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Thanks to templates and other ready-made components, content management systems (CMS) help web developers build and manage websites without extensive coding knowledge or effort. Thanks to user-friendly interfaces, scheduling, and other features, they can also help content managers add and update content with ease. This guide will break down some of the best content management systems in terms of their features, pros, cons, and pricing, including:
Best for beginners and above seeking a user-friendly, open-source CMS to build and manage various types of websites.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
WordPress is a widely popular open-source CMS that powers nearly 40 percent of websites across the globe. Known for its user-friendliness, WordPress can help developers of all skill levels build and manage blogs, portfolios, information sites, online stores, and more with ease.
WordPress’ popularity as the world’s top CMS can be attributed to some of the following features:
Finding just the right look and functionality for your WordPress site is easy, thanks to the CMS’ selection of thousands of free and basic themes, many of which are customizable. WordPress’ varying permissions (administrator, editor, author, contributor, etc.) help when working with multiple developers or team members and needing to grant access to different roles.
WordPress is SEO-friendly with features for headings, HTML pages, tags, permalinks, and more, and it is also media-friendly. Not only is it easy to add media to your WordPress site, but the CMS can also serve as file storage for convenient access later on. If WordPress’ out-of-the-box features are not enough, you can extend your site’s functionality with the CMS’ huge library of plugins that cover everything under the sun, including forms, widgets, spam blockers, and more.
WordPress’ strengths as a content management system include:
WordPress is such an easy CMS to use that many beginners choose it to build their first website.
Being open-source and free to use is another strength that makes WordPress CMS accessible to all. Its massive following provides plenty of resources, support, and plugins to help web developers and content managers using the platform. Speaking of plugins, WordPress’ vast selection gives you the power to extend the functionality of your websites easily.
WordPress CMS’ weaknesses include:
To keep your site secure and performing as intended with WordPress, you will have to execute manual updates on a frequent basis. Forgetting just one update could leave your WordPress site open to vulnerabilities. If you want live support, you must host your site on WordPress.com. If you give in to temptation and install too many plugins on your site, you may experience slow performance that could deter visitors.
Since WordPress is an open-source CMS, it is free to use. However, most web developers or content managers incur additional costs (hosting, domain name, premium plugins and themes, etc.) when creating and maintaining WordPress sites, so keep this in mind when budgeting for your projects.
You can learn more by reading our WordPress CMS Review.
Best for advanced web developers seeking an open-source CMS to build scalable and customizable websites.
Overall Rating: 4.11 out of 5
Drupal is a well-known open-source CMS that can help advanced web developers use their coding skills to build customizable and scalable websites.
Drupal’s long list of features is highlighted by:
Drupal uses blocks as its foundation for building web pages. Developers can drag and drop the blocks and stack them to create sites relatively easily. The CMS has an intuitive interface that simplifies web page editing. Whether you need to create new articles, customize fields, insert comments, etc., it can all be done with little fuss.
Drupal is highly customizable, putting over 16,000 modules covering various categories (social, media, security, SEO, etc.) at your disposal. The modules can be used to add new features to your site or update its existing functionality. Drupal can also be extended via third-party integrations with Yoast, Shopify, Facebook, Mailchimp, and more.
Drupal’s pros include:
Since it is open-source and free to use, Drupal is accessible to developers with limited budgets.
The CMS is known for offering superb uptime and being reliable. It has also been commended for its team’s quick responses to security issues when they appear. Drupal is also highly customizable, thanks to its thousands of modules.
Drupal’s cons include:
Beginners looking to build and maintain a site easily may find Drupal too complex, as it is geared more toward advanced developers. If you choose to build a site with Drupal and lack coding knowledge, you will have to budget for a professional developer, which could get quite costly. And even if you have the coding skills to build a site with Drupal, you will have to put them to use to properly maintain it once it is up and running.
Drupal is an open-source CMS that is free to use. As with other open-source CMS, remember to budget for potential additional costs for a domain name, themes, hosting, premium plugins or modules, and more.
You can learn more by reading our Drupal CMS Review.
Best for web developers looking to use a WYSIWYG editor from an open-source CMS to build websites quickly without the need for coding.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Joomla is a beginner-friendly open-source CMS. Its user-friendly WYSIWYG makes it easy to build sites fast without coding skills.
