Content Management System (CMS)
The internet provides small businesses and even individuals with communication tools that would have been considered unimaginable just a few decades ago, but taking advantage of these tools once required either very deep pockets or a great deal of skill.
In the early days of the internet, small business websites were little more than online business cards and only major corporations had the resources necessary to regularly update what their visitors would see.
Content Management Systems (also known as CMS or website builders) have changed that.
Using a content manager allows individuals to add or remove content quickly or even change the entire look of their websites with just a few clicks. They also allow business owners to respond to changing market conditions quickly and encourage them to see their websites as store fronts rather than billboards.
There are several different types of content management system available and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Some have evolved from simple blogging platforms to become internet behemoths while others were developed for more niche applications.
There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of themes available to create every imaginable kind of website, and an array of plugins allow functionality to be added in a matter of seconds that would have once taken hours of careful coding.
Themes use fonts, layouts and color schemes to give websites a distinctive look and style, and plugins can be used to add forms or other types of content, improve security or speed up loading times and manage online stores.
Before choosing a CMS download, you should evaluate your online goals to determine what sort of website features will be needed to meet them.
You should then read the following reviews of the top content management systems currently available to find out which of them fits your needs.
You should also consider ease of use carefully. This is because not every content management system is designed to be used by novices and advanced features are sometimes accompanied by a sharp learning curve.
Top Content Management Systems (CMS)
WordPress was introduced as a blogging platform in 2003 and has gone on to become what many believe is the most popular web content manager system of all.
It may lack some of the more advanced marketing features found in other CMS software, but it more than makes up for this shortcoming by offering tens of thousands of themes and more than 50,000 plugins that take care of SEO and provide website builders with virtually boundless possibilities.
WordPress websites now account for about 30 percent of all internet traffic and are used by corporations and organizations including NASA, the BBC and the Rolling Stones.
WordPress may also be a prudent choice for you if you are building your first website as there are dozens of online forums and communities dedicated to the software that could provide you with help should you run into a problem.
Some of the most prominent theme makers also have support forums and post regular troubleshooting articles.
While WordPress.com offers subscriptions that include hosting and range in price from $4 to $25 per month, the software itself is open-source and free.
Most web hosting providers allow WordPress to be installed quickly and easily and the software features a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor as standard to make thinks easy for those with little or no coding experience.
WordPress is a popular content manager because it is free, easy to use and extremely flexible, but its popularity makes it an appealing target for cybercriminals and there is no official support from its makers.
Strengths: Open-source, ideal for beginners and very versatile.
Weaknesses: Less secure than other solutions, no official support and websites can be slow or laggy when loaded down with plugins and features.
Drupal is another open-source CMS that is supported by an extremely active community.
Drupal communities offer forums and IRC (i.e. Chat) channels, and Drupal events are held regularly in many large cities. The Drupal website also offers support and features a forum.
Drupal is not as easy to use as some other CMS software, but it offers web developers with tools to organize and manage content not found elsewhere. This is one of the reasons companies including Tesla, Johnson and Johnson and Adidas have chosen Drupal to build their websites.
If you use Drupal to build your website, there are more than 6,000 modules available to add functions and features, but the selection of free and commercial themes is somewhat limited.
Modules can be used to add social features like forums and blogs, and Drupals user management controls allow administrators to grant permissions that allow access to only certain content.
Drupal may be a wise choice for you if you plan to display various types of content, such as polls, podcasts and blogs, or if you are concerned about the security vulnerabilities of other solutions.
Strengths: Open-source, flexible user and data management controls and SEO friendly.
Weaknesses: Trickier to install and more difficult to use than other CMS software, server loads can be high for large websites and many of its most useful features are highly specialized and may not be needed.
Like WordPress and Drupal, Joomla is an open-source web content manager based on PHP.
It was released in 2005 and now powers more than 75 million websites. There are thousands of themes and plugins available to customize Joomla websites, and the software is quite easy to use even for those who have never used CMS applications before.
Organizations including Citibank and Harvard University chose Joomla to build their websites largely because of its back-end controls and information management systems, and the software’s popularity has given rise to an active support community.
While there are fewer Joomla than WordPress themes available, the selection is still wide enough to satisfy the needs of most website builders.
Like Drupal, Joomla is a dedicated CMS solution, but unlike Drupal it is quite straightforward to install.
You may wish to consider Joomla if you are looking for a pure content management solution but still want software that is as easy to use as WordPress, but you may discover that many of the most useful plugins are only available to those who are willing to pay or subscribe to a service.
However, Joomla prompts its users to enter meta descriptions and keywords when content is published, and a range of plugins can increase the software’s SEO capabilities.
Strengths: Joomla is free, easy to use and good for SEO.
Weaknesses: The selection of themes is limited, it may lack features that some advanced users need and combining certain plugins can cause performance issues.
Magento is another PHP-based open-source web content manager system.
It was initially released in 2008, and it has gone on to become one of the world’s most popular e-commerce platforms.
Magento is an extremely powerful system and offers an exhaustive list of features right out of the box. There are also a wide variety of extensions that can improve SEO, speed up order processing and improve security.
SEO is a particular concern for online retailers, and they may appreciate Magento’s back-end components that add tags, meta descriptions, URLs and other data that search engine algorithms look for.
While Magento is a web content manager that can be used to build a wide variety of websites, the software has carved out a niche for itself as an e-commerce CMS download.
Magento is designed to produce websites that have a unique look and reinforce brand identities, which you could find extremely valuable if you plan to sell products online.
However, becoming proficient with the software can take time and patience, and it may not be an ideal solution if you are unfamiliar with content management applications and are short of time.
This is why a great many of the people who download the community version of Magento soon upgrade to an Enterprise package. This can be an expensive mistake as Magento prices begin at $1,500 and can reach six figures.
However, there is a thriving Magento support community that can provide quick solutions to most common problems.
Strengths: The basic version of Magento costs nothing, offers a host of advanced SEO and e-commerce features and is supported by an active community.
Weaknesses: Magento is more difficult to use than many other content management systems, it consumes resources and can strain servers and the amount of technical support documents available is limited.
Shopify is an all-in-one e-commerce WCM (Web Content Management) solution that has earned a reputation for being extremely easy to use. It is a service and not stand-alone software like Magento.
However, it provides a turn-key hosted solution that makes setting up an online store extremely easy. The software handles transactions and processes payments and orders, and it offers a “buy now” button that can be placed on other websites and social media platforms to generate offsite sales.
The Shopify app store also offers a wide range of plugins that provide added SEO features or other benefits, and many of the most useful apps are free.
Shopify subscriptions range from $29 to $299 per month, but even the most basic package allows online stores to offer an unlimited number of products and includes features like cloud hosting and dedicated customer support.
Those paying for premium packages get more comprehensive reports and pay slightly lower credit card processing and transaction fees.
If you decide to use Shopify, you may wish to start with the least expensive package and upgrade when your sales reach a point where the added monthly subscription cost is more than offset by the reduced processing and transaction fees.
Shopify may be a good choice if you have products that you would like to sell online and do not have the time, patience or skills needed to set up an online store using a stand-alone WCM.
Shopify takes care of online selling chores from printing labels to integrating with couriers, and its strong infrastructure means that you are unlikely to lose customers because your website loads too slowly.
Strengths: Shopify is a robust e-commerce application that is easy to use, offers a turn-key solution and allows online retailers to open their doors and start earning money quickly.
Weaknesses: Shopify is a subscription service that can cost up to $299 per month, and adding features like social logins can make using the software even more expensive. Shopify also provides less customization features than other content managers and the turn-key approach may not provide the level of control that some retailers want.