What CMS should you use?
We review which CMS is best in 2019

In-depth reviews of the Top 9 CMS Software platforms for Business Websites

Which CMS Wins?
weebly icon squarespace icon umbraco icon wordpress icon wix icon drupal icon

Why you need a Content Management System website

How do you post great content onto your website, and manage it? Large websites have dozens - even hundreds - of pages of content. Without an efficient way to keep it all neat and tidy and in some semblance of order the website's look and feel can quickly go pear shaped.

The answer is to use a content managment system (CMS). There are plenty of CMS platforms out there and they all allow you to manage your website, blog, and create content. But, some are far more effective than others and will make your life easier, whilst others can just create more problems than they are worth (even if they are 'free').

Content management systems help businesses maintain their website, create and manage content, and process payments and orders online. A well-deployed CMS can manage employee contributions to content and increase the online reach. Good CMS platforms make it easy for businesses of any size to create and maintain a professional-looking website. More and more businesses are finding the benefits of using them on their websites.

Businesses can rely on CMS software to be able to maintain blogs, corporate websites, news websites, e-commerce websites and more. Usually (preferably), the CMS software offers an interface that doesn't require HTML or CSS skills or complex technical knowledge. The main purpose of CMS is to make content creation and management easy for non-technical users. instead, they can focus on creating, editing, and delivering content instead of having to deal with code.

Choosing which CMS to use can make or break your online presence and marketing. There are many deciding factors when choosing what CMS is right for your business including ease of use, clean coding, mobile responsiveness, stability and more. The best thing is to do your due diligence up-front and pick the best CMS for your needs. So to find out if you should use Wix vs Wordpress, Umbraco over Drupal read on...

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Umbraco

Umbraco was developed back in 2000 as an open source content management system that has the flexibility to run anything from small brochure sites to big and complex applications.

Umbraco offers a great value and features for a CMS based on a .NET platform. It is for people that don't want to pay high licensing fees that come with some other systems. It offers great functionality that comes with a full-fledged CMS and it is known as a great option due to its customisability and functionality.

Umbraco prides itself on the thriving developer community plus it is also backed by the Umbraco HQ that offers support, add-ons, and training. There are some big websites using Umbraco, including Peugeot, Heinz, Sandisk and more. Currently, the supportive Umbraco community consists of over 220,000 people. Unlike some other CMSs, Umbraco is not a turnkey solution right after installation.

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Pricing

Umbraco is an open source CMS so it is free to download and use. The company behind Umbraco offers several commercial products and support packages that can be purchased if needed, but none of these are required to run Umbraco. The Starter package is $30/month which includes the hosting and features such as:

  • Hosting with unlimited storage and bandwidth
  • Automated upgrades
  • Umbraco Cloud support
  • Umbraco TV
  • And more

The Professional package is $470/month which inlcudes everything in the Starter package but also full support with response time within 24 hours, 99.9% uptime, unlimited team members, and more.

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Ease of use

When you install Umbraco, you'll get a blank slate. Some other CMSs provide templates and limited design options, but Umbraco can be adapted and tweaked in any way that you like. As it was built with ASP.NET, it provides the ability to build great custom apps. You can also find a variety of free and open source plugins.

Umbraco has a pretty good interface for managing content. Its editor is great and they are constantly improving it.

You can find over 11,00 packages in different sizes and price points that you can use to further enhance your Umbraco site. For example, Merchello and uCommerce are e-commerce packages that you can use to build your own online store on Umbraco. Umbraco is fast and has a built-in media library that automatically scales your photos and offers responsive design. Umbraco can also integrate with any 3rd party tool so you can effectively leverage external data and content.

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Hosting

One thing to keep in mind is that Umbraco will require Microsoft hosting and this option can be more expensive than Linux.

Umbraco Cloud gives you all-in-one hosting solution with a high degree of flexibility. It enables you to work with code and content in parallel which redueces to market. This fully managed Azure hosting will remove the need for repetitive tasks in project creation, version upgrades, and queuing deployment. Umbraco Cloud starts from $30 per month for the Starter version and the Professional version is $470 per month. Umbraco Cloud has automatic upgrades for your site which will make all security fixes and the latest features available without any work on your part. With it comes unlimited storage and bandwidth.

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Scalability

An Umbraco site will perform fast if it's well-built. It provides built-in caching for content and you can also integrate it with content delivery networks if you are looking for extra performance. You can also simply configure it to run on auto-scaled cloud services such as Azure App Service and others.

Umbraco Cloud is an all-in-one Microsoft Azure hosting solution that is eliminating the need for manual upgrading and complicated deployment. It offers hosting for three different environments and a content migration process. It also automatically upgrades to the latest version of the CMS.

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Security

Umbraco enjoys the core security benefits from the .Net framework, Microsoft stack and Windows servers but it also builds upon that.

Umbraco is open source and the highly engaged development community ensures that any security issues are patched quickly, plus Umbraco itself is fully committed to ensuring that the platform remains as secure as possible.

With that said, Umbraco is a growing platform with a relatively small user base. Estimates say at last count is powered around half a million websites. Compared to more widely used CMS platforms that power 10's of millions of websites, it may not garner the same amount of attention from either developers OR hackers, and so conceivably has not had its security tested or refined to the same extent. As Umbraco continues to grow, it'll likely attrack more attention and possibly more security issues may arise, but that is the case with any CMS. Developers are always working on patches and are submitting them so every user can benefit. All of this is in addition to the security measurements offered via Microsoft servers that Umbraco uses.

Another thing that Umbraco team is doing is removing vulnerable old code to future-proof its security. This way any loopholes in old code are removed and it makes the code cleaner and easier to identify future problems. After all, the elephant in the room here is the Microsoft history of software security issues. Also, recently they moved to Umbraco Cloud which additionally puts the focus on security.

