Whether you are a seasoned web developer or a business owner looking to create your own online store, you have no doubt heard of content management systems (CMS) before. Even if you aren’t familiar with the term CMS platform, names such as WordPress, Shopify, and Wix likely ring a bell. But which one to choose? In this article, we are going to showcase some of the best CMS on the market and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Choosing the right publishing platform is no easy task. There are many considerations, including cost, skill level, the intent of the store, and security issues. For instance, a veteran web designer or web developer will want a CMS that is easy to add custom features to and integrate their code into, while a person that makes handmade crafts will be looking for a web platform that is easy to set up and showcase their goods, without requiring too much technical knowledge.
Top Content Management Systems (CMS)
Knowing how to choose the right CMS and which one is right for your needs is crucial. The last thing you want is to choose a content manager, put hours of effort into building your website, then realizing that you made a bad choice. To help you avoid this scenario, here are some of the best content management systems for 2021 to build your website upon.
WordPress.org Content Management System
If you have ever remotely looked into creating your own website or hosting your own blog, the name WordPress has likely stood out. By all accounts, WordPress is the most widely used CMS platform in the world – and with plenty of good reasons.
Around 75 million WordPress.org sites exist around the world, with an estimated 500 sites being added daily. Compare that to Shopify, which gets around 70 new websites per day, and you can start to understand just how popular WordPress is. Search Engine Journal has a great piece discussing the statistics of Content Management Systems in 2021 that gives a decent breakdown by percentage of usage.
Benefits of WordPress.org
WordPress is versatile: You can build any type of website you want with WordPress. E-commerce websites, organizational sites, hobby and enthusiast blogs, business cards or brochure websites, pages built around social media features (i.e., Buddypress) – the list goes on and on.
WordPress is Easy to Install, Set-up, and Configure: One of the things that makes WordPress such an easy choice is the fact that it is easy to install and configure. With just a few clicks of a button, you can have most of your framework ready to go. Then all you need to do is add a template, a few plugins for functionality, and add your content.
WordPress is Highly Customizable: WordPress has oodles of free -and paid – plugins, which are essentially small programs that let you add features to your website without the need to know how to write code. There are simple plugins that let you display the most popular content or that show recent conversations from your social channels and complex plugins that let you showcase the results of database queries on the front-end or build shopping carts for e-commerce stores. There are literally thousands to choose from.
WordPress is SEO-Friendly: Of particular interest and importance to business owners, WordPress is very friendly in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing. The way WordPress handles categories, tags, and URLs are all designed with SEO in mind and, to top it off, there is a slew of top-notch SEO plugins you can install, such as Yoast and All-in-One SEO, to name but a few.
WordPress Has a Large Community: As you might suspect, WordPress has a large community of user and developers, all of whom are a valuable resource when it comes to trying to troubleshoot issues on your site or figure out how to configure a theme or plugin. This is a definite huge bonus in the WordPress pros checklist.
WordPress Cons and Considerations
There are a few negatives when it comes to the world’s most widely used CMS. For starters, you will need to obtain your own hosting and domain name. Additionally, security, updates, backups, and things of that nature will all fall on your hands unless you opt for a Managed WordPress site, which comes at the cost of an additional fee per month and can have limitations in terms of access and control on your end.
Another flaw of WordPress comes at the expense of its greatest power: plugins and themes are by and large third-party plugins, and as such, are maintained by developers outside of WordPress. Therefore, you need to update them often; if you do not – or the developer no longer updates their themes or plugins – your site can become susceptible to malware and vulnerabilities and can potentially break (or quit working).
There is also a lot of debate between developers as to whether or not WordPress is flexible enough when it comes to adding code. We find this to be largely dependent on the developer and their tastes or coding style and proficiencies.
A final note: Do not get WordPress.org confused with WordPress.com. WordPress.com is an entirely different beast and is more of a hosted platform, where you pay for monthly hosting and a domain through WordPress.com and are somewhat limited in your options of plugins and themes. It does not make our list of best content management systems because I believe WordPress.org is a better option.
Drupal CMS Platform
Many web developers will tell you that Drupal is the best choice for developer-centric content management systems, though that topic is hotly debated. In terms of overall popularity, Drupal falls far behind WordPress, with an estimated 1,000,000 websites relying on the CMS platform. According to W3Techs, which monitor the usage of technology on some 10 million websites, Drupal accounts for just over 2% of CMS usage. That may not seem like a lot when compared to WordPress’s impressive 65%, but you have to keep in mind that – after WordPress – the next closest CMS in popularity is Shopify, which tops out at between 5% and 6%.
Benefits of Drupal CMS
Drupal has quite a few benefits that make it a good choice for both beginner and experienced content managers. Here are a few highlights:
Drupal has added features: Just like WordPress, Drupal has an impressive collection of Modules – small pieces of software that add functionality to your Drupal sites. They work exactly the same way that plugins work for WordPress. They add features such as making layout easier, optimizing website performance, and making it easier for your site to be found in search engines.
