Ten Simple Rules for Choosing the Perfect CMS + Excellent Options

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The content management system you choose can really make a huge difference in how much time you (or your clients) spend keeping a site updated and maintained. There’s a huge variety out there—some estimates put the number at around 1700 different options. Some are great…some, not so much.

Below are ten useful guidelines to consider when choosing a CMS, followed by rundowns on ten great CMS options available and how they stack up based on the guidelines.

Ten Simple Guidelines for Choosing the Perfect CMS

1. The CMS you choose should be really good at whatever the main function of your website is.

What do you want your website to do? Is it going to be primarily a static website, like an online brochure? Or is it going to be a fully-functioning ecommerce site? Or maybe it’s going to be really media-heavy with tons of videos, photos, and audio files. Or is a blog going to be the primary focus?

Whatever your site’s primary function is going to be, you need to define it and then find a CMS that does that particular thing really, really well. If blogging is the main focus of the site, then use a blog platform. If images and video are the main focus, then you need to find a CMS that either has great support for media built-in or has great plugins for enabling those functions. If your site is going to focus on an online store, then the platform you choose needs to be able to seamlessly integrate that online store without a ton of extra work.

2. A CMS needs to work intuitively.

When you average user opens up the backend of the site, they should be able to figure out how to do basic functions without too much instruction. Different elements of the site should be clearly labeled. The basics of posting a new page, editing a page, and even changing themes or sidebar elements should all be relatively simple to figure out for the average computer user.

3. The backend needs to be standardized.

Things should all work basically the same way in the backend of the site. A good CMS should have a standardized format for each section of the backend. If one section uses a drop-down menu for selecting something, then all of the other sections should use the same type of menu for similar options—not radio buttons or some other selector.

The same goes for the way things are named or otherwise referred to. If something is called a “page” in one place and a “post” in another, that’s going to get confusing (plus, most people consider those two different things). If it’s a “sidebar” in one place and a “second column” somewhere else, that’s going to confuse your average user.

4. The backend needs to be logical and well-organized.

Things should be laid out logically in the backend. This means that all of the functions related to editing, or sidebars, or themes, or creating new content, should be grouped somehow or otherwise function the same. Alternatively, some CMSs put all of the things related to pages in one place, sidebars in another, plugins in another, etc. Either way, they’re laid out logically and once you know the basic architecture, it’s easy enough to figure out where things are supposed to be.

5. The right CMS shouldn’t have a ton of extra functionality you’ll never use.

This is a completely personal choice. Some sites will make use of tons of advanced functionality. Other sites won’t. If you’re never going to have an online store, why do you need a CMS that focuses on ecommerce? If you never plan to do anything beyond posting photos to your site, why have a CMS that does that plus a hundred other things? Instead, find a CMS that does the one thing you want to do really well and forget about the other features.

6. The right CMS should be easy for non-geeks to use.

Web designers and developers are very good at using web-based applications and pretty much anything else computer-related. A lot of their clients, on the other hand, probably aren’t. While most of the end-users of any CMS are going to have at least basic computer knowledge, they’re probably not super tech savvy. While you might love a particular CMS and think it’s the best thing since solid-state hard drives, your clients might find it confusing, hard to use, and overly complicated.

The question I always ask myself when considering this is, “Could my mother use this?” My mother is your typical business computer user. She can do spreadsheets, word processing, and email, but she’s definitely not a techy. If I’m confident that I could easily explain a CMS to her and she’d then be able to use it with a minimum of later support, then I know it’s going to be appropriate for 90% of other likely users.

7. It needs to include a WYSIWYG editor.

WYSIWYG editors make life easier for your clients. Most clients don’t know HTML and don’t care to learn. But they want to be able to use bold or italic text or use header tags to create sections within their pages. A WYSIWYG editor makes that all possible for non-tech-savvy users.

8. The pages it creates should be fast-loading and have simple code.

One of the major advantages of a CMS is that it simplifies the updating and management of a website. So the pages it produces should also be simple. There shouldn’t be a lot of extra code or provisions for unused functionality in the final page code. All that serves to do is slow the load times for the page and increase the likelihood that something will render wrong or throw an error.

9. The template engine should allow you complete creative control.

Some CMSs have very set ideas about what a website should look like. There needs to be a sidebar for navigation. You shouldn’t use navigation dropdowns. The content has to be arranged in nice, neat columns. Who’s the designer here? Whatever CMS you choose should let you design pages the way you want and should work around your needs.

10. The right CMS should have adequate support and documentation.

In all likelihood, you’re going to run into some sort of problems with any CMS you choose. Whether this is caused by add-ons or in the course of customizing some bit of code, or whether the CMs is doing something unexpected, having somewhere you can turn to to get advice on how to fix the problem is invaluable.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be some expensive tech support phone number or other paid support. Sometimes you can get quicker and better responses from a user community. Does the CMS you’re considering have support forums frequented both by other users and by those involved in the project? Are there other, off-site forums dedicated to that particular CMS? The people who visit these forums can be a wealth of information for doing just about anything with your CMS of choice.

Thorough documentation for the CMS is also valuable. It should provide information on everything from basic use of the CMS to customizations and advanced functionality. In addition to being complete, it should also be easy to understand and accurate (which can be hard to determine until you actually delve into doing some of what it suggests).

Ten Excellent CMS Options

1. WordPress

WordPress has morphed from a basic blogging platform into a fully-functioning CMS. WordPress’ primary functionality is still blogging, though with plugins it’s capable of doing everything from brochure sites to portfolio and gallery sites to fully-featured ecommerce sites. For the most part, WordPress’ backend is intuitive to use, with different functions laid out based on different sections of the site (appearance, posts, pages, etc.) The way things work in the backed, though, is very standardized and once you’re used to doing things in one section, it’s easy enough to figure them out in every other section. Likewise, it’s also well organized and finding where to perform different functions is very straight-forward in most cases. The WYSIWYG editor provides all the basic functions you could need, including inserting images, video, and other media, and makes it easy to toggle back and forth between HTML and Visual mode.

Because a lot of WP’s functionality comes from plugins, the basic platform is pretty simple, with support for pages, posts, and other standard content that will be used on the vast majority of sites. You only need to add plugins as you need their functionality, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of unused “stuff” in the core installation. WP is also simple enough to use for non-geeks (my mother has no problem with it and she’s running a complete ecommerce site with WP) and the different user permissions means it’s harder for users to break things (just limit their access to things like themes and plugins).

