Best Content Management System – CMS
Best Overall CMS
While it may have started as a blogging platform, WordPress is one of the largest and most widely used CMS platforms today. It’s estimated that nearly 60 percent of websites that use a CMS choose WordPress. By its own estimate, 24 percent of the web operates through WordPress. Major websites that use WordPress include The New Yorker, Best Buy and Xerox.
WordPress is open source, which means that you don’t need to purchase a license to operate it. In addition, open source software is constantly being enhanced by a community of contributors, including web developers, who create plug-ins and themes for the software. This makes it a good choice regardless of whether or not you know how to code or have a web developer or a team of developers. The software can be customized to fit your needs.
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems, servicing thousands of users and websites because it offers flexibility of tools with an easy-to-use interface. While it lacks in basic web creation tools, it still has extremely useful native and third-party business add-ons to quickly create functional eCommerce sites.
Its content-approval tools, SSL compatibility and granular privileges secure your content by limiting access according to administrative levels you set. WordPress has email verification, automatic problem-notification features and captcha tools to keep the site secure on the user side as well.
WordPress has a fair amount of standard add-ons that should be included with any content management program, such as blogs, email help forms and site maps. It is also one of the few CMS programs we reviewed that has graph and chart generators. In addition, it offers thousands of native or third-party plugins and add-ons for small businesses, including shopping carts, inventory management, affiliate tracking and point-of-sale systems. Using the clearly labeled dashboard, you can customize any of these tools to fit your personal business needs. WordPress offers a sandbox to test content changes without having to publish it first.
It offers content, document and project management, file distribution and project tracking. However, it doesn’t support database reports, and lacks search engines.
WordPress is simple to use. It offers drag-and-drop functions, a spellchecker and quick undo tools so you don’t have to delete large sections of your work and start over. The interface is intuitive, but this CMS program lacks site and style wizards that provide step-by-step instruction for novice users.
Because WordPress is so popular, there is a large web presence of community users. It offers blogs, web pages and social media posts concerning common – and uncommon – problems using the CMS software. You can also find source codes for features you may need. WordPress itself has user guides and discussion forums on its website and offers email support.
WordPress is a powerful content management system with easy-to-use web-development tools for both standard web pages and interactive business sites. It lacks a couple of common CMS tools, but the app section is vast as is the community of users who are willing to share tips and code to help you make a powerful business website.
Best CMS for eCommerce
If you have an online store, what you need from a CMS will differ from that of a standard website. Many CMS applications have plug-ins for eCommerce, but there are also those that are developed specifically for eCommerce sites. Magento rates as one of the best, with an open source platform and a variety of different options for eCommerce businesses of all sizes. Prominent clients include Burger King, Nestle and Zumiez.
Magento Community Edition is the basic platform, well suited for small businesses or tech-savvy entrepreneurs just starting out who want to build a webstore from scratch. If you don’t know how to code, there is a community of users creating extensions with new features that you can add on to your store. Magento also supports multiple currencies and languages, which makes it a good choice if you have international customers.
Enterprise and Enterprise Cloud Edition are options for larger-scale sites. The Cloud Edition includes webhosting. There are costs associated with these options, but they include assistance with installation and troubleshooting.The Magento content management system (CMS) is geared toward creating attractive and powerful eCommerce websites. It offers out-of-the box capabilities with ready-made themes while allowing for unlimited ability to customize with your own code. Thus, it’s a good choice for growing businesses.
The dashboard has a look and organization familiar to most CMS software, making it easy to navigate. You can choose from templates or create your own. It offers security and privacy capabilities to meet current laws and payment card industry requirements. You can set up a single store or multiple stores, even stores in different languages depending on their locations.
Because this CMS is geared for eCommerce, it has extensive features for creating a product catalog, with advanced pricing tools, image watermark capabilities and the ability to add multiple attributes or variations. You can also add general content pages, formatting each page individually to meet the needs of the content. There are also customer account and grouping features.
The software also allows you to set up invoicing and billing through the program as well as shipping. You can set up the website to create reports on sales, customers, products or performance. The program also stores the statistics for use in the future.