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Pros

Umbraco is completely free and open source. You'll like the completeness of Umbraco. It uses friendly URLs, it allows you to quickly define 404 pages, plus it has a good template system. Its rich text editor works perfectly out of the box and it is easy to use.

There are plenty of accessible extensions at the official site and you're in full control of the site appearance. It is designed to run websites from small local business sites to huge corporation websites.

Cons

There are still many bugs in Umbraco. You may notice templates getting duplicated for no reason and unreliable caching under heavy load. Even on a new site, you'll get errors when trying to save something in the admin panel from time to time.

API and other documentation can be much better and not everything is properly documented. Resource link frequently give 404 error because Umbraco changes their URLs often enough.

Many people will find it very challenging to use Umbraco right after installation. It was intended for developers and it requires major customisation for a specific website before users should see the pages and perform actions such as content editing. Even though you can choose a starter package while installing the CMS (it'll install an initial structure for a blog or a site), you still need to customize it.

You will need to hire a developer familiar with Umbraco because otherwise he or she would need to spend lots of time studying this CMS before being able to perform any work. It will be Challenging for new users with no development experience.

Our Rating
3 stars

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Squarespace

Squarespace is a popular website and online store builder and it is one of many that offer the same functionality. Squarespace allows you to build a good looking website without the need to touch the code and to easily edit your site in their user-friendly CMS.

The latest version introduces new features like G Suite, Cover page builder, and Getty Images. The most important aspect of Squarespace is the editor's usability and it is now possible to edit content live so you don't have to switch back and forth between the preview mode and site manager. Squarespace also positions themselves as the builder for portfolio sites, blogs, and online stores.

With its aggressive marketing, Squarespace wants to position itself as the slickest DIY website builder. Beautiful styles are backed up with integrations and features including support for MailChimp, Apple Pay, and PayPal. All sites will get a free domain registration with an SSL certificate.

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Pricing

Squarespace is not free but they do allow you to try it out for two weeks before committing (although your site won't be live on the Web until you pay). Monthly fee starts at $12/month (billed annually) and it goes all the way up to $42/month if you need more hosting power and a larger website. The lowest plan doesn't include the online store but otherwise supports all the core features:

  • Personal $16/month
  • Business $26/month
  • Basic $30/month (for online stores)
  • Advanced $46/month (for online stores)

Squarespace also offers a 14-day free trial where you can take it for a test drive and they do not require payment details in order to sign up. The plan that you go for will depend on if you need just a website or an online store as well.

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Ease of use

Squarespace features a very elegant editing interface but it is not the most intuitive you can find around. It can also be disorienting for some users to see that there is no sidebar for adding elements. Instead of the sidebar, Squarespace opens a dialog box of content items when you click somewhere to add a new element. Once you hover your mouse over a content block, it'll give you the option to add or edit elements. Editing takes place in full-screen view and you just need to tap the edit button to start editing.

Page layouts for pages like About us, Contact, and Team look pretty good out of the box and you usually won't need to edit the layout at all. There's plenty of page elements to choose from, including text, spacers, images, buttons, galleries, charts, links, and forms. The downside here is that you are not able to place things exactly where you want on the page. You'll need to get proficient at using the spacer element in order to position rest of the elements where you want them.

Adding pages is really easy. You just need to click on the side menu panel and it'll give you several options like a blank page, cover page, blog, album, folder, events, link, gallery, and products. You can then move pages up and down in the navigation and also create folders if you want to create nested navigation.

Squarespace offers dozens of templates that look really sharp and professional. The downside to this is that there are limitations with design due to the nature of how the platform is built. Since Squarespace is a framework only, it'll offer limited customisation options even with custom CSS code. If you are looking to really customise all the little details to your liking, you will hit a point where you cannot do it any further.

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Hosting

You don't need to purchase additional hosting when using Squarespace because it is included with all plans. They are always on top making sure their servers are working and up to date with the latest web standards.

You won't experience any crashes, outages, or responsive problems with their platform. Even though you won't be able to do anything if something was to happen with their servers, you can have the peace of mind since they've been around since 2004.

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Scalability

For most businesses, websites are not a single static page but rather a constantly growing asset that develops over time. Because of this, scalability should be a large consideration for everyone.

With Squarespace, you will eventually hit a wall. Over time you will find that certain functions and features you need are not achievable on their platform. While you may not need some of those right now, they can really be problematic over time.

If you need advanced functionality that Squarespace doesn't offer, then you are out of luck. The same goes for expanding your website to big proportions because Squarespace wasn't built for that. Also, the support for developers is really limited and their website framework is constantly changing.

Another drawback of Squarespace is that it is not an open source platform so you are really limited to using the plugins they provide you with. With that being said, the plugins that they offer will work flawlessly and won't create additional problems. Also, you won't be able to create membership sites, internal databases, or customer logins.

Speed is also a problem that comes and goes, plus you don't have any control over it. Sometimes the platform is blazing fast and works perfectly but at other times, everything seems to slow down and load times can get high.

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Squarespace
E-commerce

Squarespace gives you the option to create an online store. You won't have to deal with complicated website builders because you'll be presented with a simple interface where you can add pages and build your product catalogue in seconds. You'll be able to sell digital downloads, physical products, and services.

When adding products, you can assign them a name, multiple images, text description, videos, galleries, as well as add categories and tags to keep them neatly organised. You can also assign the size, colour, and variants to each product (small, medium, large).

When it comes to payment processors, they offer support for Stripe, PayPal, and Apple Pay. Keep in mind that Squarespace will charge you a 3% transaction fee if you are on the Basic plan and no fee at all if you're on the Commerce plans.

Checkout process options are extremely limited and if you want to customise it then you're out of luck. Most people that go for the Squarespace as their choice of e-commerce platform will find themselves frustrated by the limited options. On the other hand, their e-commerce platform can be an OK solution for a website with only a few products for sale but for sites with a core focus of e-commerce, you are probably better looking into other platforms such as Shopify.

