The key to attracting and keeping eyes on your website is to publish engaging content on a consistent basis. Search engines take notice when you add more text, images, and videos to your website. Of course, juggling all of that content can get chaotic, which is why we have content management systems.
According to W3techs, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are still among the top three most popular CMS platforms with Magento coming in at number four.
Although certain CMS systems are more popular than others, that doesn’t mean that they are better in all regards. Each CMS has their strengths and weaknesses. This overview of popular (tried and true) as well as lesser-known (newer) systems will help you pick the best CMS for your specific purposes.
Tried and True CMS Platforms
What started as a simple blog platform has evolved into the most popular CMS on the internet thanks to its large community and vast collection of 50,000+ plugins. WordPress was originally founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little and today is developed maintained by a community of developers.
WordPress provides developers with a huge collection of both free and premium themes, a user-friendly interface, and an extendable platform. Although the basic install is bare bones, WordPress’s massive user community is a treasure trove of plugins and widgets, so you can choose which tools you need for your project. The intuitive UI and easy installation makes WordPress arguably the best CMS for novice developers who need a small, simple website.
Because WordPress is the most commonly used CMS, it is also a favorite target of hackers. Fortunately, security updates are released on a regular basis; however, these updates aren’t always compatible with all extensions, so it can take a considerable amount of administrative effort to make sure everything stays operational. Read more about keeping your WordPress site secure in our WordPress Security article.
WordPress also gets less user-friendly as you add more content, so developers who want to build complex multi-domain projects should go with a more heavy-duty CMS.
Joomla! has a steeper learning curve than WordPress, but it’s still accessible enough for most novice developers. Joomla! is now maintained by a variety of developers and teams. For a full list of teams as well as who is a part of each one, check out the Joomla Teams page.
Joomla! offers object-based content management and boasts over 7,800 optional extensions supported by a variety of active members. Learning developers will appreciate the thorough documentation available in the online handbooks created by community members. Joomla comes with a handy tool for creating custom templates by combining predefined content elements.
Rights management and approval tend to be tedious, and many extensions cost money. Additionally, the extension selection is not as fast as other CMS platforms, for example, WordPress.
The basic installation of Drupal supports several web 2.0 functions including weblogs, forums, and tag clouds. Its capabilities can be expanded considerably using modules. Drupal was originally created by Dries Buytaert and now has a variety of core maintainers that make improvements to the CMS.
Drupal is a lightweight CMS, but there are over 37,000 extension modules available. The modular layout allows a high degree of customization. You can likely find a pre-configured distribution based on the Drupal framework that perfectly fits your needs. Drupal’s area of expertise is social publishing, so it may be the best CMS for small to medium-sized community projects. Some modules even allow you to implement portals with complex multi-domain structures.
Additional modules must be installed manually via FTP, and updating extensions can be complicated. Configuration can get complex because of poor backend compatibility.
This open source enterprise management system receives consistent updates that keep things always running smoothly. Typo3 was originally created by Kasper Skårhøj and is now maintained by the Typo3 Association – a not-for-profit organization to provide funds for long-term development goals.
While WordPress is considered one of the best CMS solutions for smaller web projects, TYPO3 is better suited for building large corporate portals and eCommerce websites. Professional rights management is a top priority for TYPO3, and there are interfaces available for business applications like CRM and ERP systems. Advanced developers can easily create intricate site structures that support multilingual content. The comprehensive community support forums help beginners hit the ground running.
Given its large range of functions, TYPO3 can do practically anything; nonetheless, installation, configuration, and maintenance are time intensive and costly. Unless you really need all of the functions available in TYPO3, most developers will be satisfied with a CMS that has a more basic installation.
Magento is known for being one of the best CMS solutions for eCommerce websites. It comes with many ready-made themes and unlimited capacity for adding customized code. Magento was originally created by Roy Rubin, former CEO of Varien, then was acquired by eBay and is now owned by Permira private equity as an independent company.
With Magento, developers can easily create and manage multiple stores in multiple languages under a single CMS. Since it was specifically designed for eCommerce, you can always count on Magneto to provide the most up-to-date security and privacy protocols, which keeps you compliant with all laws and payment card requirements. Learn more about Magento security in our complete guide.
The basic install contains all of the tools you need for making attractive product catalogs, and you can configure your site to automatically generate reports that track your sales, customers, inventory and performance. You can even set up invoicing, billing and shipping through the software.
While Magento is ideal for building large eCommerce websites, it’s lacking in other areas. If you have a website with just a small online store, using Magento may be overkill; you might want to consider a more well-rounded CMS.