This open source content management software nonetheless has expert tools and add-ons to efficiently program a versatile website that can handle the needs of your online business. You can find paid and free add-ons in the Magento marketplace for analytics, communication, payment processing, shipping and more. If you wish, you can program your own widgets or seek codes from the over 150,000 developers through Magento community forums.
In addition to users, Magento has over 3,000 trained solution partners, professional experts for consultation, code audits or business analytics. They can provide technical consultations and performance reviews. If you prefer to master they system yourself, there are user guides, live and online courses, certification processes and even Magento meetups to learn from other users.
Magento’s product focus and flexibility make it a strong choice for business that deal primarily in eCommerce. The open source content management system has multiple features for building the website without special coding and ready-made add-ons you can acquire for free or purchase. Plus, you can add your own coding. It’s a versatile system without being overly complex or requiring expert developer skills.
Best CMS for SEO
Optimizing your website for search engines is critical when building a website. Drupal, an open source CMS application, has many tools and modules to help you create content relevant to your target audience and structure your website so it can be crawled effectively by search engines. Major website that utilize Drupal include The Economist, Weather.com and Fox.
Drupal is a good choice for sites that manage a lot of pages or that have a large number of users. Having good SEO tools for a large site is crucial, as issues with duplicate content and poor site architecture can lead to poor rankings.
Drupal is more complex than other open source CMS platforms. You may have to hire a web developer or a team of designers and development staff to develop a good, user-friendly site. Drupal is well regarded as being one of the most secure open-source content management platforms.Drupal is a well-known content management system intended to help advanced designers create a powerful website capable of handling large volumes of visitors and hundreds of pages of content. Drupal is so flexible it can create a simple blog as easily as impressive, interactive business sites. This flexibility makes this CMS a great solution for a growing business with ever-changing website needs.
While Drupal, one of the founding solutions in content management programs, has some of the best add-ons and plug-ins available, it isn’t the most user-friendly for novice web designers. It has a decent selection of themes and a site wizard for quickly getting your business site online. However, it requires a lot of coding to make a truly powerful site. Drupal offers a highly active CMS community with a lot of user support.
Drupal content management software includes blog tools, email forms, search engines and site maps. These are basic features found on most websites, though Drupal also has a good range of add-ons especially for commerce and business websites. These include shopping carts, point-of-sale systems, help desks, live chat features and inventory management. This program also has several tools for tracking projects, managing documents and creating database reports – vital functions for mid-sized businesses with a lot of content to manage.
Drupal has very strong community support. You can join forums to ask questions, trade code and gain insights. In addition to online groups, there are events and meetups, chats and the Planet Drupal blog that aggregates posts by Drupal users for Drupal users.
In addition to the active community support, Drupal includes several technical support options. You can connect with support personnel through email or its social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Google Plus. You can access the user guide via the website. As with most open-source CMS solutions, Drupal doesn’t have telephone support available.
While the selection of themes and templates isn’t as extensive as other content management systems, Drupal does have a very active community with enough support for developing your business website. It has ready-made tools to help you easily create a basic blog or website, but most of the tools and functions have been developed to support large amounts of website traffic and managing large volumes of content.
Best CMS for Small Business
Maintaining a website is a necessity no matter what type of business you operate. It is often the first impression customers have of your business. Joomla is well regarded as the best CMS application for small business owners. This is an open source CMS that is easy to develop and customize. Major websites built using Joomla include Harvard University and The Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.
Joomla is a good choice for small businesses regardless of the size of your business (whether you have one of 50 employees) or the industry because of the relative ease with which a site can be developed. Joomla offers many extensions and plug-ins that can meet the needs of most small businesses. Most CMS platforms offer different themes and templates, but the sites that share those systems all convey a similar look and feel. Joomla offers greater options for customization, so your website can be unique while also being easy to use.Joomla is an open-source content management system designed for developers with coding experience rather than beginners who are more dependent on website builders for creating web content. With a broad selection of commerce and business add-ons, Joomla works well for companies looking to step up their basic website to something more appealing, unique, interactive and professional.
Regardless of the business add-ons you need for your website, Joomla has them all free of charge. However, the selection of website themes isn’t as extensive as its other CMS solutions. You can easily search private website and blogs to find more, and the Joomla community is quite active and available to help you hunt down what you need for your business website project. It is easy to create an eCommerce site, complete with shopping carts, point-of-sale systems, inventory management and affiliate tracking.
