Practical Guide: Picking The Right CMS For You

If you are on the verge of creating a website, knowing where exactly to start is usually overwhelming. When you first start building a website, one of the first questions you need to answer is what type of content management system (CMS) you will use. A large portion of websites today are powered by CMS’s because they make it so much easier for people with absolutely no web design experience to build a website and make any minor changes to it such as adding new pages or posts, uploading images and editing pages. Because of this, a content management system is a logical choice for most people.

Content management system is a software that allows you to create and run your website. When you install it on your domain, you’ll get your admin panel where you can create posts and pages, edit any part of your website and arrange the content the way you need. You’ll also have the option to install plugins, configure widgets, and more. You can do all this with a click of the button and there’s no need to write codes or scripts.

The main appeal of any good CMS is the ease of use and they are especially a great choice for you if you have multiple people managing your website who have little technical knowledge and no web development skills.

If you start searching for a CMS that is right for you, you’ll get lost in the sheer number of choices that are presented to you. Currently, the most popular content management systems out there are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, and there are no real rivals for them outside of this trio. All these platforms are completely free, and each of them offers a large amount of functionality and customization.

WordPress

WordPress was released back in 2003 and is the world’s most popular content management system. It has very humble blogging beginnings and currently WordPress powers over 26% of all websites (75 million in numbers) in the world and is used on 40% of all CMS based websites in the world. Some of the websites that use WordPress are TechCrunch and Time Inc.

Here are some of the main advantages of WordPress:

  • Support – There are millions of people using WordPress, so getting an answer to your question is very easy. You can check out WordPress support forum where you can get an answer from knowledgeable contributors.
  • Easy to install – Many web hosts offer quick and automated WordPress installs. You can get WordPress website running in five minutes or less.
  • Customization – There are more plugins and other customizations available for WordPress than any other CMS. Because of its popularity, developers and designers constantly create new WordPress tools that you can use to customize your website in any way and make it look like a high-dollar custom website.
  • Free – WordPress is absolutely free to use.

Like every other CMS, WordPress has some minor drawbacks. The main one is that it prevents the user to make huge and significant visual edits in its easy to use a framework. Because of this, you can’t make many huge structural changes on your website without the help of a developer or designer. However, this might be a good thing for the most people since it prevents them from messing up their website, so for the majority of people, WordPress is the most suitable CMS to build a website.

When it comes to learning WordPress, there are thousands of tutorials, videos, and websites out there that you can use to learn almost anything. Another place where you can ask questions is WordPress StackExchange to get an answer to your problem quickly.

Joomla

Joomla, in terms of robustness and difficulty, is somewhere between WordPress and Drupal and is the second more popular CMS. It can run most websites without problems and it doesn’t require a higher level of technical knowledge to use as Drupal does. Since is the second most popular CMS, it has thousands of plugins available for you to choose from. This way, you can customize the look and feel of your website the way you want it.

Joomla makes it a middle ground choice between WordPress and Drupal. Joomla users say that is the perfect balance between user friendliness and customization abilities, but it is much more complex to use than WordPress. You’ll definitely need some time to get used to working in Joomla, especially if you never had any experience with it. Some of the parts of Joomla can be complex for a beginner such as positioning modules on pages, assigning plugins to modules, configuring layouts and other tweaks that are necessary.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that Joomla is great at:

  • Free Like the other two CMC’s, Joomla is free to use on your own server (you can’t get it hosted for free like you can on WordPress).
  • Great help portal You can quickly ask questions and get technical support.
  • Social networking – Joomla is the best choice among the three CMS’s if you want to create a social network. You can your social network running quickly and easily with Joomla.
  • Not too technical – Joomla is sort of in the middle between WordPress and Drupal in terms of ease of managing a website and the power it provides. You probably won’t need to contact technical support too often when using it.

Like every CMS, Joomla has some drawbacks. One of them is a learning curve. While is not technical as Drupal, you’ll need to spend some time to get familiar with the platforms and all of is features. Another thing is search engine optimization (SEO) of the website. Joomla has some SEO capabilities that you can take advantage off, but you’ll need to put in some hard work to get it fully search engine friendly (on WordPress is so much easier).

When you need some help, first check out their help portal, and if you don’t get your question answered, you can check their documentation.