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Support

Their tech support team is usually really good so you can simply submit a ticket through their help desk and they will get back to you within 24 hours. They will help you fix problems or bugs in your account but won't offer any help with small tweaks or fixes to your website. Rather, they will point you to related resources but are not going to actively make the changes on your site.

Their support pages are full of useful tools like video tutorials, guides, and FAQs that are neatly organised into separate topics.

Live chat is also available Monday through Friday (4 AM to 8 PM EST), plus you can email them 24/7.

Pros

Squarespace offers attractive template designs and that's one of their main selling points. Out of the box, you'll have access to attractive templates that are usually better looking than the ones on other website builders.

The reporting, data tracking, and marketing tools are available as standard and it will help you to better target your customers and make even better promotions and improve your marketing.

Even though the number of plugins is extremely limited, the ones that are in there work perfectly and are extremely stable.

Cons

Squarespace doesn't offer phone support so you can't reach out to them by phone if you want an instant response.

Although their website editor has been improved over the years, working with it is still a dull experience. It's not quite as easy to use as others, plus it has the convoluted interface. It also supports only one sub-navigation and it is not suitable for large websites that have a deep menu hierarchy.

You are not able to edit the page title in blog posts which is a disadvantage for SEO and their templates tend to score low ratings when tested in Google's Page Speed Tool. There is also no preview mode available so any edits you make are immediately visible to the public.

Our Rating
4 stars

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Weebly

Weebly is a well-known website builder which allows creating good-looking websites without the need to touch the code. It is being used by over 40 million users across the globe and it just keeps growing in popularity. Such a large user base is explained by the intuitive website editor and convenience that allow building websites quickly from scratch.

It is very user-friendly and powerful enough to build visually-appealing websites with good performance even if you don't have any web design experience. It also comes with blogging and e-commerce functionality which allows you to launch an online store and expand your business.

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Ease of use

Weebly launched a new editor that you will get used to pretty quickly thanks to the start-up guide and general ease-of-use. You can quickly access all the information you need like tips, site stats, blog comments, store orders, and more through the convenient dashboard.

To launch a website, all you need to do is choose a theme and you can already start adding your content. Simply drag and drop elements on your page and rearrange content with your mouse cursor. On the right side, you will find widgets and apps that you can integrate with just a few clicks and these include maps, galleries, slideshows, audio, search box, and more.

There's also an embed code option so you can go beyond the default list of widgets. Basically, Weebly uses a box model where content falls to specific containers or boxes when you drag it to the page. You can use several page layouts as well as a blank page when adding a new page to your website. Weebly offers over 30 different layout designers to choose from, including the homepage, about, contact, menu designs, and more.

All templates are responsive so your website will be optimised for each device (desktop, tablet, smartphone). Weebly has always maintained minimalistic look with its templates but they've added more options over time to make your website even more functional.

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Hosting

Weebly provides a free hosting platform so you don't need to purchase an additional hosting plan. Their cloud-based hosting infrastructure is highly reliable and website performance is very good.

Websites usually load very fast and remain live under any conditions or number of daily visits. Weebly enables you to build up to 10 websites in your account and you can upgrade to even more. Weebly also takes care of security against hackers and spam and on some plans they will install and maintain SSL across your entire website.

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Weebly E-Commerce

Even though Weebly is far from an ideal solution for an e-commerce store, it's still possible to make something simple enough. You just need to hit "Add Product" under the products tab and fill in the details. You can then add product description and price, put any sale price (optional) and add options like size and colour. You can also see orders in the dashboards and you can export a CSV file.

The storefront design is modern, clean, and customisable. There are plenty of advanced options like creating custom emails and order confirmations to send to customers (you will need to upgrade to a business subscription if you want to have access to most of these features which include things like shipping prices).

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Support

Overall, Weebly platform is simple enough to use so you won't have too many pressing questions.

Free accounts on Weebly have the access to help centre where you can find a variety of articles and FAQs that will most likely answer any questions. Paid accounts can contact support through chat, email, and phone and response times are solid.

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Pros

Weebly has a user-friendly interface so whether you are a novice or a veteran, Weebly will be a good fit for you. It is also possibly the easiest site-builder in the market. It doesn't require no coding knowledge whatsoever and you can just drag and drop elements.

Weebly also has a wide selection of trendy themes to choose from. Everything is responsive so it will look great on any device. Pricing is also affordable when compared to other website builders and you can even start using it for free although your site will be on their subdomain. It also has an e-commerce capability so you can easily sell your products online and all their themes are e-commerce compatible.

Cons

Weebly's blogging features are a little behind its competitors. They provide you with the basics like making highlights in each post, social media linking options, scheduling of posts to be published at a specific time but Weebly lacks other attractive features like offering related, popular, or related posts. For a company that wants to host their blog as well, they may want to look elsewhere.

Weebly also lacks consistent upgrades. In the past, Weebly had offered new features maybe once or twice a year max and users always want new improved tools. Weebly has been fixing this recently and rolling out new tools at a faster rate. Other website builders make changes and introduce new tools every month or two so Weebly scores lows in this area.

Weebly also has some design flexibility limitations. If you are using the basic drag and drop interface, it will only allow you to change the colour scheme and font styles. If you want to make changes such as changing the menu bar colour, adjust the content width, or design content background then you will need to modify the code of the template.

Our Rating
3

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Wix

Over the last few years, Wix has grown to a giant website builder that has over 120 million active users in over 190 countries. Wix boasts a huge number of features that puts it in a huge competitive advantage. One of those is called Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) that creates great looking websites automatically for you.

Building a website with Wix gives you plenty of creative latitudes and with an intuitive interface, you are able to create a slick and powerful website. It offers cool features like video backgrounds, mobile apps, online storage for your site assets and animations for titles. The company has also announced the beta of Wix Code where programmers and novices can build dynamic web applications.