Joomla has most standard add-ons you need for a basic website too. These include blogs, email forms, discussion forums and photo galleries. You can include user-contribution pages and allow visitors to add content. The security measures available with Joomla help protect your important content during any interactions with your site visitors. Captcha ensures that contributors sending information are human, and SSL compatibility gives you the option to password protect sensitive pages and content.
The dashboard is easy to navigate while creating and uploading web content. Additional add-ons are available to allow document management, file distribution and project management. These programs allow you to do more with your content than simply place it on a website. They give you and your employees easy digital access to data that is important to the overall operation of your company.
Joomla doesn’t have many support options. You can browse through the online user guide and discuss options on the user forums. There are also online classes available through the website, but no email or phone support options. This is not unusual for open source software systems.
Joomla isn’t a quick website builder with site or style wizards but rather a CMS for web designers who have experience using code to develop functional and professional websites. This CMS has an extensive list of business and commerce add-ons available, most without cost. The community is active and effective in answering questions that cannot otherwise be answered due to the lack of personal support options.
CMS ReviewsOpen source content management system (CMS) WebGUI includes so many add-ons that a variety of organizations, ranging from small businesses and government agencies to nonprofits, have utilized it to create and maintain online content. It offers a huge toolset, including the most important eCommerce and business add-ons, such as shopping carts, POS systems and file distribution. It also has a wealth of support options.
Since content management systems are designed for multiple users to use at the same time, WebGUI has tools for real-time collaboration, such as versioning. The sandbox tool allows web developers to create new webpages and content and to see how it will look online without disrupting the live site.
WebGUI has a unique feature that allows you to customize each user’s interface to match their skill level. This means the administrator can set the level and tools available to each user depending on their experience and need for the content management system. Interfaces range from simple tools to add or delete content from the company website to portals that allow IT personnel to make large changes to the programming.
Drag and drop is one of the best tools for easily adding content to your website. WebGUI also has an easy-to-use site wizard that lets you preview your additions and before you save and publish the final product. If you make a mistake, WebGUI has an undo feature so you don’t have to delete everything and start from square one. It also includes a spell checker to help you avoid some mistakes from the get-go.
This content management software includes tools for eCommerce, such as shopping carts, inventory management and point-of-sale systems. You can add a help desk portal so clients can easily send questions to support and IT personnel. WebGUI also supports a live chat feature for further enhancing your customer’s experience on your website.
WebGUI has a contact management tool that lets you safely store and share client information. The document management feature allows you to create and store content virtually. You can also share the data entry, file distribution and database reports among different departments and employees for group collaboration projects. This CMS can help you create and manage events that are important to the growth and success of your company.
The WebGUI community is relatively active, and you can find several personal websites and blogs with codes for a variety of add-ons. WebGUI offers telephone support in addition to email. It also has user guides and forum discussions online to help you during non-business hours when customer support is not available.
eZ Platform, an open source content management system (CMS), offers drag-and drop capabilities and editing on the page itself. It offers multilingual and multisite capabilities so you can manage all your websites from a single repository, even those in different languages. It works on the Symphony framework and offers API capability so you can customize the site for your specific needs.
As with most of the best CMS programs on our review, eZ Platform has included many important security tools, including granular privileges that let you determine who has access to which parts of the software, with password protection afforded to individual users.
This CMS program has a unique sandbox that allows you to create, test and preview content before it goes live. You can also place each new change on a timeline that will automatically push the content live without any additional thought or effort on your part.
eZ Platform is a good choice for medium-size business that have a lot of back-end web content needs, such as contact, document and project management. This CMS program has real-time reports on visitor activity to help you analyze visitor information and make decisions about future content on your site. It lacks eCommerce tools but offers a powerful API system, so you may be able to integrate third-party software.