WP is also completely standards-compliant. The pages it creates are simple and quick-loading. Of course, some plugins create not-so-small pages, especially those that put JavaScript and CSS right into the page instead of in separate files. Just be aware of this when checking out plugins.

WP really makes it possible to design pages however you see fit. From galleries to text-heavy sites and pretty much anything in between, WP can do it through the use of custom themes and page templates.

Where WP really shines, though, is in it’s documentation. The WordPress Codex is massive, covering everything from basic instructions for use to creating your own plugins and working with advanced features. WP also has active forums where you can generally find fixes for any problems you might encounter from other users.

2. Radiant CMS

Radiant is built on Ruby on Rails. It’s really good at building basic sites with an unlimited number of pages. Blogging and gallery functionality can be added through extensions. The backend is simple and logically laid out, with pages, snippets, and layouts as the primary sections. Functions work pretty much the same no matter which section you’re in.

Currently, Radiant is rather limited in its functionality, so it’s unlikely you’ll end up with any unneeded functions. Extensions can be built in Ruby On Rails, though, opening up huge possibilities for future functionality. The WYSIWYG editor is basic but allows users to perform all of the basic functions.

Radiant has an extremely easy-to-use backend. Basic functions like updating and add pages are really no more complicated than sending an email. This makes it a great solution for clients who aren’t at all tech-savvy. The code Radiant produces is simple and clean.

Pages can be built to look pretty much however you want based on a combination of snippets you create. There also appears to be an active developer community with extensive documentation for developers. End-user documentation is a bit light, but it’s such simple to use CMS that it’s not really a big issue.

3. SilverStripe

SilverStripe is a full-featured CMS that’s capable of just about anything you want it to do. It’s built in PHP on the Sapphire framework, making it more customizable. One of SilverStripe’s most interesting features is that designers can customize the backend for each of their clients, only showing content fields the clients actually need to access. This makes it potentially one of the easiest-to-use CMSs for geeks and non-geeks alike. And of course it includes a WYSIWYG editor.

SilverStripe is probably overkill for most very basic websites, but because of its ability to be customized, it’s appropriate for most other sites. SilverStripe also provides tons of great, free support, including documentation for both developers and end-users, forums and an IRC channel. SilverStripe makes a point to stay out of the HTML/CSS portion of your site, making it possible to design pages to look however you want.

4. Joomla!

Joomla is widely considered to be the most popular open-source CMS currently available. It runs on PHP and MySQL. The backend is relatively simple and straightforward, with sections for managing articles, the front page, menus, media, and other content. There’s also a link to create a new article to save time. Drop-down menus also give more options for those and other sections (including extensions). Joomla’s WYSIWYG editor includes tons of formatting options—even emoticons.

Joomla is pretty powerful, so it’s another CMS probably not well-suited to very simple sites, where it would have a lot of excess functionality. It includes a number of provisions to make pages load faster, including caching and GZIP page compression. Joomla also has a huge list of plugins available to extend its functionality, making it appropriate for just about any kind of site requiring advanced functionality. One of the biggest drawbacks of Joomla, though, is it’s use of tables for layout. While there are workarounds to replace the tables with CSS, it might not be worth the effort considering how many other CMSs don’t use tables to begin with.

5. TYPOlight

TYPOlight uses PHP5 and Ajax and includes functionality for static pages, blogs, newsletters, and calendars, among other sections. The backend is intuitive while still offering a ton of functionality. There are shortcuts for doing everything from creating forms to including Flash content. Content is displayed within modules, which can be styled with CSS. The output is accessible XHTML Strict. It also offers mootools and GZip support.

TYPOlight may be a bit overwhelming for those who aren’t at least a little bit tech-savvy. It’s not that it’s complicated; just that there’s a lot of options and a lot of different ways to customize it. It does include a complete WYSIWYG editor and other tools to make publishing content simple. The interface is intuitive if you take a minute to look over what’s there and everything is laid out logically. Again, it’s just that there’s a lot of information in there!

TYPOlight does include some nice developer tools, including a built-in CSS generator and a form generator. There’s plenty of documentation on the site for both developers and end-users. There are screencasts, forums, and a wiki for support. There are also options for paid support through TYPOlight partners in case you (or your clients) really need advanced help.

6. Frog

Frog is basically a PHP-based version of Radiant CMS (mentioned above). Frog has a simplified UI that’s very intuitive. It allows for an unlimited hierarchy of pages and allows you to customize templates on a per-page basis. It includes the requisite WYSIWYG editor, simplified and more like WP’s than some of the more complex editors. It also features reusable snippets for regularly-used bits of content.

The backend provides a very coherent and well-organized structure that’s user-friendly while also being quite powerful. The basic functionality is aimed at a site with an unlimited number of pages, but there are plenty of plugins to extend that functionality. There are currently plugins for both admin functions and front-end improvements (including a number for image galleries). The code Frog creates is clean and semantic.

Frog has decent documentation, with plenty of how-to articles for both basic functions and development. There’s also an IRC channel to get answers to any questions you might have.

7. Textpattern

Textpattern uses a tabbed UI on the backend, which is surprisingly intuitive. It automatically brings you to the content editor to add a new page when you login, a great feature for sites that add new content regularly. The biggest drawback to Textpattern is its lack of a WYSIWYG editor. It does use Textile, though, for content editing, which is easy enough for a new user to learn.

The pages output by Textpattern are very lightweight and quick-loading, so no issues there. The thing I like most about Textpattern is that it feels like a real alternative type of CMS. The rest of the options out there are all, to some extent at least, kind of the same. The basic functionality of the CMS is very simple, without a ton of added features you’re unlikely to ever use. There’s support for images, categories, and articles, and not a whole lot else. But there are a ton of different plugins available to extend its functionality, including plugins for everything from media and gallery support to advanced navigation options and stats. There are even a couple of different ecommerce plugins available.

There’s a large community built around Textpattern, so documentation and support are surprisingly good. There’s at least one book available, plus a support forum, developers’ weblog, and TextBook (a community-powered user manual).

