What is CMS Architecture? A Quick Reference Guide

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Content Management Systems (CMS) were designed to streamline the creation and distribution of website content. More than half of the sites surveyed by W3Techs use a CMS. WordPress has a market share of almost 40%, but other solutions like HubSpot and Shopify exist. Joomla and Drupal have also made significant gains.

Many site owners are more concerned with the functionality of their CMS than the form. Users only care about the infrastructure if the system makes distributing and creating content easy. CMS is evolving, but as websites become a crucial part of brand success, it’s essential to understand the basic architecture.

Ready? Let’s dive in with our CMS architecture quick reference guide.

What is CMS Architecture?

The CMS architecture is the implementation of both frontend and backend processes in CMS systems.CMS architecture is the relationship between tools to create, edit and publish posts and pages.

Most site owners only care about this relationship occasionally. As long as CMS frameworks work as intended, there’s no reason to dig in and learn the inner workings of CMS architecture.

In response to the diversification of the market and the emergence of new CMS solutions, however, there have been new methods for implementing an architecture that delivers specific advantages. While WordPress will serve most website owners well, in some cases, another type of CMS architecture may be better suited to their goals.

Types and Architecture of CMS

There are five types of CMS architecture.

  • Traditional (also known as Coupled)
  • Decoupled
  • Headless
  • Hybrid
  • SaaS

Each of these categories will be discussed in detail.

Coupled CMS

The most popular and well-known CMS architecture is coupled (or traditional CMS). It is used by platforms like mybloggingidea, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. The concept behind coupled CMS architectures is straightforward: Frontend publishing processes are “coupled” with backend processes.

Both content editors and website designers will see the same interface and tools when creating websites using CMS tools. This architecture framework integrates content delivery systems into the architecture so that both ends of the CMS depend on the same resources.

The advantages of a combined CMS solution include the following:

  • Infrastructure investment is minimal
  • Easy integration and deployment
  • The ideal solution for single-site small sites

It also has potential disadvantages, such as:

  • Security vulnerabilities
  • Customization options are limited
  • CMS scaling is linked to provider databases

Decoupled CMS

Decoupled CMS systems separate — or “decouple — front- and backend processes. The result is an admin and publishing architecture that rarely interacts. Both have their resources and rules. It allows admins to make significant backend changes without affecting frontend processes. It allows for separate scaling of resources. It is then possible to target specific frontend and backend needs without spending too much on infrastructure.

Decoupled CMS advantages are:

  • Delivering content quickly
  • Secure files and Website Content
  • Improve site uptime

Some of the disadvantages are:

  • Increased complexity in deployment and management
  • Costs for frontend development, scaling, and scaling up could be higher.

Headless CMS

The headless CMS architecture, in principle, is similar to the decoupled frameworks—both separate frontend and backend processes for better performance and scalability. The absence of a single frontend destination distinguishes headless CMS.

Headless solutions use APIs to distribute content to multiple frontend channels, unlike decoupled ones that use a single frontend for content distribution and publishing. Headless architecture is gaining popularity due to the rapid growth of mobile devices and the need for native content and websites.

Advantages of Headless CMS include:

  • Freedom to experiment and develop multiple frontends
  • Content is delivered seamlessly to any device
  • Website owners can select the frontend that best suits their needs

There are other potential disadvantages as well, such as:

  • Increased costs to manage multiple frontends and backend frameworks
  • Complexity increases as all themes and templates are custom-built

Hybrid CMS

A hybrid CMS architecture is a combination of decoupled, coupled, and headless frameworks that streamline content creation and delivery. The backend and the frontend remain separate to empower developers. However, the frontend is an API-driven solution.

Read also: Best WordPress Alternatives in 2023 (Top WordPress Competitors)

It’s basically a CMS without a user interface that manages publication channels on different platforms.

A hybrid CMS has the following advantages:

  • An environment that is easy to use for creating content
  • Share content across multiple platforms and applications
  • Create content using a single framework, but distribute it anywhere and anytime

The biggest challenge of a hybrid CMS. Content management. With API-driven distribution making it easy to send content anywhere, managing this content across CMS databases is more challenging than with coupled or decoupled models and requires more outstanding technical expertise.


All-in-one hosting providers typically offer software-as-a-service CMS solutions. SaaS is a solution that makes it easier to publish content than using a decoupled CMS or customized hybrid or coupled CMS.

SaaS solutions are simple to use. No setup or management is needed. It’s also the most significant disadvantage, as there is no way to modify processes or customize content because it is all handled by hosting providers.

CMS Architecture Best Practices

Consider these three CMS architecture best practices if you need help determining which CMS solution is best for your business.

  • Identify your requirements — What is your CMS supposed to do for you? Coupled architecture is often the best option for running a website with simple templating requirements. Consider a hybrid or headless option if your brand is expanding and you want to be able to push content quickly to multiple channels.


  • Minimize Complexity – Complicated content could be more successful. Choosing the CMS architecture that is the minor complex for your needs is essential. Decoupled solutions are a good option if, for example, you need more complex backend programming and frontend code that is easy to manage.

    A straightforward SaaS may be enough if you are starting with your website.

  • Maximize output – The more relevant the content you deliver to your customers, the greater your visitor numbers and the better the SEO. It’s essential to select a CMS architecture that allows you to create, manage and deliver great content quickly.

    Consider a headless option if sheer volume and variety are your goals. Coupled architecture is the best option for consistency between content producers and editors.

Architecture for Successful Results

Although your CMS architecture might not be a significant factor in your day-to-day operations and decision-making, choosing the proper framework – coupled, decoupled, or hybrid – can help you achieve short- and long-term site success.

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