Creating your website is straightforward, with editing managers that include drag-and-drop functions for content such as images, graphs and data. eZ Platform has an image editor within the program itself that lets you control clarity, color effects and contrast. eZ Platform also has tools to automatically create mobile friendly websites. Preview tools let you see exactly what your web site content will look like when it goes live.
eZ Platform lets you include blogs, wikis and discussion forms that allow visitors to contribute content in a controlled environment. Search engines, site maps, email help forms and live chat are also important tools you can include on your website to give your visitors more access to customer support and IT support.
eZ Platform is an easy-to-use CMS program for creating high-level, interactive business websites, although some important eCommerce tools and functions are missing. The unique sandbox allows you to schedule many content items to automatically go live on user-specified publish dates. The real-time data tracking lets you quickly analyze and adjust content to create a more user-friendly experience for your visitors.
MODX is a developer-friendly content management system, or CMS, that is capable of recognizing several programing languages. MODX doesn’t have any simple web building tools like a site wizard. Instead, every aspect of your site must be created using code. While basic web-creation tools are not necessary for content management system software, it is nice to have them for creating quick web pages.
This CMS software is intuitive for web designers and organized to allow you easy access to important tools. Since this is a true CMS program rather than a souped-up web builder, you must use code to create an interactive, eCommerce-friendly business website.
The online video tutorials, user guides and discussion forums have lists of codes to use for a variety of business tools. It also offers a free download guide and codes for applications. However, you have a great deal of creative freedom with this platform, including the ability to use different programming languages for different types of content. For example, you can program your website in HTML5 and your mobile app in JSON.
MODX offers a high level of security, with xPDO as an intermediate database layer to ensure code is sanitized before being saved to a database. This prevents SQL injection attacks. It has several password add-ins for ensuring your content is secure.
With a clean interface and the ability to recognize multiple programing languages, MODX is a developer-friendly choice for a content management system. You can use it to create websites or mobile apps. It also allows for email marketing, an important feature for businesses that use their websites to gather leads. It is secure, versatile and has integrations with several shopping cart programs.
concrete5 is open source content management software with pre-designed templates and add-ons for those who want some flexibility with coding their website but aren’t interested in doing it all from scratch. It has an active user community, several training opportunities and professional support.
This CMS software allows you to select themes to start, and you can customize them using the menu or CSS coding. You can also format each page individually with videos and images, layout modules, stacks and responsive grid points. It uses a WYSIWYG editor plus drag-and-drop capabilities to create the look that matches your brand. It creates mobile-responsive sites, an important consideration since over 40 percent of consumers are now using their mobile phones to make buying decisions.
You can employ marketing tools like forms for collecting customer data, reporting both on website performance and customer use, blogs with RSS syndication and comment moderation, and site optimization features to make sure you get the best search engine optimization.
If you are looking for advanced tools, you can check the documentation for codes for specific needs, ask on the forums or check out the add-on library. You can find hundreds of add-ons for everything from image carousels to eCommerce. The eCommerce apps were limited, however.
In addition, the software is very secure. You can modify it without overriding the core, and the CMS software itself has been tested at hackerone.com. You have audit trails and CAPTCHA tools as well as login histories to track issues. The program is SSL compatible.
The website includes documentation and tutorials created by the founders and the users, plus you can purchase online courses from beginner user level to advanced developer level. There is an active forum as well as the ability to hire professional assistance.
concrete5 content management system software is open source, giving you a lot of flexibility in programming the code to create attractive, useful and mobile-friendly websites. It has themes and add-ons for those not interested in heavy coding and training for those who want to learn, but the real power of this system lies in its coding capabilities.
Composr is an open source content management system (CMS) with a large plug-and-play feature set that also allows for coding. It makes secure, mobile friendly websites with automatic SEO tools and extras to engage your visitors. It’s not the best CMS solution for eCommerce or large-scale enterprise endeavors, but it has the power and ease for most SMB sites.
The code is easy to download and install and offers some templates to get you started, or a style wizard if you prefer to design the site yourself. You can then add modules such as catalogs, galleries, blogs and documents libraries. You can integrate it with your current forum or its forum, Conversr.
You can password protect parts of the website so others can work the parts of the system they need to. It offers SSL/HTTPS support, including integration to TLS, the next generation of PCI compliance. In addition, it offers forum protections on Conversr for warning members, putting them on probation or banishing them as needed.