8. ExpressionEngine

Expression Engine is one of the more powerful CMSs out there. EE has support for just about every function you could ever need or want, either in the core package or through plugins. The backend is very simple and intuitive (the first time I used it I was able to figure out the backend within a couple of minutes). It’s probably overkill for very basic websites, but appropriate for pretty much anything else. Modules are available for everything from statistics to user forums. The built-in WYSIWYG editor is pretty standard and works well.

The pages created by EE are a bit bulkier than many of the other CMSs featured here, but still appear to be reasonably clean, with the exception of some JavaScript plugins. Some of the plugins available (or at least some of those used on sites powered by EE) either stick the JavaScript in the header of the page or, worse, right in the middle of the page’s code. But there have to be some tradeoffs when working with a CMS with this much built-in functionality.

EE’s biggest drawback is that, except in certain circumstances, it’s quite expensive. A personal license is $99.95 and a commercial license is $249.95. You can use the free Core Version, but only on personal, non-commercial or non-profit sites.

9. Drupal

Drupal is another very powerful CMS that can be used for everything from corporate sites to ecommerce sites to social networking sites. The backend of Drupal is incredibly simple, with logically organized links to create new content, manage accounts, and edit existing content. One of Drupal’s nicest features is their “Book Page” content type. These pages can be grouped into collections, referred to as books, which are automatically linked together. This is a huge advantage if working with this kind of content. Drupal doesn’t have a WYSIWYG editor in the core installation, but there is a module to add the functionality.

The amount of functionality available in the backend is astounding, especially considering how easy it is to access it all. Drupal has tons of modules available, too, to add functionality beyond basic content management. There really are plugins to be able to do just about anything you could think of. The code output by Drupal is a bit more complex than some simpler CMSs, but still relatively semantic and easy to decipher.

Drupal has a huge user community with forums both on the main development site and elsewhere. There’s also extensive documentation for end-users and developers.

10. CMS Made Simple

When they say “Made Simple,” they really mean it. CMS Made Simple was the first CMS I ever used. I literally set up my first CMS-powered website in the course of a single evening (with a customized but out-of-the-box template). It includes complete template support, an incredibly easy-to-use backend, and an unlimited content hierarchy. There’s support for “global content blocks” (called snippets in a lot of other CMSs) and plenty of options for site layout. There’s also access to help files right from the backend, including the wiki, IRC and forums. This is another CMS with no built-in WYSIWYG editor, but there is a plugin to add that functionality.

The pages output by CMS Made Simple are all XHTML and CSS compliant in addition to being clean and quick-loading. The core installation has all the basic content functionality you’d need, with plugins available to add most other functionality, with one exception: there doesn’t currently appear to be an ecommerce plugin for the platform.

There’s good documentation available for CMSMS. There’s also extensive support options, including IRC and forums.

Author: Cameron Chapman

Cameron Chapman is a writer, blogger, copyeditor, and social media addict. She’s been designing for more than six years and writing her whole life. If you’d like to connect with her, you can follow her on Twitter or at her Personal Website.

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Sneh | LBOI Blog
Guest

Excellent article Cameron! Very very insightful and useful. Cheers!

sachin
Guest

Hi Cameron,

Usefull article for choosing among different CMSs.
Very nice article.

sachin

NPXP
Guest

It is indeed a very nice article and is very detailed.

I vote for WordPress as the best CMS for the common public who want their own website without much strain.

dlv
Guest

ufff a crazy article!!, simple amazing stuff, information, resources… another great post !!!!!!

Bryan
Guest

Interesting list, but as is typical, I’m saddened to see no mention of .NET anywhere. All of the choices are Ruby and PHP.

Vince
Guest

Nothing wrong with .NET…its great and in some ways better; but the PHP community is so large and has so much support, its tough to match.

Phil
Guest

My thoughts exactly. I guess the author might not be familiar with .net technologies though which is fair enough – you wouldn’t catch me blogging about php CMS’s!

DNN is the only practical option I’ve tried so far. It’s streets ahead of most others I’ve used but does have a few minor fallbacks:
1. The skinning guide is poop
2. Performance isn’t great – mainly due to viewstate use I presume.

Drupal has to be my favourite PHP based CMS. Shame there’s nothing similar built in .NET really!

Vince
Guest

I’m currently dumping a DNN install for Worpress. DNN is just too hard for my users to log in an submit content. And the pool of designers is much smaller.

Arvind
Guest

I would recomment Umbraco. It’s open-source and completely based on the .NET platform. It’s also got a great seperation between design and content. However, it’s documentation is still sketchy, but once you’re past it’s steep but short learning curve, it’s awesomely powerful.

Creative Web Design
Guest

Awesome list, I always stuck to drupal / WP, but your write-up realllllly makes me want to experiment with some of the others. Thanks!

Gelay
Guest

WordPress!!! After I discovered WordPress, I haven’t even played with any of the others.

Jake Rocheleau
Noupe Team

I have to say that WordPress will always be my #1 choice for blogs and small to medium-sized websites which needs CMS’s. The only reason to really stray from the safety, support, and huge collection of plug-ins with WP would be to use Drupal for a larger-scale site

Kevin Quillen
Guest

I have found WordPress plugins to be unreliable versus any Drupal module.

Andru Edwards
Guest
Oh really? Where would I find OFFICIAL WordPress support, from the company that puts out WordPress? What support packages do they offer? I’ve used 7 of the 10 CMSs listed above, extensively. I’ve found ExpressionEngine to be the absolute best, and that price you pay for it? That includes lifetime support. And ExpressionEngine has had 2 security patches in the 4 years I’ve been using it, compared to many, many from WordPress. Joomla and Drupal are also decent – if you want a blog for a personal site, WordPress is great, but I’d never rely on it for business when… Read more »
Charles
Guest
“And ExpressionEngine has had 2 security patches in the 4 years I’ve been using it, compared to many, many from WordPress.” I don’t intend to criticize EE, but in my experience many security patches usually means active development to constantly fix problems and bugs that are found, and promptly push those fixes to the end user. In fact, it would bother me to only see 2 security patches in 4 years — I would wonder if they are on the ball or not. WordPress serves as the primary CMS for my company and we have never has a security breach.… Read more »
Bill in Detroit
Guest
Unless you also know how many it has needed and whether they arrived in time to keep the screaming hordes at bay, how many security patches a package has had is a useless metric. Did they do the job? Did they arrive in time? For instance, my anti-virus software (Avast) sometimes updates several times a day. These are ALL security patches and I couldn’t be happier to get them. So far as I can tell, frequent upgrades is likely to be a good thing, showing active development and spirited growth. I do not count frequent upgrades against a product, especially… Read more »
Ace
Guest

hi! when you creating a website using wordpress. Is it necessary to make your own plugin or to use other plugin. I know this might be a stupid question but i want to learn more about cms. This is my first time creating a site using wordpress.