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Pricing

You can create an account at Wix for free but if you want no Wix ads, a custom favicon, a web store, and your domain name, you must upgrade to a paid account. Paid plans range from $4.5 per month where they only allow you to connect your domain to $24.5 per month that includes an online store, domain name, priority support, professional site review, and unlimited bandwidth.

  • Connect domain $4.5/month
  • Combo $8.5/month
  • Unlimited $12.5/month
  • eCommerce $16.5/month
  • VIP $24.5/month
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Ease of use

Right after you create an account, you'll be able to choose a site template. Wix offers far more options in this regard when compared to Weebly. They offer 15 top levels, each with multiple subcategories. Overall, Wix offers hundreds of templates to choose from which is more than most of the other website builders. Most of them are completely free but some do require a paying subscription at the eCommerce level.

Wix is very user-friendly and it uses a drag-and-drop editor with in-line editing so you can see your site as you build it without the need to hit preview and check how it looks in a new window. Right after you select a template, you'll be shown a one-minute video that will introduce you to some tools. All the templates are modern and good looking. Several buttons will expand when you hover the mouse over them, letting you add elements, access the App Market, change the background, start blogging, and more.

You can use all usual elements on the page, such as text, social media widgets, buttons, media, shapes, etc. You can also embed Flash code or HTML. Editing the design is super simple and you just need to click on any element and you can drag or resize it however you want. You can freely customize page design, including the alignment of columns and their number and sizes. Adding pages is only one click away and you can easily change site navigation hierarchy. You can even password protect the pages or require membership sign-up.

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Hosting

You don't need to purchase additional hosting when using Wix because it is included with all plans. They are always on top of making sure their servers are working and up to date with the latest web standards.

You won't experience any crashes, outages, or responsive problems with their platform. Even though you won't be able to do anything if something was to happen with their servers, you can have the peace of mind since they've been around since 2004.

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wix ecommerce interface

Wix E-Commerce

Building an online store with Wix is very similar to other website builders. Even though Wix can't compete with specialist e-commerce solutions like Shopify, the service itself does make it easy for personal users to start selling online.

Products on Wix can be physical or digital. On product pages you can add images, videos, weights, size and colour options, and assign an SKU. Wix gives you the option to create coupons, organise products into collections, set up your own tax and shipping rules, and more.

There are plenty of integrated payment processors available and some of them include Stripe, PayPal, Worldpay, Square, and Wirecard. A big plus here is that Wix doesn't add any transaction fee of its own.

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Support

There are plenty of support options in Wix. Left-clicking any object will display a toolbar with a help icon that will open a pop-up window with some tips. You can also access the support section directly. The articles presented in the support section are of high quality and well presented and they even include some GIFs in order to illustrate a point more visually.

Even though the articles themselves are good, the structure is another issue. There is an unnecessarily large number of articles and some have very similar titles or cover the same things.

If you need more help, you can always reach them through a ticket but keep in mind that the response time is usually not that great and can be as long as 3 days or more. Wix receives plenty of bad reviews online for its support but your experience may differ. They also offer a phone support but it is far from good. Your only option there is to request a call-back from them (Monday to Friday) but it is not uncommon that they don't get back to you at all. This can be a big problem for a big web store when there is an outage so think twice if that's you.

Pros

Wix is CMS made simple. It offers more than 500 design templates that cover most industries and tastes. They really try to keep them up to date and looking great. The templates also come filled with dummy content that is easy to replace with your own photos and text.

Wix also sports one of the most intuitive drag and drop systems that is ahead of most of the competition. Wix usually rolls out new features and tools before others so you'll have access to the newest tools before anyone else. They also introduced Wix Code which automates your customisations and Wix ADI that builds your site for you.

Cons

Even though Wix offers plenty of design templates, you won't be able to switch to another one later on if you want (you can but your content will be gone). This may not be a problem for some because their drag and drop editor is easy to use and it makes creating the website a breeze.

The free plan allows you to build multiple sites but you'll see Wix branding in your URL and on your pages. Weebly's ads are smaller in size but this is easily solvable by upgrading to a paid plan.

Our Rating
3 and a half stars

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ExpressionEngine

One of the most common problems of using a CMS is that your website ends up looking like a typical site built on that platform no matter how much you play with the colours, typography, layout etc. ExpressionEngine solves this by not enforcing any default layout or hierarchy. When you first install it, your website will show nothing, just a white page without any skeleton structure. On one side, this makes building a website from scratch much harder but it also makes creating any layout you want possible.

ExpressionEngine is a robust CMS that has lots to offer with many features for everyone. Started by EllisLab in 2002, ExpressionEngine is their flagship content delivery platform.

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Pricing

There are 2 versions of ExpressionEngine available. There is the free version (EE Core) and the paid version (EE CMS) that costs $299. Most of the basic features and tools are included in the free edition and the number of users is limited to 3 people.

If you go with the paid version (EE CMS), the costs don't stop there because add-ons are not free. Website maintenance can also get pretty expensive. If you want to add MultipleSiteManager, that will be an additional $199. Adding a discussion forum is another $99 and support will run you anywhere from $49 per month up to $2000 per month for top priority with unlimited tickets.

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Ease of use

ExpressionEngine is aimed primarily at experienced developers. To illustrate, if you want to get started, you will need to upload it via FTP, create a new MySQL database, change file permissions manually, and then provide its credentials to ExpressionEngine.

Even though you have a control panel for creating content, you will still need to code all your templates as pieces of HTML through that interface. There is a getting started tutorial available but you will still need to know how to code in HTML and CSS to make everything work. There are ready to use ExpressionEngine themes available at ThemeForest but then again if you are considering using a ready-made theme, you will be much better off with WordPress.

Users who've experienced working with ExpressionEngine report that the platform is highly sophisticated and has a steep learning curve. All customisations are connected to coding itself, so people with no PHP experience won't be able to develop the site.

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On the other hand, ExpressionEngine is extremely flexible and it lets you customise your site every step of the way. You're not forced to work with a pre-made templates like in other CMS's and you can basically use any HTML/CSS template you'd like. You can also customise the interface based on your needs.