You can create content with the WYSIWYG editor, add images singly or in galleries, post videos and create other interactive features, such as quizzes, to engage your readers. You can find some add-ons on the website; they are easy to install. However, this content management software prides itself on not depending on additions for its power. That means, you’ll find most of tools you need already in the program, but if you want something particular, you may have to code it or seek it from other sources.
It’s a versatile program, but Composr is up front about the things it does not do well. In fact, it recommends other CMS solutions for blogs, eCommerce and large-scale enterprise-level intranets.
If you are just starting out, there are video tutorials and documentation plus an active forum where you can ask questions or swap code. This CMS provider also has professional-level assistance, though it comes with a charge. This is typical of most CMS providers that offer professional support.
Composr is not as popular as many content management software systems, but it is versatile, secure and user friendly. It can handle most business websites, although it’s not focused on eCommerce.
The Squarespace content management system software (CMS) has a user-friendly interface and includes site hosting. This service charges per month or annually, but handles updates and offers a free custom domain and SSL security.
Squarespace offers the most critical built-in features necessary for website creation and management, including access to website analytics. The content manager offers a rich text, WYSIWYG editor with the basic formatting tools found in word-processing applications such as Microsoft Word. You can also input raw HTML or formatted text.
This content management software allows for some coding in HMTL/CSS and Java. However, these are small modifications or additions only; Squarespace is not an open source software CMS. This makes it a good choice for non-developers who want a basic but powerful site, but it limits developers who need advanced solutions.
Even though add-ons are not available through third-party developers, Squarespace still provides many basic customization options. The templates are versatile, and it offers many that are eCommerce focused. You can add unlimited products with variants, accept and track payments and integrate your email marketing list. The websites are automatically mobile responsive, an important feature since more and more people are shopping using mobile devices.
While there are no options for advanced coding, the system does provide useful layout blocks, including galleries and YouTube, menus and indexes. It also has archive blocks what let you group and display up to 1,000 content items by year, month, author or category to create an index page.
Squarespace ensures your site is safe and secure with the option to SSL-enable your pages. In addition, you can designate certain users as an administrator or provide a login and registration form for site visitors. Site controls include annotations, sitewide passwords to lock the site while it’s under construction, lock screens and page-specific passwords. With multiple access levels you can limit an employee’s ability to change the site to just the areas they need.
Squarespace is a basic but versatile content management system ideal for people who are not hard-core developers but want to create a useful and secure website for personal, business or eCommerce. It’s not open source nor does it have plug-ins, but it offers the most important tools, creating an attractive small business website.
What Is a CMS Used For?
At the most basic level, a CMS lets you upload and manage the content for your website. No matter the size or type of your business, a CMS has become almost indispensable. It operates on the backend of your website, allowing you to manage the content and other facets of your website, including the visual layout.
Another benefit of a CMS is that it makes it easy for users with varying levels of tech savviness. If your tech literacy is low, CMS systems have a variety of premade themes and plug-ins that have already been developed (think phone apps but for your website) and allow you to add tools, like search or appointment calendars, to your website.
If you know how to code, or employ software developers, most CMS software is open source and can be customized to your liking.
Businesses of all types can benefit from using a CMS for their website. Here are some examples of how a CMS can enhance the websites for a variety of different business types:
- Restaurants: CMS software makes it easy for restaurants to add and update their menus, create coupons and offers, and allow customers to make reservations online. There are many premade plug-ins that specifically target restaurant websites.
- eCommerce: A CMS can benefit your online store by allowing you to quickly add and remove products, track sales, and manage other aspects of your business. Plug-ins are available to add a shopping cart to your site. A brick-and-mortar store can easily add a shopping cart using a CMS.
- Small Businesses: No matter what type of business you operate, a website is a necessity in today’s business world. A CMS allows you to manage the content yourself and update information quickly. Most CMS applications include SEO plug-ins to help you optimize your website’s content. You can also find templates and themes to quickly create an attractive website without having to hire a designer.
- Nonprofits: A CMS allows nonprofits to easily manage their websites for not a lot of money, plus you can accept donations online by adding plug-ins. Many open-source CMS applications have robust communities of developers that can help nonprofits create the best websites. Add-ons and plug-ins are also available to help nonprofits manage their social media and marketing presence.