Carlos
Guest

Hi Ace, in WordPress you don’t have to create your own plugins. I’ve been using WP for 7/8 years and I’ve only been using plugins created by the community (although I’ve got an idea for a plugin I’m hoping to try and develop in the next few months).

In WordPress (as in many popular CMS) there’s usually more than one option/plugin for anything you need (create forms, user management, SEO, stats, etc.), giving you a lot of options to choose whatever suits your project best.

Hope it helps :)

Wallace
Guest

Any thoughts on magentocommerce.com ?

organizedfellow
Guest

Magento is not a CMS by the contents of this article. Nor does it fall under any other category of Content Management System of any other article, post, or blog I’ve ever come across.
Magento is an amazingly constructed e-commerce solution.
While you may argue that it DOES manage content, true, but not in the sense that this article relates too.

However, it is extremely powerful. It’s gotten a ton of race positive reviews for its ease of use, feature set, customizability, intuitiveness … the list goes on and one.

Wallace
Guest

Ah, I see your point! It is really an e-commerce solution, not really something you would ever setup for just a blog or website- making it not really a true CMS.

I would love to see an impartial look at Magento by Ms.Chapman, great article!

Thank you for the response too Organized Fellow.

mary
Guest

Nice post. I think I’ve tried all those except maybe Frog and Radiant, I always go to back to Drupal and MODx CMS, the best two in my opinion!

Joe
Guest

I also addicted to MODx as it gives me ability to custom almost everything.

Ryan
Guest

Another huge fan of MODx CMS over here. I’m continually impressed with it.

Mark
Guest

Yeah.. i agree for MODx… very easy to use. if you are into CSS designer, then MODx is fit for you.

Jzigbe
Guest

MODx matches all the criteria mentioned above.
It simply rocks.

boris
Guest

My thoughts exactly, why modx is never on this kind of lists is beyond me…

AL
Guest

Another vote here for the awesome “IT JUST WORKSness of the ModX” – roll your own/buy a template from themeforest – chunk/snippet/ajaxsearch/contactform/blog – job done – go for a beer.

Clervius
Guest

Definitely another fan of MODX. I’m new to CMSes altogether and it did take me a little white to get the hang but after I did… everything started going pretty smoothly.

Y3K
Guest

Another MODx fan/user here!

Kenny
Guest

You’ll never guess, another MODx fan ;)

Mary, it’s thanks to your tutorials I got the hang of it.

If you are interested in MODx, be sure to check Mary’s tutorials on the website. (click on mary’s name, can’t drop the link here…)

Hilmy
Guest

This comes in handy while I was writing a similar topic. Your posts have always been very good..

Gary Cunningham-Lee
Guest

An alternative to the approach of getting needed functionality with external modules that may lag behind the development of the core code is to use a CMS that provides more out of the box. This is what TikiWiki does (http://tikiwiki.org). The problem of features you’ll never need is solved by simply not activating them. Tiki’s administration may be more complex than others, but the up side of this is a lot of power and flexibility. Especially recommended for sites that need more than standard CMS features.

organizedfellow
Guest
@nourayehia You mention, ‘Some of the plugins available (or at least some of those used on sites powered by EE) either stick the JavaScript in the header of the page or, worse, right in the middle of the page’s code.’ I mean no disrespect, as I love visiting your site frequently throughout the week. I am an avid ExpressionEngine user. I’ve not come across any plugins that do what you mention. If some code is inserted in the middle of a page’s code, that is most likely the intent, or the result of the Developer. ExpressionEngine templates do NOT output… Read more »
montana flynn
Guest

Just what I was looking for. Another great CMS is CushyCMS.com it is not as powerful but its great for small sites whose owners want to edit the few pages they have.

div
Guest

Interesting article. Any more CMS applications?

Sean
Guest

I would hardly consider EE expensive. The support is well worth it. Most times I’ve had an answer to my question in 15 minutes or less. With wordpress I never had any questions get answered – they just sat there in limbo until I finally gave up.

Support makes EE worth every penny. That and the unbridled flexibility and power that it provides.

strony internetowe
Guest

i think that drupal is the best because has great punch of plugins and clear code

winCh
Guest

You say:

“One of the biggest drawbacks of Joomla, though, is it’s use of tables for layout.”

That was true for Joomla 1.0, but is wrong for Joomla! 1.5 which is the current version. Joomla 1.5 uses a div layout

Scott
Guest

No, it doesn’t. The default templates that come with Joomla might use div layouts, but articles themselves use tables for layout. This will be fixed for Joomla 1.6, whenever that’s finally released.

@Cameron: your screenshot of Joomla is very out-of-date, that’s Joomla 1.0 but the latest version is 1.5.

Scott
Guest

Oh… forgot to say you can override the table layouts for articles and other components, just search for “joomla content overrides” and you should find something.

Greg
Guest

Yeah just adapt the ‘beez’ template overrides and you can easily have a tableless Joomla! site

sven
Guest

i do not agree with joomla being an intuitive piece of software.

Jon
Guest

I completely agree with this statement.

Out of the box some of these CMSs may be better than Drupal, however Drupal doesnt boast itself as a CMS it is a Framework, and a bloody good one.

Christian
Guest

I also do not see joomla as an option

Rick Shannon
Guest

Though I have kept up Drupal sites, eventually they all are rewoked as Joomla! Nothing else I’ve found – and I’ve tested most mentioned in both article and comments – has the number of available extensions and available third party templates, to render a strong and professional looking site.

Rick Shannon
Guest

Jeez, that was a clumsy post – I meant to say of many sites built using different systems, except for a couple of Drupal sites, all the others were eventually converted to Joomla.

Jzigbe
Guest

Joomla is rubbish. It is for those who are complete novices to web designing. It is not intuitive at all.
Modx or Drupal are much better replacements for Joomla.

boris
Guest

^ im with him

houzifa
Guest

wow, this really great article, this should be the ten commandments for web designer.

ryan
Guest

No .NET Nuke?

bhchia
Guest

Surprise no one responded to this.