Drupal

Drupal is the third most popular CMS today and it powers 8% of the websites who run a content management system. It’s one of the most powerful open source content management systems available and with that comes a steeper learning curve. Out of the box, Drupal is the most powerful CMS available and you’ll be fascinated by how many options it contains. Some of the options that would require custom coding in WordPress and Joomla are available right away by default in Drupal, plus you can enhance it with third-party extensions. But you have to know that it comes with additional difficulties and it takes a lot of work and patience to master.

If you want to use Drupal, then you should have at least some knowledge of common web programming languages such as HTML and PHP. There will be things like error messages and code that you’ll have to identify so knowing those languages will be of a great benefit. If later on you’d need to expand your website to something more complex, then you’ll need to hire a technical expert.

Is typically harder to find someone who has advanced knowledge of Drupal so keep that in mind. On the other hand, WordPress experts are easier to find and are much less expensive. You’ll also have to purchase your domain name and hosting because Drupal doesn’t allow you to host your website on their servers.

Here are a few good things about Drupal that you should know:

  • Free – You can download Drupal for free and install it on your hosting
  • Advanced – Among these three CMS’s, Drupal is the most technically advanced.
  • Customization – There are many available plugins for Drupal that make it easy to customize. You can also edit the root files which is important for developers.
  • High performance – Pages on Drupal load more quickly when compared to Joomla or WordPress because it’s less resource-intensive so you can use it on a lower end server.

You can get support at Drupal website, as well as Stack Exchange and other popular websites.

Drupal is great for big and serious websites and for companies that can afford to hire full-time administrators and developers. For example, the White House website runs on Drupal. We wouldn’t recommend that you use Drupal for all the reasons we mention above because you’ll get discouraged.

How To Choose The Right CMS For You

All of these content management systems have their own advantages. If you go searching on the internet in an effort to find a definitive answer, you’ll be stuck and run into opposing opinions on all three platforms and everyone will say that their CMS is the best. Like always, there’s no universal answer. The solution that is the best for you will depend on your unique situation and what exactly you need. One of the most important factors to consider when making your choice is how much time are you prepared to spend learning the platform and then maintaining it after that.

For people who are looking to quickly set up a simple website for their small business, WordPress is a perfect choice.

Joomla might be a better choice for medium sized websites or for those who need something like social network as well.

Drupal is the best solution for very large and complex websites which will require extensive features and customization.

Note that if you are not tech-savvy, then WordPress is probably going to be the best for you because is the easiest to set up and use.

If you go with one option then later on feel like you made the wrong choice, you should know that it’s relatively simple to switch from one to another, but you’ll have to invest some time and be very familiar with the process in order to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Regarding the available languages, Drupal takes the top spot even though is not as widely used as WordPress and Joomla. Drupal has 100 available languages, compared to 62 on WordPress and 66 on Joomla.

In terms of security, Joomla has been reported to be the most secure, Drupal is moderately secure, while WordPress has been indicated to be the least secure of the three, based on the user rankings. On the other side, the security of WordPress plugins and extensions were reported to be the most secure. Drupal user rankings show that its plugins, modules, and extensions happen to be the least secure.

Joomla and Drupal are both template based CMS platforms and are built by programmers and not designers who have branding, marketing, and design expertise. Because of the way they were built, there is no real emphasis on branding features, but it is possible to create a site with unique branding using these platforms. It is a more time-consuming process to do so when compared to WordPress.

Both Joomla and Drupal have a very bloated and often confusing dashboard because they have been built by programmers who didn’t really put the usability effort into developing these platforms. This is one reason more for which most people opt to use WordPress instead.

CONCLUSION

Making a right choice is not easy so you have to bear in mind what kind of website do you need, what is your overall budget, do you plan to work with a professional web developer and your own level of expertise. The best choice for most people is WordPress, and most experts agree on this one. It’s really easy to add new content and there are lots of free plugins and layouts that you can use to tweak your website in all possible ways without needing to know how to code in any programming language. WordPress also receives many security updates regularly which is very important.

Go with WordPress, chances are you’ll never leave. It has a vibrant community and it will very likely satisfy the needs of almost any individual. WordPress also provides great SEO out the box and it can handle the majority of use cases at any scale.