS provides the freedom of a headless CMS without removing the functionality and ease of a traditional platform for less technical team members.

Here are a few characteristics of the modern CMS that you need to know.

Speed (Agility and time to market)

For the casual web-surfer, speed and page loading times are some of the crucial aspects of whether they remain on a web or mobile page. A delay of only 1 second can reduce page views by 11% and decrease customer satisfaction by 16%. Consumers are used to quick loading times, and companies need a CMS with advanced capabilities that help to increase time-to-market along with business and IT agility. This speed and flexibility should also reduce the Total-Cost-of-Ownership for digital efforts.

Consumers are seeking out experiences from companies, not just information, and this is placing an increased demand on the technology infrastructure at major organizations as they seek to deliver these scalable digital experiences. A modern CMS needs to have the appropriate architecture and underlying technology to sustain these experiences and maintain functionality.

A traditional CMS backend undergoes slow and drawn out changes that make it impossible to keep up with the changing digital experience landscape. A modern hybrid CMS, on the other hand, is capable of running on fast, agile cycles and continuous delivery.

Scalability (Architecture and Management)

When considering a CMS system today, one of the key characteristics that should be top of mind is scalability. We are currently in the early stages of omnichannel, and customer demands are changing more rapidly than they ever have before. Organizations, therefore, need not only to consider where they are today but where they could potentially be in the future. A good understanding of what needs to fulfil now and what new additions in terms of features, products and integrations need to add later on is necessary.

A modern CMS, therefore, needs to have the scalability to cope with these changes. Proper infrastructure and multi-tenant capabilities should allow you to scale across your organization quickly and easily. Content must be served in a reliant manner regardless of the final endpoint, providing the flexibility necessary for new channels in the future.

As a cloud-first CMS, dotCMS provides the architecture for both local and global enterprises with almost 100% uptime guarantees. This allows your team to be flexible and better adapt to changing customer trends and future innovations.

Content, Sites and even OSGi plugins can be migrated across environments. Web sites and applications can be separated into n-tiers, allowing for a custom deployment process design that meets your organization’s requirements.

API First

Businesses today run on content; it provides the infrastructure that helps enterprises to thrive in today’s digital ecosystem. Marketers and developers often find themselves working together to deliver engaging customer experiences. A modern CMS needs to be able to provide content to multiple endpoints by using an API. A robust API architecture allows you to create content once and deliver it anywhere.

A high-performance GraphQL API allows you to minimize JSON payloads, combine requests and only get back the information that you need and prevent over fetching. Schemas are auto-generated based on the content repository and content can be queried and returned both quickly and efficiently. As an API-first platform, dotCMS provides API capabilities for content, layout, authentications and navigation.

New channels and endpoints will continue to emerge in the not too distance future. These changes will require a modern CMS that has the headless capabilities to seamlessly integrate across different channels without removing the user experience that marketers need.


To successfully provide a multichannel experience for consumers, a CMS platform needs to be able to connect and integrate with other technologies and MarTech software. Security is paramount to protecting not only your interests as an organization but also those of your customers.

An extensible security mechanism that allows for secure integrations with external authentication and authorization services. Adequate security today also requires a capable cloud partner to meet the demands of availability and security. Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides infrastructure and a perimeter layer where access to data centers is restricted and enforced. Entry is controlled and monitored, access is scrutinized, data center workers are scrutinized, and centers are monitored to prevent unauthorized entry.


Creating an effective omnichannel experience also requires personalization. Consumers want to have relevant experiences as they go through their customer journey no matter how many channels and touchpoints. A modern CMS needs to provide content targeting, that can be optimized based on personas or geographical location if necessary to help create these large scale dynamic personalized experiences.

When dealing with personalized content at scale, consumers expect content to be tailored specifically to them and only them. They demand a hyper-personalized approach, and with a growing number of emerging channels, this will only continue to increase.

dotCMS: A Modern CMS for All Your Needs

If you’re trying to decide on your next CMS, then you’re probably wondering if it should be traditional, headless or something else entirely. Any modern CMS needs to provide you with the flexibility to meet the needs of both your IT and marketing departments. It needs to have speed, scalability, security, API capabilities and personalization. You need a hybrid CMS to provide you with the best infrastructure and the ease-of-use your content team requires. You need dotCMS.

Jason Smith
Chief User Experience Officer
March 03, 2020

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