No love for Microsoft here? Many companies out there still on .NET platform. I have tried .NET nuke, drupal, wordpress and Joomla!. Have to say that Asthetically, I’ll go with wordpress but I’ll stick to Joomla based on my needs. My pro Microsoft ITD dept on the other hand would love .NET Nuke.

Martin
Guest

CMSMS comes with a WYSIWYG-editor pre-installed (Tiny is used)

Deric
Guest

I’ve been building Drupal sites for a couple of years now and haven’t really taken my head out of the sand to check out anything else aside from Joomla!… which was not a pleasant experience.

Do any of these CMS’s have anything similar to Drupal’s CCK- a way to create custom content types, or pages with specific fields that you’ve chosen?

Nice article.

mary
Guest

MODx has template variables that you can use in pretty much the same way. I’m a fan of both!

Kenneth Bruun
Guest

Great post!

You should also mention DotNetNuke in the list. It´s open source CMS as well.

Bas
Guest

I really miss TYPO3 in here. It can do anything all these others can and more.

Jens
Guest

I would like to say the same.
TYPO3 is the most powerful system.
Not that easy but very flexible.
When ist come to real business ..
there is no really choice beside TYPO3.

tboley
Guest

Another vote for Typo3 :-)

dieMelanie
Guest

Me too….

Allthough TYPO3 seems to be not as popular in the states as it is in europe… that might be the reason.

Forsh
Guest

I’ve been using Typo3 for around 5 years now, and yes, it’s got a learning curve but it’s easily the most functional of the CMSs I’ve seen. Many large enterprises are using it now, including Peugeot, Citroen and Renault (for their intranets)

Brian
Guest

I disagree. Piss poor documentation, especically when it comes to 3rd party extensions. Largest learning curve of any CMS I’ve used. It does NOT allow creative freedom (it injects it’s own header code and other stuff all over the place unless you know how to turn it off). It’s admin area is the least intuitive of any CMS I’ve used. Drupal is more intuitive. I believe the only people still using TYPO3 are the ones who don’t know any better and haven’t taken the time to learn anything else.

Steven
Guest

I really believe modX should be on this list.

Jean-Michel Smith
Guest
Great article. I currently use WP for autonomyseries.com and my personal website, however, several years ago I used drupal and found it excellent even back then. After reading this article I’m going to give drupal another look (it’s obviously progressed massively since I last used it). As for the .NET shills … please. I would never consider deploying any even remotely important site on a Microsoft platform. Most of us in the financial industry learned long ago how unreliable .net and Microsoft platforms are…even the London stock exchanged dumped the platform after a daylong (!!!) outage when no one could… Read more »
Chris
Guest

This is a typically naieve OS fanboy response. There are places you can go to argue the toss about which technology you prefer to use. It really comes down to personal preference though imo.

Regarding tfa, nice set of guidelines and a good list of options. It’s impossible to choose a catch-all CMS but I find that having good working knowledge of several platforms allows one to make a decision based upon the requirements and priorities of any specific project.

Emil
Guest

Some time ago i tried drupal for my sites. I just simply cant think of any other cms/framework right now. Posibilities are limitless, community is huge and very helpful, Drupal itself is very intuitive and easy. I used to it so much, that recently im using it over wordprees for my blog. I dont care i had much more time to spent for establishment of site, who knows one day i may run shop there or whatever.
great post by the way

cheers

Uwe
Guest

May I add another category?

Desktop CMS.

I am aware of at least three different ones (among one of it I work for the vendor):

– City Desk
– Zeta Producer Desktop
– Web2date

Depending on your scenario, your budget and your technical skills a Desktop CMS is a quite good choice.

jorma
Guest

You should also take a look at Bildy CMS at thebildy.com

Alvaris Falcon
Guest

Cool article! I use Blogger and WordPress, and only discovered other fantastic CMS after reading your post.

You’re right, WordPress is good with its simplicity and plugin.

Maclord
Guest

Drupal, when I met in the first place, seemed to be the perfect CMS to suit all my needs, not only for its extendible architecture, but also for its SEO-savvy structure, however, forcing all 3rd party developers to re-write the add-ons for each new major version which was always backwards-incompatible messed things up every time.

Not to mention every upgrade ruining my drupal-sites – always having to restore backups.

Drupal users shall endure the bugs!

NICEOUTPUT
Guest

I use joomla a lot beacuase it’s a powerfull CMS, i don’t agree with you when you said that joomla use tables for layout, the new versions since 1 year ago are completely tabless.

I also like modX cms, but it lacks in poor documentation.

Frank
Guest
The moment you put WordPress on as a CMS, you lose all credibility. You miss some of the most important features that a CMS should have: including complex workflows that can be customized, content indexing(especially of docs like word and excel), scaling, multiple site deployments, intranet support, authentication integration, security, etc. All the software you specified are pretty much simple dumbed down apps that can not even compare to what is needed by a REAL CMS. Maybe you should change the title of your article to 10 best blogging software. Your assessment is very naive and short sighted. And the… Read more »
Sean
Guest
I think anyone who has worked with CMS realizes that what you said is just as bad as what you accuse the author of. CMS means different things to different people. This article is actually about CMS focused on web publishing, which is what most designers think when you say CMS. The features you describe seem to indicate the portal or “enterprise” style CMS, not one focused on web publishing. That said, most people I’ve worked with (even big companies) find they don’t want all that extra red tape in the end. Punishing your users is not a desirable feature.
Tensai
Guest

Also Frank, you’re a douche.

Matt Esau
Guest

Tensai, thanks for a good laugh. Yet another case of the internet being a very, very serious place. Just try to keep in friendly and productive people!!!

Lorenzo
Guest

Sean is right – enterprise, portal, DAM type CMS is NOT the only type of CMS.
and Tensai is right too. Frank you’re a douche.

DC
Guest

By far the funniest comment thread. Tensai and Lorenzo are right though. Frank, you kinda leave the impression of wanting to boast a more impressive level of engineering sites than the rest of us mortals.

karin a
Guest

I’d also recommend concrete5 (http://www.concrete5.org)
It’s very intuitive, and very complete!

triplej
Guest

Seconded! The list of 10 was no different than any other list of 10, I was hoping to see Concrete5 on there cause its the sheeeeeeeeiiiiit.