You are also not limited to a single blog and one set of categories. The entire site is organised and built from the ground up based on your content. So even if you need three blogs on one site, you can create it with ExpressionEngine. You can set up your site structure exactly as you want it with no compromises or hacks necessary.

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Hosting

You do need to purchase a hosting package for your ExpressionEngine website. The plan you go for will depend on your traffic level so a VPS or dedicated system may be an overkill. There are websites running it on everything from cheap shared servers to large dedicated server clusters.

You can simply introduce more or less overhead over time, depending on which add-ons you use and how you code your templates. ExpressionEngine uses a web-based admin interface so you'll need to access the admin side using a supported browser as well.

You need to think about how well are your templates written and how well everything is optimised setting-wise before you decide to go for a specific hosting package.

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Security

ExpressionEngine has a great security record with basically zero major security vulnerabilities from the date it was launched back in 2002. It boasts many security features, including email address banning, IP banning, secure passwords, session management, password lockout, secure forms, and word-censoring.

It comes with built-in spam deterrents that will keep your site spam free and secure. One of the most notable features is the blacklist and whitelist module that will allow you to specify IP addresses and URL's that you want to deny or allow from your site.

On top of that, you have the ability to tighten the security even more through restrictive permissions and by using high-quality web hosting. ExpressionEngine is definitely one of the most well rounded CMS's when it comes to security.

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Support

The ExpressionEngine team understands that an excellent support is very important. Their help documentation is very good and laid out clearly, plus the search function works well which is very handy when you are not too sure where to look for the information you need.

The documents have comments enabled at the end of each page where users can contribute to. If there is something that you can't find in the documentation, then you can head over to the support forum. The forum community is very knowledgeable and is willing to provide help.

They also have an official bug tracker and official paid support. The support team is very friendly and sharp and they will try to deliver a quick and prompt response to your questions. One caveat, if you want to send tickets to EllisLab, you'll have to pay a monthly subscription. Keep in mind that the support for complex software such as ExpressionEngine is almost always expensive and when you scale your site you'll end up contacting support more and more often which will increase the cost over time. With that being said, most of the time you'll be able to resolve tour issues by reading the docs or asking the community but if you get stuck, it's worth paying $49 because that will likely save you a day or more of your time.

Pros

ExpressionEngine gives you the full flexibility to customise. You can create a custom back-end strategy just for your specific needs. You can organise the data and feed it to your website in any way you can think off, making it simple to create structured data schemas (great for SEO and website visibility).

ExpressionEngine is built on top of an object-oriented PHP framework that separates important website functions from their front-end output and that greatly reduces the chance of a security exploit. It is also less known when compared to other popular CMS systems so it is less likely to become the target of a mass exploit. Overall, the security is on a really high level.

The community is very large and users have extensive support for any problems. ExpressionEngine's website shows a list of many high-profile websites using the platform so it has the added benefit of a professional reputation.

Cons

Complexity. You will need a web developer to build a site with ExpressionEngine. Once the site is built, the CMS itself can be used by even novices but for any changes to the site functionality or architecture, you'll need an extra help.

There's also the cost of $299 plus all the extras and hosting charges so that could be enough to turn away most of the smaller businesses. You'll also need to pay for the support so for anyone looking for a basic website that doesn't require coding knowledge, ExpressionEngine may have too many bells and whistles to justify it all.

Our Rating
3 and a half stars

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Joomla

Joomla is an established open source CMS designed mostly for developers rather than beginners who would be more inclined to use website builders for creating their own website. Joomla sports a broad selection of business and commerce add-ons and it works well for companies that are looking to step up their basic website.

Launched in 2005, Joomla is one of the most used open source CMS's worldwide and it is world's second most popular CMS right behind WordPress. It can be used by both developers and people with little technical skills because Joomla manages all the content and gets things done for you.

The platform has three levels of user interface: a front end editor that looks like the website but with editing options, the traditional front end the user sees (the website), and the back end admin panel where you manage the site. You can further expand the platform by using modules, components, and plug-ins that will add various features to the core system.

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Pricing

Even though Joomla is a free open source CMS, it still comes with expenses when you put everything down on paper. First of all, you'll need to register a domain name and the average price is around $10-15 per year.

When your domain name is ready, you'll need to go ahead and host your website. Hosting plans come at different price points, depending on what you need for your website and you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $50 per month or more. Depending if you opt for a DIY solution or if you decide to get external help, website design is another additional cost, whether it's in a form of a paid template or getting a website designer hired to handle it.

There's also the cost of website maintenance as it is almost certain that you will run into problems where you'll need to hire a developer if you can't fix that problem by yourself.

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Ease of use

Joomla can be a bit intimidating on the first contact due to many features available but it is actually an easy to use CMS once you get the hang of it. They really tried to make the admin dashboard intuitive but there are even simpler ones like WordPress. One of its strongest points is consideration of user levels. Joomla provides a different interface for different user roles so they will all individually have a different experience matched with their needs. While it may not seem as intuitive as possible, you will get used to it and find it relatively powerful. These roles are split into:

  • Front-end roles: registered, author, editor, publisher
  • Back-end roles: manager, administrator, super administrator

Joomla is a flexible tool and once you get the hang of how the different plugins, modules, features, and content are structured, it becomes easy to build and maintain your website. Many of modules and components are free and you can even integrate other applications. Joomla enables you to create hierarchical menus with ease with its menu creation tool even if you don't have any programming experience.

Joomla stores content as articles and that is its primary content type. Articles are then attached to a menu so it can be displayed on the site. Joomla uses modules so you can place content in different areas which can take many positions as you can see in the image below. While we don't see this too often, it is well worth learning and it can be very handy.