CMS vs. Blogging Platforms
A CMS platform is different from a blogging platform in terms of scale. Some of the services profiled in our buying guide began as blogging platforms and offer that service, but a CMS is much more robust, offering greater control over the look and feel of your site as well as allowing for different administrative levels of control. A CMS also allows you to add plug-ins that expand the look and functionality of your site. You can brand your website, send emails, manage user access and even add a shopping cart.
Another main difference between a blog platform and a CMS is that the blog will be hosted by the platform itself. This means that your website will have the domain name of the blog host, such as Blogger.
If you use a CMS to manage and develop your website, you’ll need to pay for the domain and the web hosting. Many CMS platforms include web hosting services, though you’ll have to pay for the hosting. You can read our articles about web hosting to learn more.
Open Source vs. Closed Source
Content management systems fall into two major categories: open source and closed source. An open source CMS has lower costs and is created and maintained by a community of developers A closed source CMS is proprietary and is more expensive to use. Here are some other benefits and drawbacks with each type of CMS.
The biggest difference is in the price. Open source CMS software doesn’t require you to purchase a license in order to access and change its source code. All code is free to the public and often supported by a large community of users. This gives you solid support since so many others are using the program as well. It’s easy to find ideas for incorporating various functions and features on your website. You can also find the required code from these community support groups, so even if you aren’t as program savvy as others, you can find enough information to make it work.
However, because the source code is free with so many users, most CRM companies continually update the software. This means you can count on new versions, patches and updates on a fairly regular basis, which could require you to change your website and code in order to keep up.
Because the code of open source programs is license-free, there is a greater risk of a security breach. Everyone using the open source code understands how to get around various protections. However, you can invest in add-ons and other security programs that work hand-in-hand with content management systems to give you an extra layer of security. Closed source CMS software has heavily guarded source code that requires a license in order to access it, or several if you have a team of developers. Because the source is so protected, it costs a lot to get started. Several closed source content management systems require a monthly access fee, so it isn’t unheard of to have to pay between $200 and $1,000 to get started.
Since you put so much effort into creating a CMS program, these systems are built to last for a while between version releases. While the occasional update or patch may occur, for the most part, once you purchase a closed source CMS, you can find solace in knowing you won’t have to update the program and risk reworking your website code. This also helps keep the program more secure since there is a limited number of people who hold a license to the code.
If you discover you need help with your closed source CMS, you don’t have the large community support found with open source software. Instead, these systems tend to come with high-end, personal support including telephone support, which is rare among open source content management systems.
Benefits of Open Source CMS
- Cost: An open source CMS doesn’t involve any fees to use the platform. All of the open source CMS applications in our lineup include a free option. You may have to pay for hosting or advanced features, but there are several themes that are free to start with.
- Customization: Open source CMS applications are flexible and can fit the needs of many businesses. Because a broad community of developers works on these systems, there are a wide variety of options, so you can find certain tools or plug-ins to suit your business. For example, if you want to add a feature so your customers can schedule an appointment or make a reservation online, there are several plug-ins available that are easy to integrate with your CMS.
Drawbacks of Open Source CMS
- Vulnerability: Open source CMS software can be vulnerable to security issues, especially if plug-ins and modules are not updated.
- Support: Don’t count on personalized support for problems you run into with your particular website.
Benefits of a Closed Source CMS
- Security: Because this type of CMS software is proprietary, these applications undergo a more rigorous testing process, which leaves them less vulnerable to Trojans and other security flaws.
- Customized Support: You can receive ongoing, personalized support to help you troubleshoot any problems with your site. Often this support costs extra.
Disadvantages of Closed Source CMS
- Cost: Costs range from a few thousand dollars to upwards of a hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the scope and scale of the CMS.
- Lack of Flexibility: A closed source solution isn’t always one size fits all, but there are fewer options for customization, and if you need something specific for your business, you may have to pay extra for it.
A content management system allows you to quickly and easily add and edit content on your website. You can control who has access to the various functions of the software and can schedule when content goes live on your website. We’ve assembled a lineup of the 10 best CMS applications in the industry so you can explore your options and find the one best suited for your business.
July 2, 2017
July 2, 2017