Ghostmiro
Guest

I just love WP and uses it for different site’s. It’s great to start and use as CMS with allot of plugins.
I worked a little with Joomla but i find the userend a little bit complex.

But anyway great article!

deftboy
Guest

Excellent post. It is so convenient to have this information in one place. I was not familiar with several of these CMS. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Donnie Kemp
Guest

thanks for the quick reviews. i find i have 2 types of clients: ones that need the bells and whistles (where i suggest wordpress) and ones that need basic, simple text changes (where i suggest cushycms). i just wish there could be something as simple as cushycms but with the features of wordpress… thats probably to much to ask ;)

Paul
Guest

Thank you i was looking for.
Good article!

Laura Whitehead
Guest

Nice round up of CMS, but feel that MODx should have featured in the list too.

Paul Younghusband
Guest

I’d second that, we’ve been using MODx for years and it ticks all the right boxes. It’s a dream to develop for, it’s incredibly flexible, and our clients love it. :-)

Dave Kannon
Guest

Good article, however, would you happen to have any ASP/ASP.net suggestions for CMS’s?

Nikhil Jain
Guest

Please suggest which is easiest one to change entire website design layout for small websites

Mikkel Johansen
Guest

I really think you are missing the .NET Open Source CMS – Umbraco (www.umbraco.org). Earlier this year the version 4 was released. And it is rocking !!

lossy
Guest

I’ve heard of it, would’ve been neat to see it here.
All peoples already know about joomla, Drupal or WordPress…

George Wiscombe
Guest

I’ve been working a lot with Umbraco lately and I have to agree with Mikkel the latest version is a great Open Source .NET solution.

Lezzles
Guest

+1 for Umbraco. It can do anything you (webmaster / developer) want including full control over the output, and the users (content editors) love it too. Not everyone’s heard of it, but every .net web developer should take a look.

greg
Guest

Please add MODx to your list.

lossy
Guest

Great list, but it’s a shame that there is no mention of MODx.

This CMS is clearly underestimated.

Philipp Schilling
Guest

There’s one additional thing that made me Textpattern addict which you didn’t mention. Its fantastically flexible templating system reqires absolutely no PHP knowledge and enables me to build pretty complex structures right out of the box.

Christian
Guest

Modx definetly belongs on thisw list!

Brad
Guest
I’m afraid I agree with Frank. I once tried to use WP as a cms and it soon became apparent, it’s far from it. I mean, the need to write so much bespoke coding (or adopt a 3rd party plugin) just to be able to use more than one template throws it way out of the CMS category for me. Joomla, is far from intuitive. Just horrible. Along with an experienced EE developer I recently used EE for a large job. Very, very flexible, I can see the potential BUT I was surprised to find it fell way short when… Read more »
Garbo
Guest

Would second this, started using CMSMS then tried a few others and came back to CMSMS….I’m far more of a designer than a developer and it suits me down to the ground.

My workflow is:

1. Design in Photoshop
2. Convert to HTML/CSS by hand in Dreamweaver
3. Take HTML/CSS and create template in CMSMS (for a standard enough home page this takes 30 mins for me, I like that)

Hans Kuijpers
Guest

I work with Joomla! for several years now, after testing a couple of other CMS. What I like about it is that I can use template overrides to alter the output of the extensions to my own needs.

The templates installed with a default Joomla! installation provide me a complete table-less website.
Add-ons can upgrade functionality to a higher level.

Besides… it’s easy to learn others how to use Joomla! Improvements have been made to improve the usability. Which is good.

George Wiscombe
Guest

It would be interesting to read a post looking at CMS for mid-market/enterprise solutions, this would introduce a whole new range of criteria. Can I get support? Is it scalable? How easy is to find developers? This would also bring a few alternative platform options into the mix like .NET etc (e.g. Sitecore / Escenic)

Kysuxd
Guest

I’m not sure if i can clear drupal as the best cms in my mind :)

Guario
Guest

I have used a few on this list but right now I’m a big proponent of MODx. It is very clean and extremely flexible. I love the fact that I can create a design and not have to use all kinds of workarounds to make it work with the platform. Although it has some great plugins (Ditto, Wayfinder for example), it does not have a go to eCommerce plugin like Joomla does with VirtueMart. I have full confidence that someone will create an eCommerce plugin soon and then there will be no other CMS I would use.

mary
Guest

Have you looked at integrating MODx with Foxycart? Seems very easy and straightforward to do! :)

Justin
Guest

Concrete5 is the best CMS I have used (http://www.concrete5.org). Very intuitive, yet also very customizable. Also very easy for non-techie people to pick up on.

Edd
Guest

I’d also have to vote for C5 – its one of the simplest to set up, and has one of the most intuitive edit methods for people to use to make changes! A great tool!

Aayush
Guest

Nice article….very informative…Thanks…

flashparry
Guest

I agree Expression Engine is a very powerful CMS, but I find the interface isn’t too great for non-techy users.

Unless I’m missing something, there is no built-in WYSIWYG editor, what you get are buttons that insert HTML tags into the text – not exactly WYSIWYG. There is an EE plugin for tinyMCE which does the job, but requires installing and configuring.

Similarly, the simple task of adding images and documents isn’t handled well. Too fiddly for non-techies. The ‘File’ extension helps with this – again another install and configure.

Shaun
Guest

If your users are very technophobic you don’t have to let them anywhere near the backend in ExpressionEngine. Build stand alone entry forms for content creation. It’s in fact one of the reasons why EE is so powerful – you can completely ditch the backend control panel if you want to.

I also don’t get the original author’s point about javascript being inserted midway or code being bad with EE. It’s template driven so it’s up to you where code is placed.

nadia
Guest

I’m soo curious about concrete5 (http://www.concrete5.org) I wanna try it this week, I hope you can write a review about this new CMS ;)

Perry
Guest

This is a typical article written by someone who doesn’t know what CMS is. The tip-off? The first “CMS” mentioned is WordPress. Real CMS systems need features like workflow, versioning, scheduling, and so on. Blogging tools are not CMS, and most CMS systems have not a lot to do with rendering.

If what you need is actually CMS, go take a look at Documentum, Hippo, Bluenog, and their competitors.