Joomla’s most noteworthy features include:
Joomla offers thousands of templates, many of which are free, to help developers get up and running quickly without any coding. Its WYSIWYG editor is beginner-friendly, and the CMS also supports multiple languages for users looking to go global. User permissions are helpful for developers and content managers working in teams, while Joomla’s integrated SEO can increase the chances of your site being seen.
Security-minded developers can gain peace of mind from Joomla’s features like access control and two-factor authentication. And for added functionality, Joomla offers thousands of third-party extensions.
Joomla’s advantages include:
Web developers and content managers with limited budgets will love that Joomla is open-source and its core features are free. The WYSIWYG editor helps beginners build sites without the need for code, and its tons of free extensions are convenient for adding bells and whistles to your website at no cost. Joomla’s large community comes in handy regarding support, articles, documentation, and other helpful resources.
Joomla’s disadvantages include:
Joomla powers over one million websites, as many beginners love how its WYSIWYG editor makes it simple to build without code. It is not the only CMS of its kind, though, so you may find that a competitor like WordPress.org offers everything you need. Joomla’s community offers helpful support, but you will be disappointed if you are looking for a CMS with dedicated assistance from account managers or a customer service team. Another common Joomla gripe is that its navigation is clunky and not too intuitive.
Joomla is an open-source CMS. Developers can use its core features at no cost. As with other open-source content management systems on this list, beware of additional costs (hosting, domain name, premium extensions, etc.) you may incur when building and maintaining a Joomla site.
You can learn more by reading our Joomla CMS Review.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a CMS to ensure it fits your specific web development or content management needs. One of the most important factors to consider is user-friendliness. You want a CMS that is easy to use with an intuitive interface that can boost your productivity and not hinder it. A CMS with a large, active community can be helpful for support, documentation, troubleshooting, and other resources. Other things to look for in a CMS include:
Consider CMS cost, too. Some content management systems are open-source and free to use, while others charge a one-time or subscription fee. Remember to budget for additional costs as well, such as hosting, maintenance, premium templates or plugins, etc. Look for reviews on speed and performance; a CMS with fast loading speeds and solid performance can help with visitor retention and provide an optimal user experience. Mobile responsiveness is important, too, especially in today’s mobile-centric market.
Your CMS should offer scalability to handle increasing content and traffic volume without hiccups. It should also offer customization of themes, templates, extensions, etc., to fit your specific functionality and branding needs.
The ideal CMS has robust content editing capabilities, SEO-friendly features (metadata, XML sitemaps, customizable URLs, etc.) to boost ranking, and workflow management features to help with content approval and team collaboration. It also has built-in security features to protect against vulnerabilities and threats, reporting/analytics to track visitor behavior and site performance, and multilingual support if you plan to deal with a global audience.
If you might switch to a different CMS in the future, seek a solution with seamless data portability to easily export data. Lastly, for added functionality, look for a CMS with many third-party integrations in multiple categories (social media, analytics, marketing, e-commerce, etc.).
In evaluating the top content management systems, we started by creating six weighted categories containing important key sub criteria. This sub criteria was then used to assign scores (ranging from 1-5) to each CMS on our list, giving us a total score for each platform. The top three CMS with the highest overall score made our list.
Below is an explanation of our evaluation criteria and examples of sub criteria, alongside the percentage score.
Pricing is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a CMS. Even free options can be confusing and become pricey when you factor in costs of themes, plugins, and custom development. For our Pricing criteria, we looked at sub criteria that included the following:
Core Features provided by a CMS’ are especially important, as web developers often seek to limit the amount of custom coding needed to run a website. In light of this, we looked at several sub criteria for our Core Features evaluation, including (but not limited to):
Having a person to reach out to is important in the event your website crashes or a plugin stops working. For our Customer Support criteria, we looked at the following support options to see if they were available and, if so, during which hours:
Using a CMS with a low learning curve and entry point helps website developers and content managers get websites up and running more efficiently. Our Ease of Use criteria looked at the following sub criteria:
For our Performance criteria, we looked at the following sub criteria:
Last, but not least, to truly evaluate the content management platforms on our list, we looked at other user reviews to see how users with a myriad of backgrounds viewed our options. Individual reviews are very subjective, so we ranked this criteria with lowest importance on our list, but still felt it deserved consideration as peer opinions are still valuable.
This guide features some of the best content management systems currently on the market. While all of the selections listed above help web developers and content managers boost productivity, be sure to review the features, pros, cons, and pricing of each CMS to pick the best one for your specific needs.