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Hosting

First of all, you can host your site for free at Joomla.com. If you go with that option, your site will be ready to use in a matter of minutes and it'll get automatic updates. Even though the core CMS functions are not limited in any way, there is only a small number of extensions and templates available. You will also not be able to edit template files, plus storage is limited to only 200MB.

Even though it would make sense that Joomla would target beginners with this move, it's just not inviting enough for such users. In terms of challenging CMS's like WordPress or Weebly in the website builder space, Joomla is not user-friendly enough for beginners so we can't recommend it. On the other hand, it's not for experienced developers as well since the store is very limited and there are heavy restrictions in place.

With that being said, it is recommended to go with the self-hosted option. Using Joomla.com may be free and somewhat easy to use, but its actual strength doesn't lie there. The real power behind Joomla comes with the open source code developed by its huge community. The extensions, features, plugins, and robustness are things you don't want to miss out on.

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joomla interface screenshot

Security

2005 to 2010 were unkind to Joomla as there were hundreds of documented vulnerabilities, many of which have been knowingly exploited. Since 2010 it has had very few vulnerabilities and only a handful of exploits, and the security just keeps getting better.

Joomla's security level is very high right now and you can use additional extensions to boost website security. These extensions can add captchas, protection from XSS attacks, SQL injections, and more.

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Support

Joomla's community has been active since day one and it has not only grown quickly, but the dedication of the community is amazing. So if you get stuck, visiting the Joomla forums should be your first option.

Besides that, Joomla doesn't offer many support options. You can browse through the online user guide and take some online classes available through the website but that's about it. Documentation is wiki-based and it is updated regularly. There are is no ticket system or phone support available but this is common for open source systems.

Pros

Joomla is not as technical as some other solutions (ExpressionEngine, Drupal) and it is the middle ground solution for non-tech savvy people.

The Joomla team has been working hard on improving their SEO and you no longer need to rely on third-party plugins in order to optimise your Joomla website. Combine all of that with their great template system and you have a good recipe for ranking in the search engines.

Joomla is loaded with options. Some of the features that are not seen often in other CMS's include banner management with click logging and search keyword tracking.

Cons

Joomla falls short on media management. There is no option to move, crop, resize, organise, or scale images other than uploading and deleting them. This is a minus for Joomla or any CMS, especially with this level of popularity.

There is no versioning available even though most users will love to have it included within the platform instead of having to rely on plugins. This means, if you make a change to an article, you will not be able to revert it back to the old article.

Joomla rolls out big updates regularly but these have been known to break a lot of extensions. Migrating from older versions can be difficult especially if you have things like forums already set up. With that being said, smaller updates usually won't break anything and can be installed with a single click.

Our Rating
3 and a half stars

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Drupal

Drupal is one of the most used content management systems that is aimed at advanced developers and designers. It enables you to create powerful websites that are capable of handling huge volumes of visitors and hundreds or thousands of pages of content. It is a very flexible CMS so it can be used to create anything from a simple blog or an impressive business website. It is a great choice for a growing business that always has ever-changing needs.

Drupal is far from the most user-friendly CMS out there. Even though there are plenty of themes to choose from, it still requires many hours of coding to make a truly functional website.

Drupal CMS includes email forms, sitemaps, blog tools, and more. All basic features are already included and Drupal also has a wide range of add-ons which can come in handy if you are running a business or e-commerce website. Some of the add-ons include live chat, help desks, shopping carts, inventory management, and POS systems.

Drupal also has an organised, generous, and friendly community behind it that makes frequent and on-going improvements.

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Pricing

Since Drupal is an open-source software, it is free to download and use directly from Drupal.org. But how much it will cost to build the Drupal site depends heavily on what you need.

Sometimes the Drupal core that comes with the Drupal software, and readily available modules can be enough for everything that the site needs to do. But even the implementation of a Drupal site with little to no custom development is a complex process, let alone a large website with full custom development. Greater complexity results in higher costs so the cost can easily end up in the mid to high five-figure range. This does not include an ongoing cost of hosting, a developer for management, etc.

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Ease of use

Installation is straightforward for anyone who is familiar with installing applications on web servers. If you are not experienced in that regard, you'll need to go through the documentation and use FTP to upload files. Once that's done, you'll hit a long and steep learning curve if you are completely new to Drupal.

Drupal prides itself on a huge amount of available modules (plugins) and most of them are of high quality and free. The Drupal community has managed module development so you won't bump into many confusingly similar ones that are doing the same thing.

Drupal is known as a blank slate that you can customise on all levels. The interface can look clunky to a beginner but when you dive into it, you'll notice how functional it is. If you ever worked on WordPress and similar CMS platforms, you will find that Drupal has the steepest learning curve of them all.

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A front-end editor is simple to use and it increases in a number of functions as you add modules and customise it over time. Drupal's user roles differ from those of WordPress in a sense that you can completely customise them and enable or disable functions and access to site areas for each role. This enables you to create a specific user role for your team members so they only have permissions to create or edit certain type of content. Drupal is not the best CMS for beginners. The steep learning curve will make any new users seek help from professionals to customise the site. If that is the case you have to keep in mind the additional price of hiring a developer.

Regarding content types, you will use basic pages (for regular static pages), a book page (for a collaborative type of content where multiple users can add to), and articles. You also have the option of adding forum topics and polls. Drupal gives you the option to create and define your own content types with different capabilities, functions, and features.

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Hosting

Drupal is an open-source CMS and there are no options to get your site up without paying for hosting like it is on Joomla.com or Wordpress.com. There are many hosting packages available and the one that you choose will depend on your needs.

Once you get the hosting, installation is a three-stage process where you prepare a database for Drupal, download files for it and then go through a web-based installation.

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Scalability

Many high-traffic sites around the world are relying on Drupal when it comes to handling lots of daily visits. Big enterprises and sites with extreme traffic bursts are using Drupal because its scalability is one of the best.

You can scale Drupal and it won't break no matter what you throw at it. You can create all the content and pages you want and Drupal can easily handle it. Also, no matter how many users you have, Drupal will run smoothly and without any hiccups.