James
Guest
As a nonprofit end user of CMS’s, I disagree. A CMS is simply a server-side software package that drives a Web site and allows non-technical users to update content through their browser. Workflows, versioning, scheduling are all very nice and essential for enterprise CMS’s with many authors and reviewers. But not every site needs an enterprise CMS. We run our main sites with an enterprise CMS but use WordPress to build small one-off sites that will have only 1 or 2 content managers. For an issue campaign Web site we might only need 5 or 6 pages, but the content… Read more »
Design55
Guest

Good post. Frog CMS and WordPress is my fav. Thx

drupal video tutorials
Guest

drupal maybe one of the nicest plattform for cms type

metin
Guest

I would add Habari to the list and drop Joomla

Jesse
Guest

Thnx for this. Looking into switching my static website into Textpattern. Just order the book, actually. Thnx again.

Greg
Guest
Yeah Joomla is great. It can pretty much do everything you want and if it can’t someone has made a plug in that can. I’d say that it feels diffcult at first (not that intuitive to begin with) but if you get a good book and put in the hours you will get amazing results. By default it does use some tables in layout but they provide a template with overrides as part of the package and it’s really simple to adapt them for your own template. (The template is called ‘Beez’) WordPress is no CMS. Or rather it’s a… Read more »
Kyle Bailey
Guest
I echo Frank’s comments above. Your list of ‘CMS’ solutions is more geared towards small sites or sites with limited requirements for multi-site deployments and extensive workflows. I have several personal sites built on Joomla and other low-level CMS frameworks. Each of them is more problematic from an upgrade and maintenance perspective than any of the .Net based solutions that my company builds for our clients. These solutions are based on Ektron, Sitecore and Kentico mostly. All of which are full featured, include professional levels of support as part of their costing and detailed workflow and very granular permissions. As… Read more »
Fabian
Guest

What about magnolia?

Kyle Bailey
Guest
I echo Frank’s comments above. Your list of ‘CMS’ solutions is more geared towards small sites or sites with limited requirements for multiple deployments or extensive workflows. I have several personal sites that I built on Joomla or with other low-level CMSs. Each of them is more problematic from an upgrade and maintenance perspective than any of the .Net based solutions that my company builds for our clients. E-Cubed’s solutions are based on Ektron, Sitecore and Kentico mostly. All of which are full featured, include professional levels of support as part of their licensing and have detailed workflows and very… Read more »
Ernie Bornheimer
Guest

I recently stumbled across cms.txt and it looks like it would be fun to play with. Anybody have any experience with it?

Web Design Mumbai
Guest

wow. amazing list. very useful.

thanks

Frank West
Guest

Firstly thank you for the interesting read, I have spent many hours recently researching various CMS’s and learning peoples views to see what features they find key to a CMS.

It’s good to see a nice selection of CMS’s being discussed in a sensible fashion and not just a “what does the most”.

Keep up the good work.

Dave
Guest

Something about MODx keeps bringing me back to it. I would love to hear how @Cameron would compare it with the others in the list. It took me a couple of times to get used to it (I was thinking too hard). To me, other CMSes are like modular houses partially built, when MODx is like getting the raw materials to build any house you want.

Chongo
Guest
What is everyone’s thoughts about building custom CMS’s on a job by job basis? Basically I build only what I need for most of the jobs I do. Some of them have been for some pretty high profile clients too! I feel its easier to build what you need and keep it basic (with LOTS of error handling) then to take a platform like drupal or joomla and remove what you don’t need so that the client dosn’t screw it all up. any thoughts? should I invest some time into taking an already built CMS and just strip it down… Read more »
James
Guest
From a client’s perspective, custom CMS development has two problems. One, is that it locks me to you as a vendor. A standard CMS that you configure, however, will allow me to switch vendors in the future without having to rebuild the site from scratch. (What if you decide to change careers or you go out of business?) The second is that it is less flexible because you are coding to a set of requirements that is guaranteed to change in the future (because Web sites are projects that never conclude). With a custom coded solution, reconfigurations will require re-programming,… Read more »
fred
Guest
I think your first poitn is somethign of a myth, okay if someone writes everythnig from scratch in say PHP, then yes you probably would have to rebuild from scratch, but that is a bit out-of-date. Most develoeprs use a framework these days, so if someone uses say Ruby On Rails, it will be written using a framework other develoeprs are perfectly familar with, using MVC and no doubt using plugins others are perfectly familar with. So the client is really only locked into RoR, which is any differnet than being locked into Joomla or Drupal. And as for being… Read more »
Everett
Guest

Excellent article. Well researched and written. Now there are enough systems out there that, in the future, lists like these can be more specific. Instead of a general list of “top CMS,” lists should now focus on a category, like the best for personal sites, the best for small businesses, medium-sized businesses, corporate sites, etc.

teikidev
Guest

and what about SPIP ?
SPIP

Shawn
Guest

I really like WordPress – it’s very easy to use. I’ve also used Joomla on a few sites. My first choice is WP.

web design hastings
Guest

SilverStripe seems to be gaining popularity. I’m currently using SilverStripe for simple CMS sites, EE for more functional sites that use both individual pages, forums, blogs etc & WP for blogs only. I hear Drupal is probably the most powerful CMS tool out there, would others agree!?

FB123
Guest

MojoPortal is excellent! (www.mojoportal.com)

Josh N.
Guest

Sadly, no CMS will meet all of those requirements. Most of the ones listed don’t even come close.

I would suggest looking at Symphony CMS (http://symphony-cms.com/). It meets every one of the 10 items listed except for part of #10. The user community is fantastic but the documentation is not yet finished. Since it uses XSLT as the templating language, which is a Web standard, there is already a lot of resources for that available.

wuss
Guest
Requiring wysiswg and design control from a cms may not be in your best interest. What matters is to keep consistency and to focus on content (content is king). If the website is well designed and developed, style sheets take care of the styling, and users just have to focus on content. Once you start giving layout control to the user, consistency and design quality goes down the drain. To make a parallel, compare the eye-cancer inducing flashing blinking myspace pages that can crash yout computer to the clean, uniform design of facebook profiles. wysiwyg seems cool and makes clients… Read more »
Betamakz
Guest

WYSIWYG editors are not always a great advantage. I find that most of the time, they simply make ‘non-geeky’ clients stuff up otherwise clean code and I tend to disable them. If you’ve done a good job setting the site up, then the client should not have to worry about a WYSIWYG editor.

