A content management system (CMS) is the beating heart of thousands of websites. The days of the custom-built site that’s coded by hand and updated manually might not be entirely gone, but they’re certainly fading — and any modern business or enterprise that wants to easily maintain a feature-rich website would do well to implement one. A CMS can add a host of powerful tools and capabilities to a website, from e-commerce to image galleries to social media and interactive features.
But all CMS platforms are not created equal — while many of them share similar options and abilities, some are simply better for certain audiences (or users) than others. Here’s a look at some of the most popular CMS platforms and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
WordPress is extremely flexible and capable of building almost any kind of website. It’s beginner-friendly compared to most of the other entries on this list and has massive support in terms of themes, plugins, and online resources. There are also plenty of sites where you can get some of the best WordPress hosting for a relatively low cost.
Perhaps the only drawback to WordPress is it’s so flexible and powerful that new users can sometimes get overwhelmed — but there’s a wealth of tutorials and online resources to help get you started.
The first item on the list is best suited for professional developers, or at least someone with a developer on staff. Drupal is highly customizable, but its power and flexibility can make it challenging to assemble an entire website without some technical expertise.
Adding content, on the other hand, is relatively simple, with customized content types and installable modules (often premium) that can add extra functionality. User management is also flexible, allowing admins to easily create new roles and specify permissions for each.
Because Drupal is not beginner-friendly, it might be best to hire a professional to develop the site for use, which can be expensive. The software itself doesn’t cost anything to download.
Joomla is a free and open-source CMS, which (like most of the items on this list) requires a domain name and hosting in order to use. Although Joomla has a number of 1-click installation features and a wealth of plugins and extensions, it’s about on par with Drupal in terms of being beginner-friendly, so it’s a good option for experienced website developers. It’s also a good option for those looking to make an e-commerce site and/or people looking to make something that’s uniquely theirs.
The downside to Joomla is it can be pretty complex, and while adding and editing content won’t require knowing any code, creating the website itself very well may. Joomla also has limited extensions compared to platforms like WordPress, and those that do exist may have some compatibility conflicts — another reason why having a pro developer on hand might be a good choice when using this platform.
If you’re looking for a platform specifically for running a blog, you might consider giving Ghost a look. Ghost was created with blogging in mind and is what’s called a “headless” CMS. Headless basically means that the content is separated entirely from the presentation in the software, so content can be presented in a more flexible, responsive, and accessible way.
Ghost uses Markdown and an easy formatting tool that makes it simple to present flexible, attractive text. Ghost also has good SEO support without the need for extensions or plugins, and even makes it easy to create paid content, if you’re looking to offer premium material to your audience.
The main weakness of Ghost is also its strength: it’s designed for blogging and only blogging. If you want to branch out into a more feature-heavy website, you’re probably better off using something else.
Although it will require hosting, the Ghost software itself is free.
Unlike most of the other entries on this list, HubSpot CMS Hub is not a discrete software package, but a hosted service. It’s aimed primarily at marketers and business owners, with a variety of tools for marketing automation, customer service, sales, and more.
As you might expect, CMS Hub is very user-friendly out of the box, and users can put together a website without having to know any coding or sophisticated technical skills. The editing is drag-and-drop, and SEO tools are built right in.
The main negative for some may be the price point — there is no free version, and the pricing starts at $25 a month for the most basic package. It should also be noted that while it can be easily integrated with software like WooCommerce, the Hubspot CMS Hub by itself is not well-suited for e-commerce sites.