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Security

Any open source software may contain bugs or issues that need to be addressed as they are discovered. Since the code is publicly available, the attackers could study and exploit the code.

Drupal is one of the most well-known CMS's and it consists of over 100,000 developers who maintain and improve websites across. Drupal's security team is ensuring that the code hosted on Drupal is reviewed, reported, and solved. Since Drupal is a proven framework, it stands up to the most critical vulnerabilities to prevent the worst from happening. It is a mature and stable platform with robust security measures. Many organisations and companies (brands, governments, corporations, etc.) around the world are relying on Drupal to protect them. Most of the security issues are prevented entirely by Drupal's code and thorough community code review process.

Drupal account passwords are encrypted when they are stored in the database. Drupal also supports multiple password policies such as complexity, expiration, and minimum length. SSL and 2-factor authentication are also supported.

Drupal protects your site against brute-force password attacks with limited login attempts feature where you can set a number of failed logins from a single IP address to be banned from accessing the site. Drupal is also very good at handling denial of service (DoS) attacks with its multi-layered cache architecture that is resistant to high volumes of traffic.

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Drupal
E-commerce

Drupal Commerce is commonly used to build e-commerce websites on the Drupal platform and it comes with a basic package out of the box. You can download Drupal Commerce for free since it is an open source software.

Drupal Commerce has a good integration of an online store and content management so you won't have to install another CMS if you want to work with content separately (like it is the case with Magento for example). You can use Drupal Commerce to sell digital or physical products.

Compared to other popular solutions like WooCommerce, it has a steep learning curve if you are not well familiar with Drupal in the first place. So, if you are thinking about using Drupal just for running an online store, you should probably look elsewhere.

Another option is using Ubercart which is Drupal's e-commerce module. Ubercart has installable modules for managing stock levels, calculating shipping charges, providing point and click payment gateways, and more. There's even a module that allows customers to pay for goods with virtual currency.

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Support

Drupal's community is very large and you can trade code and join forums to ask questions. Since Drupal is an old product, it has a large and active developer community which is reflected in the number of modules. The Drupal website also has solid documentation.

In addition to this online community, Drupal has several support options. These include email tickets and contacting support through social media pages.

As with most of the other open-source CMS platforms, Drupal doesn't offer telephone support.

Pros

Drupal usually has great performance and pages load more quickly than on some other CMS's. The reason behind this is that it is less resource-intensive and requires a less expensive hosting setup.

Drupal is made for customisation and there's a plethora of available plug-ins and themes to choose from. Root files are also editable which is perfect for developers making major changes. Drupal is considered maybe the most powerful CMS out of the box but with that power comes many additional difficulties.

Cons

Anyone who is considering using Drupal will need knowledge of PHP, HTML, and other web programming languages. And when your website begins to gain traction and evolves into something larger, you'll need to have someone with technical expertise to help you out and that can get really costly. Plus, it can be a little harder to find someone with good knowledge of Drupal so you can expect to pay them more as well.

Our Rating
4 stars

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Wordpress

Released back in 2003, WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, powering around 60% of websites that use a CMS and about 29% of all websites in general. It was initially released as a blogging platform designed to be added to an already existing site. As it quickly grew in popularity, the community began to include more features that are commonly seen with more common content management systems.

WordPress is open source so you don't have to buy a license to use it. The WordPress community is continually growing, creating new themes, and developing new plugins so the functionality is always evolving. Huge companies like eBay, IBM, Forbes, The New York Times, and Best Buy all use WordPress, but small businesses and bloggers also take advantage of it and enjoy its many features and ease of use.

WordPress can be used for something as simple as displaying your photography portfolio, making a recipe site, or a travel journal. But, it also offers a vast array of sophisticated tools and features to build a professional website. Regarding SEO, WordPress does all the heavy lifting for you by optimising your posts and pages to be more easily found by Google and other search engines.

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Pricing

WordPress is an open-source CMS that is free for download from their website. Like with any other open-source CMS, there are some additional costs that you'll need to cover once or on a monthly basis. Some of the most common expenses include the domain name, hosting, theme/design, plug-ins etc.

For some, the basic features that come with WordPress will be enough but for others that want to take full advantage of its potential, they'll need to install additional plugins. Some are indeed free but others will cost you money (like with most other CMS's). Hosting costs are totally subjective and will depend on how large your website is and how much traffic is it getting.

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Ease of use

The main thing that people love about WordPress is its ease of use. Since it started as a blogging platform, it had to be very intuitive as most of the users would lack any technical knowledge. For this reason, if you have the technical ability to use Microsoft Word, you'll likely be able to use WordPress. Working on the dashboard is really simple and intuitive. Posts, pages, and media content are managed in their respective pages and it is easy to move and edit content. Adding and editing menus is also really simple and you can either add your pages to the top-level menu or create custom menus and place them where you want with a widget.

Even though WordPress lacked some complex functionality in the early days, it has been embraced by developer community in the recent years due to major technology improvement and its market share.

  • Subscriber: these users can only receive an update on site content or leave comments on articles
  • Contributor: can create their own content but cannot publish it
  • Author: can create and publish their own content
  • Editor: can create content of their own as well as publish the content of other users
  • Administrator: can manage all content, themes, plugins, users, and other website settings
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You will find that WordPress is amazingly simple to use, especially when it comes to creating new posts, pages, or uploading media. Pages are just that – pages; when you create them you just need to add them to your main menu and you are done. Posts are what you add to your blog and you can assign each post categories and tags.

You can upload media like images, videos, PDFs, and other files. Uploading is easy, you just have to drag and drop it and you have options for automatic image resizing, editing, enhancing, and cropping.

WordPress also uses widgets which are usually placed in a footer or a sidebar and they contain little bits of content that wouldn't otherwise go on a page or post.