Drupal is easy to use Drupal is relatively easy to use and configure in relation to other CMS’ – the learning curve is slighter higher than WordPress and easier than options such as Joomla, which can be a little cluttered and clunky for new users. Adding content and managing users is simple.
Drupal is developer-friendly: Drupal is great for developers, in part because it is so easily scalable, adding code is simplified, it has a very detailed taxonomy system, has advanced user management and user permission capabilities, and, in general, is more secure than other systems in the CMS platform space.
Drupal Cons and Considerations
Drupal has a few cons and things to consider. First, it has a much smaller following than options like WordPress and Shopify, and, therefore, you won’t have quite the same size of the community as you would using those options. On the flip side of that, though, Drupal users tend to be more technical, so finding someone that really knows Drupal should not be that hard. That being said, Drupal can be a little intimidating at first if you have no web development experience, though I personally used Drupal early in my career and had no real issues.
Finally, the layout and design in Drupal can be a little bit tricky. Most themes are very developer-customized, which can add costs and complexity to the design process.
Magento Content Management System
We would be remiss if we did not mention Magento, the Open Source e-commerce platform, from the good folks at Adobe. While there is a free version available, the real power of Magento comes from its paid version known as Magento Commerce.
Magento Commerce is used by some of the largest retailers on the planet, including big names such as Coco-Cola and Nike. If you plan on running an e-commerce business that requires room for a lot of flexibility, high inventory, and a lot of sales, Magento is a solid option.
Magento CMS Benefits
Here are some of the benefits of using Magento Commerce CMS platform:
Magento has a ton of payment options: Not only can you connect a lot of payment gateways and accept many payment types through Magento, but some of the more popular ones are already built-in. There are also options for unique payment systems like Cash-on-Delivery and bank transfers as well.
Magento CMS is flexible: Magento is a great e-commerce solution when you have a storefront that needs to scale up quickly. Magento lets you add oodles of customers, items, and products in a straightforward, intuitive manner.
Magento is supported: Magento Commerce comes with support and has a plethora of third-party plugins that make it very flexible. The support for the paid version is great, especially for retailers that lose money during downtime and need to mitigate those losses.
Magento Cons and Considerations
Magento does have a few things to consider that are worth mentioning. Since it is such a large e-commerce platform, it can be a bit much for developers and website owners that are new to the e-commerce arena. That isn’t overcomable, of course, especially with their support team willing to assist. On the same token, finding outside help for Magento is not as easy as, say, WordPress, so if you need to hire a web developer or content manager, they may need a little extra time to ramp up their knowledge base.
Finally, if you are not using the free version of Magento, Magento Commerce can be a little expensive for new shop owners and novices. Check the price tag before going in and, as always, perform your due diligence.
Runner Up: Joomla Content Management System
Another name we would be remiss if we failed to mention would be Joomla. Joomla ranks up there with Drupal in many ways and could easily have booted Drupal from its perch on our list.
Joomla is a popular content management system that is fairly user-friendly and easy to set up. It features extensions (versus plugins) that you can use to extend the functionality of your website. A unique feature of Joomla is the fact that you can apply templates not just to the main portion of your website, but to each individual page, which means you can design some pretty unique and interesting websites.
In terms of content management and website administration, Joomla can feel a little bulky to the uninitiated. Even when you are up to speed, there are so many options and tabs that it is easy to get lost. That being said, however, it is still a powerful CMS that you would do well to use – you could hardly go wrong with it as a choice.
Features of a Good CMS
When looking for a good CMS platform, there are a number of factors to keep in mind and consider. First off, always think about the intent of the site you are going to build and what your current – and future – needs will be. Is it going to be a hobby site? A blog? A business brochure? A resume? A magazine or newspaper? An e-commerce site? Your answer to those questions will help you make a wiser decision. For example, a person that has a craft blog that occasionally sells some items they knitted would definitely not benefit from a CMS like Shopify or Magento, based on cost versus potential revenue generated.
Other important factors to consider include:
- Is the CMS easy to use, learn, and configure? Is it easy to make changes?
- Is there a supportive community in case I have questions?
- Are there plenty of themes and plugins for me to increase the features and the looks of my site?
- Is the CMS platform secure? Does it get frequent updates?
- Will the CMS support my future needs? If not, is it easy to migrate my data and content to another website platform?
- Does the cost of the CMS and hosting make sense for my purposes? Are their different price tiers?
- Does the CMS offer tech support? Pair or free?
- Can web developers – if my site requires them – easily work in the environment? Will I be able to find web devs that code in my particular CMS?
- Do I really need a CMS? Is it better to just code my own website or hire a website programmer to create a custom website for my business?
These are all common things to consider when building a website. As always, scour the Internet and Google for customer reviews, search forums for each CMS you are considering, and see what people that use them on a daily basis are saying about them. Take notes. The last thing you want to do is build a website on a CMS platform only to discover you made the wrong choice; doing so can cost you a lot of time and, potentially, money.