Mirko Sassetti
Guest

I try a lot of CMS, the best is Cocnrete5 (www.concrete5.org).
Must grow a little more, but is the CMS revolution.

Nikola Ivancevic
Guest

Have you seen SiteCake (sitecake.com)?

Eduard MERc
Guest

Great ARTICLE!

Aloha from Eddie MERC from Hawai’i, USA

Expanism
Guest

Great list, but why is MODx not on it?

Roberto
Guest

I agree with Greg, while WordPress is a hell of a free CMS option, it’s not for the true developer type. I admit we use it to run a handful of our sites but recently was hacked. Original code CMS systems won’t have this problem. If you’re running anything mission critical, develop your own.

Great post! I Tweeted it to my followers, Dugg it for the crew and Stumbled all over it.

RobertO
Graphic Design Schools.org

wahyu  agung
Guest

This is a really smashing! Nice Article.
I prefer Joomla and WordPress as my website platform. They are great in SEO.
Thanks for the tips!!

Chip
Guest

I use Article Manager from Interactivetools.com. They have a lighter weight version called CMS Builder but I need the functionality of Article Manager…

Chris P
Guest

I think SquareSpace covers everything single one of those and even goes beyond the way we think of a CMS. Why should the backend of a website not look like your website? Why not click in a text area and just edit it?

I use wordpress on my site. But I hate having to go to the backend, update a page or post, then have to flip back to see what the finally results really look like.

SquareSpace really dominates all of these except it’s not free. The best stuff is never free.

Mirko Sassetti
Guest

If you like SquareSpace, try Concrete5.

Sklep zoologiczny
Guest

WordPress beats every other CMSs, it’s the most flexible CMS I’ve ever used.

Jesse
Guest

Im suprised at the exposure Frog is getting. I use it and love its simplicity :) Thanks for noticing them out there I know they are a bit less known.

MSK417
Guest
Excellent article! I am currently evaluating different CMS solutions for a client. I have used a few for other projects and really liked TextPattern. Right now I am heavily leaning towards MODx. I asked a newbie question on their forum, on a Sunday, and received several replies back (and one from the lead developer). So that passes the test for me on the community. How many other times have posts gone read but unanswered for a simple question? One requirement that I have for a CMS is a core user registration functionality. I have seen this called ACL or Membership.… Read more »
Ellen
Guest

What simple CMS could you advise?

For average end user, without php knowledge, hobby website. Something that allows add articles without manually linking them to other pages, and spam-protected submit form. WordPress – no matter is it CMS or not – should do the job, but it is too much blog-comment oriented to my liking.

Great discussion! I would really appreciate if you add a couple of suggestions for us, basic users. Cheers!

Premium Theme Info
Guest

I like wordpress as CMS.

lossy
Guest

WordPress is definitively NOT a CMS

smoox
Guest

You article is missing the definition of a CMS. I Never knew that WordPress was a CMS : it’s just a blog platform. Most of the tools presented here are not CMS. What about “Typo3” or “EZ Publish” ?

keif
Guest

Thank you, I was going to say the same thing.

WP? Blogging Platform. It’s not a CMS, although it is *CMS-like.*

I’d suggest CushyCMS, I’ve heard good things, but no direct exposure to it myself.

But this is VERY generic – you could run with “ten blogging platforms” “ten bulletin boards” “ten community sites” “ten self hosted social media solutions” and some of the recommended platforms could cross over, and some wouldn’t.

Bryan Cristina
Guest

Very good list. I can confidently say our company didn’t even come close to following a single one of them. Not one. I was expecting maybe 3-4 but nope, they have demonstrated the incredible ability of picking the worst system probably out there.

gus
Guest

Manila from Userland is all that and a bag of chips, try it. :-) They were doing CMS before so many of the others. My clients tell me, “wow, I never knew this could be so easy, yet powerful.”

Simple CMS
Guest

* Shameless plug warning *

Me and a good friend of mine have just launched a product called SimpleCMS.com which enables designers to add simple comment tags to their pages – then their clients can edit their sites from a page that looks just like their site.

It’s very easy to use for both designer and client and is completely brandable too… oh yeh, and free :-)

Michael
Guest

I’m not sure why Joomla! made this list of “excellent CMS options. It is an option, but not excellent by any sense of the word.

Steve
Guest

Perfect! I am just going through testing CMS applications and this has really help weed out some that would have wasted my time.

Thanks

Steve

Frank
Guest

Hi Cameron, that’s a very good and helpful summary. I just want to point out that Silverlight is extremely helpful in development because it’s set up entirely in PHP/OOP.
I miss the Website Baker. For small sites, very good.
And Moodle for educative content.

Albert
Guest

I guess this one fits all the rules http://agilecms.net
Simple, intuitive and has all you need for small and medium business website.

Website Design India
Guest

Yes its true and i am also agree with this statement and
and also thanks for such a nice article.

Arun
Guest

MODx should be in that list.

John
Guest
Great points. I especially like the bit about choosing a CMS that does what you need it to do. I think my biggest point of frustration with so many of the open source cms systems, is having to learn a new template language, and the difficulty of setting them up. It’s pretty easy to burn a whole day or two just setting it up and getting the stock templates running. *shameless plug alert* We designed our CMS with these frustrations in mind. There really is no installation, the content areas plug into your pages like widgets, and it’s super easy… Read more »
Manu
Guest

Thanks Cameron for this nice list of content management systems! The RadianCMS backend looks like that on FrogCMS.

Beutlin
Guest

No, the other way round! Frog CMS looks like Radiant.

Frog CMS was designed to be a PHP version of Radiant. Ruby on Rails is the main advantage of Radiant but unfortunately it’s rarely supported by common webhosters.

MACscr
Guest
While I have much respect for Drupal’s framework and quality of code, it has an extremely poorly designed user interface. Way to many clicks to accomplish simple tasks like posting articles, etc. Yes, the admin interface could be customized, but thats very time consuming and of course can cause major problems when doing upgrades. Ive been a cms dev for 8 years now and drupal was quite disappointing the few times i have tried it (as recent as this past winter). Joomla is just pure junk and I honestly have to laugh when I hear about people using it. Its… Read more »
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