Since WordPress has its roots in a blogging platform, adding and editing posts and pages is extremely easy to do. Comments are perfectly integrated into the blogging mindset and WordPress comes with great comment management systems out of the box.

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Hosting

You can install WordPress and have it running in under five minutes. Compare that with Drupal and others and you can begin to understand how user-friendly WordPress is.

The single installation screen enables you to get your site up and running quickly. There are no complex configurations needed and this is welcomed by newer users.

Regarding the monthly hosting costs, unless you are running a really big website with loads of traffic, you will be fine on lower grade servers so your monthly hosting bill won't be as high as with some other solutions.

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Wordpress
E-Commerce

The best way to build an online store on WordPress is to use WooCommerce. WooCommerce is the leading platform with the largest user base in the world. If you already use WordPress and you want to add an online store, you just need to install WooCommerce which is a free plugin with no monthly fees that adds a shopping cart functionality to your website.

No matter which theme you are using, WooCommerce will work perfectly with it and everything is already mobile-friendly due to the nature of WordPress and WooCommerce.

WooCommerce customer support is very prompt and helpful and you can get help at any time by reading the help documents, visiting the forums, or submitting a ticket on their website. If you have even modest experience with WordPress, you'll be able to build your online store pretty quickly.

There are also many available themes and plugins to choose from and most of them look stunning. The design is a very important part of any online store and it has a great impact on the conversion rate so having a good looking and a properly designed website is a must. Even though you can get a free or cheap theme installed on your store, you'd be probably neglecting many important aspects when building the store if you don't have lots of experience with it and that can have a negative impact on your store performance.

The maturity and stability of the WordPress platform combined with the reputation of WooCommerce make it an ideal choice for an online store of any size.

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Security

The popularity of WordPress makes it subject to targeting and exploits, but when it comes to core vulnerabilities, WordPress has a great reporting process and they are very quick to patch it, usually within 24 hours if not sooner. Being the big player and constantly being tested means that any security issue is quickly found and resolved.

The WordPress security team consists of about 25 individuals who are top experts in WordPress security and development. They are responsible for identifying security risks and also reviewing potential issues with 3rd party themes and plugins.

Ultimately, some of the responsibility falls on your shoulders. That's why it is important to follow security best practices in order to keep your site as secure as possible. Having a proper password and security measures in place will help a great deal with mitigating any security problems. You should also avoid any sketchy themes and plug-ins, especially the ones that don't have many downloads or reviews.

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Support

WordPress has the largest community of any other CMS. The developers of individual plugins and themes also offer support for their own products (especially for paid versions).

Since WordPress is widely used, there are many free tutorials and guide on the internet you can use to learn anything. If you still can't solve your problem, you can always pay a developer for the help.

WordPress documentation is called the WordPress Codex and you can find all the information here. It is great for when you want to make code changes but don't know how.

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Pros

One of the WordPress' famous features is a one-click installation that is offered by most hosting companies. Even the beginner can have a basic website up and running within 5 minutes of signing up for a hosting package.

WordPress also has the largest community of users in the world, which means that support is very accessible and updates are far more frequent.

WordPress excels in the selection of free and paid themes and plugins that is far ahead of other content management systems.

WordPress also includes many SEO best practices out of the box such as easy to update metadata, friendly URL structures, and XML sitemaps.

Cons

As the market leader, Wordpress is also the most exposed to online attack. Whether this is a con or not depends on your perspective. Sure, there may be more hackers out there potentially attacking Wordpress sites, but on the other hand the development community is so huge that as long as any security updates are applied in a timely manner, a website's security is continually being strengthened. Wordpress definitely does not benefit from the 'security through obscurity' that a smaller CMS' may.

WordPress can have a somewhat unwieldy code base which can negatively impact performance but it is unlikely that the typical small or medium business' website will be big enough for this to be an issue.

Multi-language support is not offered out of the box but you can add this functionality with plugins.

Our Rating
4 and a half stars

CMS Comparison

The question is though, how do you post great content onto your website, and manage it? Large websites have dozens - even hundreds- of pages of content. Without an efficient way to keep it all neat and tidy and in some semblance of order the website's look and feel can quickly go pear shaped.

  •  
    Umbraco
    Squarespace
    Weebly
    Wix
    ExpressionEngine
    Joomla
    Drupal
    WordPress
  • Open Source/Free Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
  • Flexible Hosting Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
  • Setup & Ongoing Costs Medium Low Low Low High Medium High Medium
  • Customer Support Paid Ticketing Paid Email/Chat Paid Email/Phone Forum & Articles Paid Ticketing Forum & Articles Forum & Articles Forum & Articles
  • SEO Friendly Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
  • Ease of Use Medium Easy Easy Easy Dificult Medium Difficult Easy
  • E-commerce Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
  • Our Rating 3 stars 4 stars 3 stars 3.5 stars 3.5 stars 3.5 stars 4 stars 4.5 stars

Conclusion

Engaging and good-looking content is the key to attracting the maximum number of visitors to your website and keeping them around. Maintaining good content means constantly creating new pieces and revising and updating existing content. Maintaining websites would be barely feasible without the use of Content Management Systems.

We outlined the benefits and drawbacks of different CMS software, but to determine which CMS is the best CMS for you, the first step is to evaluate your current and future business needs. The goal of most businesses is growth, so it makes sense to go with a CMS that is scalable, instead of having to switch to another CMS when you hit the next tipping point with your business.

Going with a website builder like Squarespace or Weebly is fine if you are looking for a really small and simple personal website, but any small or medium size business should invest into something more professional, scalable, and stable like WordPress.

Picking the wrong CMS for you could severely negatively impact your online presence, marketing and more. Whatever CMS you end up choosing, know that you're in it for the long haul and that your website will be running off that CMS software for years to come. There is no room for buyer's remorse if you realise later on that it's too expensive, resource-intensive, slow, or too complex for normal users to navigate. This is because it is complex to move your information from one system to another after it's built and running, and often quicker and cheaper to start over.