6. eZ Platform
As its name implies, the eZ Platform CMS strives to make managing multiple sites in multiple languages as easy as possible. Based on the Symphony framework, eZ Platform allows for a high level of customization thanks to its API capabilities. The eZ Platform CMS was intially released in December of 2015 and is developed by the company, eZ Systems.
eZ Platform may be the best CMS option for mid-sized businesses with a lot of back-end needs. It provides real-time reports that track how users interact with your website, which can guide you in making improvements. Your visitors can contribute content through forums, blogs and wikis, but the administrator has absolute control over moderation.
eZ Platform doesn’t come with any eCommerce tools. Thanks to the API system, you could integrate some third-party software, but it may not be worth the hassle.
MODX recognizes most major programming languages, but it lacks basic web building tools. Everything must be managed through code. Raymond Irving and Ryan Thrash are the original authors of MODX and began the project back in 2004. The MODX CMS is now currently maintained by MODX LLC.
You can integrate a number of plugins and apps to turn MODX into a tool for building websites that are secure, responsive, and handicapped accessible. It’s also easy to set up email marketing and shopping cart software.
MODX allows for a lot of flexibility, but it can take a while to set up to meet your needs.
Concrete5 is considered one of the best CMS programs for novice web developers with little to no coding knowledge. There’s an abundance of free and premium templates and add-ons, and you can add your own code. Concrete 5’s development began back in 2005 and is currently maintained by Concrete5. However, any developer can submit code to the open source project through their Github repo.
With Concrete5, anyone can easily set up marketing tools to gather data about customers. The CMS is highly secure to ensure the safety and privacy of your users. It also comes with many site optimization features, so you don’t have to know anything about SEO to improve your search engine rankings.
The makers of Concrete5 have published detailed documentation and tutorials on their website, and you can find plenty of user-created tutorials as well.
Although Concrete5 has a ton of add-ons, eCommerce apps are conspicuously lacking.
Newer CMS Platforms
If you’re a novice coder looking for a lightweight solution that produces clean markups with very little bloat, Kirby is likely the most user-friendly CMS you’ll find. It lacks many of the features of heavy-duty CMS platforms like Drupal; in fact, Kirby is more similar to static site generators, like Jekyll, in that it doesn’t have a database. Instead, configuration and content are stored as files just like templates and plugins.
Kirby has been around since 2009 and is currently developed and maintained by Bastian Allgeier GmbH.
Kirby is very easy to install, and it runs quite fast for such a simple CMS. It’s quick setup and intuitive interface makes Kirby ideal for developers with little coding expertise.
Some dynamic elements, such as the search feature, are somewhat lacking. If you decide to dive into the code, you’ll see that it’s a bit cumbersome. Professional web developers may find Kirby to be too limiting.
Pagekit is a younger CMS that is still coming into its own. While it has a few drawbacks, Pagekit’s blogging tools are unparalleled. Pagekit was created by the developers over at YOOtheme and is open-source therefore anyone can contribute to its code.
When you first start working with Pagekit, you’ll be pleased by the well-organized UI and developer ecosystem. Built-in features such as post duplication, markdown, and VueJS are convenient for running a blog, but Pagekit can accomplish more with the aid of extensions. Fortunately, plugins are plentiful and easy to install.
The security of your Pagekit website depends on how well your server is set up; therefore, it can’t really be considered cross-platform without some extra effort. Unfortunately, the built-in PHP server isn’t reliable for testing while you’re building, which can makes getting your project production-ready a pain. Custom storage options are also limited because only static files are saved locally. Pagekit has a surprisingly short session lifetime, but setting up a keepalive takes care of that problem.
Prismic is an API-driven CMS that some say is arguably superior to WordPress as a blogging platform. This CMS platform was founded in 2013 by Sadek Drobi and Guillaume Bort and is currently maintained and developed by Prismic.io.
If you’re starting a blog from scratch, the Prismic UI imposes few restrictions and features some impressive starter apps. Once you configure the front end to your liking, anyone can add, edit and update content easily with little to no coding requirements.
Prismic.io isn’t ideal for complex projects, and it’s honestly too difficult to integrate pre-existing content. While the actual managing of content is straightforward, set up requires a little more technical knowledge than some other CMS platforms. Nonetheless, if you’re just creating a blog, Prismic.io may be the best CMS for your needs.
Best CMS Roundup – In Summary
There are plenty of CMS platforms out there and we certainly haven’t covered them all in this article. Depending on your end goal, one CMS might work better than another, therefore it’s important to define what your actual goals are and then determine whether the CMS meets those goals. Other factors to consider include the complexity of your website, your experience level and your budget. Also, think about what features you may want to add in the future and choose a CMS that allows you to actualize your ambitions.
A great way to accelerate your CMS platform is to implement a CDN so that users around the globe are delivered static assets from the nearest possible edge server. To learn more about how you can integrate KeyCDN with your CMS solution, check out our comprehensive list of integration guides.