If you are going to build a new website, the chances are you will be using a content management system, or CMS. While it’s not necessary to use a CMS – you could build the site from scratch or pay a developer to do so – the modern CMS market has plenty of great options that offer flexibility, performance, and modest pricing.
With this post, we’d like to compare some of the best CMS options on the market today. Along the way, we’ll highlight the one that we think is the best option for most businesses. By picking out a CMS that works nicely for your needs right from the start, you can avoid needing to go through a messy switching process later on. Let’s get started!
What is a Content Management System?
This may be a review for you, but just in case, let’s take a moment to quickly define what a CMS is and why they are important on the internet today. Using a content management system is one of the best ways to create a new site because it lands in the middle ground between building the site from scratch and using a site builder that offers limited flexibility and functionality. If you have experimented with site builders but didn’t quite get what you wanted from the experience, moving to a CMS is the right step to take.
With a good content management system you’ll essentially have complete control over the design of your site, something that can’t be said for site builders. Also, you can easily organize your content through the use of categories, include many different types of media, and even dive into the code to make some behind-the-scenes changes, if you so choose. There are few limits in place when using a CMS, which is why so many of the websites across the internet today run on one of these platforms.
How to Pick a CMS for Your Needs
Later on this page, we are going to get into a discussion of some of the most popular CMS options on the market, so you can review the possibilities and start to zero in on a winner. Before we can do that, however, it’s important to highlight what features you should be looking for and how you should be thinking about this process. Specifically, we’d like to suggest that you focus on three main keys –
- Popularity. You don’t necessarily have to follow the trends and use the same CMS that everyone else seems to be using. There are plenty of good ones out there to pick from, after all. However, for many businesses, it does make sense to choose a popular CMS, as there will likely be a strong and active ecosystem that has built up around that product. When a lot of sites use a given CMS, not only is that an indication that it works well, but it also means that you’ll have no trouble finding other people who know how to use it and can help solve problems. Also, there will likely be many add-on features and tools that can be attached to the CMS to give it even more functionality than it has natively. There is no reason to give yourself an uphill battle by picking a lesser-known CMS when so many popular options are on the market already.
- Simplicity. While any CMS is going to offer you a head start over building a site from scratch, some are easier to use than others. For a team with plenty of web development experience, using a CMS that isn’t quite as user-friendly will be fine – the technical knowledge of the group will be more than enough to overcome any challenges that are encountered. However, if you or your team don’t have that kind of experience, make sure that the CMS you choose is known for its ease of use and general approachability. There are already enough tasks to be completed as you try to build a website, you don’t need to throw a complicated CMS in your way as another hurdle that will have to be overcome.
- Cost. Every project has a budget, so this factor will need to come into play at some point. It’s important to remember when looking at cost that it’s not only the cost of using the CMS that needs to be taken into consideration, as many are free to use. It’s often the hidden, additional costs that will start to add up, like purchasing themes for your site, adding premium plug-ins, hiring contractors to work on the site, etc. Do your best to estimate how much a given CMS would cost when it’s all added up so you can know what to expect on the budget side of things.
As always in business, the decision that is right for your needs may not be what fits best for another team. So, take your time in reviewing the options we will highlight below, do plenty of reading about the features and drawbacks of each, and soon enough a leader should become clear.
The Elephant in the Room
We might as well jump right in and talk about WordPress as the first CMS option you should consider, as it is easily the biggest player in this space. Despite facing competition from plenty of other platforms, there is no one even in the same ballpark as WordPress, and that reality doesn’t seem like it will be changing anytime soon. Millions of websites run on this CMS, including some of the biggest ones on the web. Far from just a tool for building small sites, plenty of large companies have turned to WordPress for their needs, as well.
So, what is it that has allowed WordPress to soar to the heights that it has reached? Let’s take a look –
- Affordability. One of the biggest drivers of the success of WordPress is simply the affordable nature of the platform. It’s free to download and use, and you’ll only need to spend a bit of money on things like a domain and hosting to get started. For small businesses, or solo entrepreneurs, this makes WordPress attractive right off the bat. Even if you get into purchasing premium things and adding on a few paid plugins, the overall cost is just a fraction of what it would require to build and run a site on other platforms.
- A huge community. This is another factor that makes WordPress so enticing to just about anyone starting a website. The community around WordPress is massive, with tens of thousands of plugins and themes available, countless people who know how to use the platform, and on and on. To say the least, you won’t be on your own when you dive in with WordPress, as millions of people will have gone ahead of you and have probably found solutions to pretty much any problem you might encounter.
- Ease of use. There is a bit of a learning curve with WordPress, but it is a short one. Once you get familiar with the layout of the dashboard, and learn a bit of the terminology involved with this CMS, you’ll be ready to go. Compared to some of the other options on the market, WordPress is extremely approachable. And, as we talked about above with the size of the community, it’s always easy to learn things you don’t know by taking advantage of some of the countless resources that are spread across the web today.
- Flexibility. You don’t want to paint yourself into a corner when you choose a CMS. Even if you are very clear about your vision for your website today, that vision might change dramatically in the years ahead – and you want to be using a CMS that will be able to adapt with that vision. Fortunately, WordPress is quite flexible and you can accomplish just about anything on your site that you would like to put in place. Since this platform is so popular, it continues to grow and get better and better as the years pass.
You would be justified in simply stopping your search at this point and getting started with WordPress. It’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed in what it offers, and you’ll be in the good company of millions of other sites. With that said, if you do want to consider some other possibilities, we’ll highlight a few alternatives below.
The Best of the Rest
Despite how it can feel, WordPress does not have a monopoly on the CMS market, and there are other players in this space. Let’s take a moment to go over a few of the others that might wind up being a fit for your needs.
- Shopify. One of the most compelling alternatives to WordPress for ecommerce store owners is Shopify. In fact, within the niche of ecommerce, you might say that Shopify is the leading option as opposed to WordPress, since it has been so carefully and intentionally designed for this purpose. While it will cost more to use than a standard WordPress site, you’ll have tons of built-in functionality and minimal time overhead to get started. The flexibility here is not what you’d find with WordPress, but as a simple solution to sell your stuff, it’s a great pick.
- Joomla. For businesses with more tech capabilities in-house, Joomla might be an appealing pick. This is not a comfortable choice for beginners, but those with experience and knowledge in web development will be able to create incredible sites that can have tons of different functions. While not the most expensive option on the market, you will again spend more here than you would with WordPress.
- Drupal. This is a choice that should likely be reserved for bigger businesses with IT teams that are going to be building and managing the website. You’ll need to have some development talent on hand to make this CMS work for your needs, and it is going to be significantly more expensive in the long run due to the need to hire professionals to accomplish various tasks. With that said, there are many modules and themes available within Drupal, and it has a solid reputation for security.
We believe that WordPress is the best CMS available to run websites today, although the other options are certainly plenty capable in their own right. As you get ready to dive into a new website project, or as you think about making a switch from your current CMS to a new one, take your time to review all of the available information about the various options so you can make an informed, confident choice. Good luck!
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