The use of content management systems (CMS) and learning management systems (LMS) are on the rise as teams rely more on cloud set-ups to manage and deploy their programs to customers.
Even though both CMS and LMS systems are widely in use and they both just seem like content storage platforms, most people don’t actually know how to differentiate the two.
Understanding the difference between CMS vs LMS is vital to keep your marketing, product, and sales teams focused, aligned, and able to meet their goals without stepping on each other’s toes!
- Understanding CMS platforms
- Understanding Learning Management Systems (LMS)
- Differences Between CMS and LMS
- Similarities Between CMS and LMS
- How CMS and LMS can complement each other
- How to Choose Between a CMS and an LMS
Definition and characteristics of CMS platforms
A content management system is an online platform that allows marketing teams to build and maintain their own applications, like websites or mobile sites. In 2023, nearly 69% of companies have employed at least one CMS platform to create, deploy, and manage their website.
Some characteristics of a CMS include the ability to:
- Have multiple team members to create and upload content to the website at the same time
- Drag-and-drop design website landing pages optimized to various screen sizes
- Store and index SEO-friendly URLs with search engines
- Host files for downloading and sharing on the website such as PDFs, PPTs, and images
- Preview, deploy, and schedule content to go live
- Establish content hierarchies and taxonomies
- Conduct version history, create backups, and upload backups or restore previous versions when necessary
- Integrate with other marketing tooling to extend the capabilities such as accepting form submissions and identifying broken links on the site
Examples of CMS platforms
|WordPress||Designed for: companies that want a lot of customization in their website|
|Shopify||Designed for: easy set-up of ecommerce marketplaces|
Pricing: Starts at $51 per month
|Hubspot||Designed for: B2B teams that need to track a customer’s content engagement across the sales lifecycle|
Pricing: Has a free plan and paid plans start at $23 per month
|Webflow||Designed for: beginners who need a drag-and-drop no-code tool|
Pricing: Has a free plan and paid plans start at $18 per month
|Drupal||Designed for: developers who want a high level of customization with an open-source platform|
Advantages and disadvantages of a CMS platform
Some advantages to using a CMS include:
- It’s easy to visualize what new landing pages or files on the website will look like before launch
- Allows you to post a blog, sell items through an e-commerce storefront, offer a visual portfolio of your work, and more!
- Generally, sites launched through a CMS are easy to view on any device type or screen size
- Often CMS tools are operated through a drag-and-drop or low-code system so it’s a great way for beginners to design websites
- If you need to restore a previous version of a page, it’s easy to do so (as long as you have a backup saved)
- CMS platforms are popular enough that there are many versions on the market to choose from today, including specialized options like Shopify for ecommerce teams
- Most CMS systems will automatically conduct system updates or software repairs on their own (or it takes little manual effort)
Some disadvantages to using a CMS include:
- Some CMS options like WordPress have very little to offer in itself and most of the functionality comes through plug-ins (some paid, some free)
- Difficulty identifying what is contributing to slow site loading speeds or decreasing SEO rankings
- CMS systems have foundational similarities across all sites that use them, which makes it easy for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities on multiple sites at once
- Even though it’s a tool to build the site, it won’t necessarily give you guidance or tips on how to create a great user experience (UX)
- Limited tracking capabilities directly through the CMS, most often you’ll need to rely on third party apps for tracking user behavior on the site
Definition and characteristics of an LMS
A learning management system is a platform used to support virtual educational experiences. Schools, businesses, and individuals are all reaching for online learning opportunities, valuing the e-learning market at just shy of USD$400 billion in 2022.
Businesses leverage LMS platforms to distribute onboarding and product training to employees. To do this, some characteristics of an LMS include the ability to:
- Upload course materials in various formats including images, videos, PDFs, downloadable templates (including .PPT and .XLS)
- Create interactive components such as quizzes, polls, surveys, and games
- Create student and class or group profiles
- Assign courses and lessons to specific students
- Set-up custom roles and permissions for educators, learners, content uploaders, and other support personnel
- Track student progress and activity (eg. logins) throughout the course
- Create links to share courses to potential new students
- Create and award certificates for course completion, which can be downloaded or shared through a link
- Send reminders to course participants about remaining lessons
- Send notifications to educators or supervisors about reports, grades, progress, and more
- Create reports that are available for download or sharing through an automatically created link
- Automatically update software for maintenance and repairs as needed
Additional features that not all LMS systems may have, or that they may support through third-party apps include:
- Integration with payment systems or ability to accept payments directly. This also can include currency conversion, acceptance of discounts or promotional codes, and various payment models
- Ability to interact with other students in discussion forums or community areas
Examples of Learning Management Systems (LMS)
|Thinkific Plus||Designed for: large organizations that need to train their customers, partners and teams at scale or generate revenue through the sale of online learning products. |
Pricing: Request pricing.
|Forma LMS||Designed for: teams who need a mobile LMS for corporate training|
|TalentLMS||Designed for: budget-minded small-to-medium sized companies|
Pricing: Starts at $69USD per month
|Moodle||Designed for: teams that want a lot of customization through an open-source platform|
|iSpring||Designed for: businesses that need to conduct frequent product trainings|
Advantages and disadvantages of LMS
Some advantages to using an LMS include:
- Having a centralized place to educate customers, partners and employees about your company and products which can improve conversion and new feature adoption rates.
