If you’ve ever designed, built, managed or administered a website, you’re no doubt intimately involved with a Content Management System (CMS), a specific software application or set of programs used to create and manage digital content. Once the sole stomping ground for experienced coders and the like, today a host of CMSs have entered the mainstream and the realm of the layman, allowing beginner website owners and bloggers to join the virtual world looking every bit as sharp as the products produced by seasoned designers.
But a newbie to web design and management may be asking themselves “what CMS should I be using?” “What are the different capabilities of each?” “What makes one more suitable for my needs over another?” Pick the wrong CMS and you can be hampered by complicated processes and tools that are hard to learn and have limited options. Also, what may work perfectly well for a blogger may be a bad fit for someone launching an e-commerce site.
As 2017 quickly approaches here’s a brief look at the Content Management Systems leading the web design and management market. Some will be well known to even novices, while others are creeping in under the radar of the general public but are still worth checking out.
The stalwart of open-source platforms, WordPress has dominated the CMS world and will absolutely continue to do so in the next year. Indeed, depending on who you ask this CMS powers anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of all websites operating today. And of the top one million sites on the planet, more than 300,000 of them are based on the WordPress CMS. Loaded with plugins, themes and widgets—many free and some stellar ones very affordable—the platform is intuitive, easy to learn and navigate and nicely customizable no matter whether you’re a mom-and-pop e-tail concern, a non-profit organization trying to make a mark or just a blogger looking to opine on a topic. And of course due to its overwhelming popularity support for the CMS is top-notch: help is only a forum click away, comprehensive user assistance is included with premium add-ons and updates for the core program, plugin, themes and widgets is consistent and reliable. All told, it’s little wonder that The New York Times, Forbes and the Facebook blog trust their sites to the WordPress CMS.
With a 6.5 percent market share and some two-and-a-half million sites operating on the CMS, Joomla continues to grab significant attention in the world of web design and management. Like WordPress it’s an open-source platform, allowing users to modify and share code freely. Developers also continue to add extensions ideal for e-commerce that allow users to easily manage products and content in one place. It’s also very intuitive, with many people noting that it works more like an easy-to-grasp word processing program that you can get the hang of in a single afternoon. However, other elements of Joomla are bit more complex that WordPress, and it can be difficult to bring your own custom designs to bear without expert help. And unlike WordPress the marketplace for Joomla add-ons such as themes and plugins is much more limited, meaning it may be more difficult to design a customized site that really stands apart from the crowd.
Just more than one million sites operate on the Drupal CMS, and some of those are pretty big names: Linus, Twitter, Harvard University and The White House to name a few. Drupal is designed around acquiring new features using tons of little programs called modules, which are designed and maintained by professional designers working for giant clients but which are still free to everyday Joes. This means you get fantastic out-of-the-box products that contain nice and clean code and won’t cause problems down the line. However, experts note that Drupal has a rep for being difficult to work with if you don’t have at least an intermediate level of developer experience. Also, because the CMS thrives on module add-ons, the basic core program isn’t terribly exciting and you won’t start to really experience all the cool things it’s capable of until you start adding modules.
E-Commerce Up and Comers
Magento is free and open source, loaded with features, very user-friendly and customizable, but professional help is hard to find so you may need to pay for a premium version that includes tech support. Shopify is great thanks to its built-in speed and security included in a nice all-in-one management package. It also excels with marketing tools and customer support, but can be pricey as there are multiple fees for transactions, accepting credit cards etc. in addition to your monthly subscription. All-in-one platform Squarespace has terrific design templates and, because it’s all owned and operated by the company, all the features work smoothly and beautifully and customer support is outstanding. But it’s more expensive than other e-commerce options, falls a bit short on built-in marketing tools and doesn’t have much in the way of third-party apps and extensions, a frustrating reality for users looking to build a truly custom site.
New and Notable
TYPO3 has proven to be a powerful CMS with lots of advanced features that give it incredible diversity through thousands of add-on extensions such as image galleries, discussion boards etc. It also comes with exceptional tech support, which is important because it’s not easy to install and set up and takes a good amount of time to learn. Plus, its expandable nature means it requires top-notch and dedicated server space. Blogger is a nice and simple CMS that’s even easier than WordPress to install, set up and start using. It’s absolutely free (there aren’t even any ads), it backs up automatically and you don’t have to worry about data storage limitations. But users won’t be able to customize the blog, the built-in themes are fairly boring, you won’t have FTP access and you can’t upgrade or add features because, well, there simply aren’t any available.