- Platforms like Thinkific Plus allow you to create online education content that you can use to generate new leads and revenue for you business.
- Synchronizing branding and user experience elements to match with your software product or company style, which improves your company’s quality reputation.
- It’s easy to track progress for every learner, including getting notified of when students are due for recertification.
- Simplifying the process for updating course content saves time for your internal teams and means that your learners are never going to be educated on outdated materials.
- Being able to drive up interaction and course completion rates with engaging elements like quizzes and games.
- Building a community around your brand and offerings through discussion forums, which can drive up product adoption.
- Enabling product educational content to be available in a variety of formats including mobile learning allows more customers and employees to learn about your offerings
- Some LMS platforms allow you to accept payments directly, which means there’s less additional software that you need to acquire
Some disadvantages to using an LMS include:
- It will always require at least one maintenance person who is responsible for course updates and a small level of administrative work.
- It may take time for customers and employees to understand how the LMS works and be able to use it independently.
- Some LMS systems may not be able to host very large video files, as it can slow down the loading speed of your course. You should ensure that the LMS you select has wide video hosting capabilities.
The main difference between a CMS and an LMS is that a CMS creates a website often for the purpose of lead generation while an LMS creates a course website to educate customers, leads, partners and employees. Because of this, it creates a few other differences, including:
|Creates a website, mostly for the purpose of lead generation||Creates a course website to educate customers, leads, partners and employees|
|Users can navigate around in their own path||Paths are typically built for learners to navigate in one direction|
|Offers content in landing pages, and educational pieces are offered as blogs or whitepapers||Offers content in pre-built lessons, often broken down into digestible pieces. Leverages more interactive tools like quizzes and games|
|Does not measure how much a user has learned||Has exams and certificates to measure and prove knowledge|
|Site administrators cannot see detailed information about a user (eg. email, name, company)||Site administrators have full access to each learner’s data like email, name, and company|
CMS and LMS systems do have a lot in common, too. For example, here’s some things that both can do:
- Build websites to share content with employees, customers, and leads.
- Process payments and accept form submissions.
- Do a small degree of analytics, such as tracking how many visitors are on a given page.
- Upload and store files.
- Create, store, and upload system backups.
- Connect with third-party integrations to further extend the available features.
Since there’s enough similarities and differences between CMS vs. LMS, it’s possible they can complement each other. The best way to do so is to use your LMS platform to create really detailed educational content about your company or service through interactive formats like videos, quizzes, and gamification.
You can also add in any product training or compliance certifications here, too. Then, use your CMS to promote your LMS. You can create short-form articles and clips of the course content to guide expectations for what the LMS content will provide. When it comes to registering and accepting payments, it’s up to you to determine if the CMS, LMS, or another third party platform is best suited for your business’s requirements.
Both LMS and CMS tools have a place in any large-scale B2B organization. But some teams just aren’t sure when to employ either one. Use this short step-by-step guide to determine if an LMS or a CMS is better-suited for your specific project:
- Determine what the purpose of your content is. If you’re planning to educate quickly and at a high level, go with a CMS to build landing pages or blogs. But, if you’re going in-depth on the topic and need to incorporate video content, quizzes, or certifications, go with an LMS.
- Determine what insights you need. If you’re good with just knowing how many visitors are on each page and for how long, the CMS should provide that for you. But if you need to know specifically which user is interacting and what progress that user has made, an LMS will be a better fit.
- Ask what maintenance time and budget you can afford. CMS and LMS systems both have varying ranges of maintenance time and cost requirements. But open-source tools will take a lot more effort and will also require advanced coding skills compared to tools with drag-and-drop builders or pre-built templates.
- Think about how you’ll distribute your content. Do you want it to be publicly available and to compete for a high SEO ranking? A CMS is likely better. Do you want it gated and monitored? Go with an LMS.
- Consider how many learners are going to be accessing your content. CMS and LMS platforms can both scale hosting capabilities to serve different audience sizes. But LMS technologies are much more likely to charge additional fees for a higher number of users than a CMS would.
LinkedIn’s advice on the topic shares that, “When it comes to choosing a tool for e-learning, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your decision should be based on your needs, goals, and preferences. Consider the type and level of interactivity you want to provide, the amount and frequency of content that needs to be created and updated, the size and diversity of your learner audience and their learning styles, and the budget and resources available for e-learning development and maintenance.”
Any growing team can make use of CMS and LMS systems, especially as product offerings scale and teams try to target buyers in further out areas of the world.
Leveraging virtual ways of hosting content makes distribution, maintenance, and tracking a lot easier to manage. And it provides the detailed insights that teams need to measure their goals and grow in the right direction! Choosing between a CMS vs LMS might seem tricky at first, especially since both technologies seem so similar. But through understanding their differences and use cases, you can make the best decision for how to educate your customers, leads, partners and employees at scale.