Like Sisyphus’s incessant attempts to roll a rock to the top of a mountain, any search for "the best CMS" is doomed.
The truth is there are thousands of content management systems on the market and each has its own strengths depending on your business purpose and use case. Let’s say you’re comparing CMS Hub, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, for example. After some research, you’ll find that CMS Hub is better suited for enterprise-level sites, WordPress for blogs, Joomla for membership sites, and Drupal for high-traffic sites that have lots of data.
These are just four examples of different types of websites you can create on a CMS. In this post, we’ll walk through different criteria you can use to choose a CMS platform for your business. Then we'll explore a variety of CMS systems so that you can find one that suits your unique needs and goals for creating a website.
How to Choose a CMS Platform
These tools fall into two major categories: CMS platforms and website builders.
While both offer built-in features, pre-designed templates, and extensions for creating a custom site without coding or even knowing how to code, they present two very different approaches to creating and managing a website.
Let's take a closer look at these two approaches below so you can decide which tool is right for your site.
CMS vs. Website Builder
If you're looking for website building tools and hosting in one place, go with a website builder. You can purchase your own custom domain, customize the appearance of your site, and create rich multimedia pages with advanced elements like animation and scroll effects. While you focus on design and content, your hosting platform will take care of your site's maintenance, security, backups, and more.
In exchange for this ease of use, you have to give up some flexibility. Website builders lack the content management features, advanced functionality, and customization options that you'll find in CMS platforms. For that reason, website builders are ideal for agencies, artists, restaurants, and other user types looking to build image-rich sites fast.
For more advanced features and customization options, go with a CMS. With a CMS, you can completely control the design of your site, add multimedia in your posts, organize your content by tags and categories, manage multiple users, edit your site's underlying code, and much more. The process of setting up and launching your site will be longer but, in the end, you'll be able to create and manage a larger and more complex site that can grow over time.
If you've decided you want to build a site with a CMS, then you can further narrow down your selection with the following criteria.
4 Criteria for Choosing a CMS
The right CMS platform for your business will align with your site's needs and goals. Some of the most important factors to consider are ease of use, customizability, security, and pricing.
If a platform offers the exact functionality you're looking for but is way out of budget, then it's not the best choice. On the other hand, an inexpensive platform that will require a lot of maintenance and extensions to meet your needs is also not ideal.
Let's take a closer look at each of these criteria below.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is an essential factor to consider when selecting a CMS since it greatly impacts the adoption rate and workflows of your workforce. An ideal platform will be easy to use for all stakeholders on your team.
Say everyone from content marketers to developers will be working in the backend of the CMS. In that case, you need CMS features that make it easy for each of these team members to carry out their everyday tasks. Look for a platform that offers a WYSIWG editor for editorial members to quickly create and edit content and modules for developers to quickly add custom code.
While you may prioritize ease of use over customizability, you'll ideally want a solution that offers both. A CMS with lots of customization options and flexibility will be able to scale as your business grows.
When evaluating a CMS, look at what customization options are built right into the dashboard, how many extensions are available, and whether you can edit the source code.
You need a platform that will keep your content, your users, and your front-end visitors safe. When evaluating different solutions, consider what role the platform assumes and what role you'll have to assume in protecting your site. Will you need to manually back up your site? Update the software? Install security add-ons? Purchase an SSL certificate?
These are just a few questions to ask when looking at different CMS systems. As a general rule of thumb, if you don't have the time or aren't familiar with best practices for securing your site, then you need a platform with robust security protocols, features, and teams in place to keep your site safe for you.
Budget plays an important role in almost every decision you make for your business. When it comes to your CMS, you want a solution that meets your needs, your visitors' expectations, and your budget. Fortunately, many platforms offer different tiers of plans with resources that scale up at each price point. Like customization options, these upgrade options indicate that the CMS will be able to grow as your business grows.
These criteria may rank differently in your selection process, but each is important for picking a CMS that can support and grow with your business. To help you make this important decision, we're going to take an in-depth look at the ease of use, customizability, security, and pricing of some of the best CMS systems on the market below.
Best CMS Systems
- CMS Hub
1. CMS Hub
It's important to note that there are two versions available but we'll limit our focus to CMS Hub Professional below.
Ease of Use
CMS Hub is a powerful platform for users with little to no technical knowledge to build a custom site right out of the box. With CMS Hub, you can manage, optimize, and track the performance of your content with the same platform you used to create it.
Since the CMS Hub integrates HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and service tools, you can also capture leads, run A/B tests, create email campaigns, and track contact-level insights right in your dashboard. And don't forget that since CMS Hub Professional comes with HubSpot's CRM built-in, you can use smart content to create multiple versions of your website pages, landing pages, emails, and forms based on specific criteria you have stored about your contacts.
Typically, the more out-of-the-box features a platform has, the steeper the learning curve. To help you ramp on this platform as quickly as possible, CMS Hub includes pop-ups and tooltip suggestions to guide you step by step through creating pages, optimizing your content for search engines, adding live chat to your site, and more.
Though CMS Hub offers a wide range of out-of-the-box features, you still may want to integrate your favorite apps from your tech stack like Gmail, Facebook Ads, and Twitter. Integrating these tools from the HubSpot Marketplace means you can access all of your data in a central location.
To sort through all of these products, you can filter by price, category, and purpose. You can also view a live example and read customer reviews for each app to make sure you’re selecting the right app for your business needs.
Beyond that, you can also choose from over 7,000 free and paid templates in the HubSpot Asset Marketplace to change the appearance of your site. Each template is mobile optimized and natively supports drag-and-drop modules so you can easily add and arrange text blocks, images, CTAs, and more on your templates. You can also go into theme settings to make global changes to keep your website consistent and unique across every page.
Another advantage of HubSpot’s app ecosystem is the additional layer of security it provides your site. Unlike open-source CMS platforms, HubSpot selectively partners with third-party vendors and apps that can integrate with existing portals. That means you don’t have to stay on top of plugin compatibility or maintenance to ensure your site is secure.
You also don’t have to worry about installing plugins like Duo to secure your site against threats. Instead, you can rely on the CMS Hub's built-in security features — including a global CDN and Web Application Firewall — and dedicated security team to keep your site safe from DDoS attacks, hackers, and other anomalies.
CMS Hub offers two tiers, Professional and Enterprise, at different price points.
Designed for fast-growing companies, CMS Hub Professional is $300 per month. To set up two brand domains, custom CDN configuration, serverless functions, and more, you can upgrade to the Enterprise tier. CMS Hub Enterprise is $900 per month.
- Integrates with HubSpot's marketing, sales, service, and CRM tools
- CMS apps and templates available in HubSpot Marketplace
- Globally hosted CDN, 24/7 threat monitoring, and a built-in WAF keeps your site safe
- Offers two premium plans
WordPress is an open-source CMS with thousands of plugins and themes. Users at any skill level can leverage this ecosystem of resources to build all types of sites — from ecommerce stores to online magazines.
Ease of Use
WordPress is designed to be easy enough for beginners without coding knowledge. Its dashboard is intuitive so that every user can tweak the appearance of their site, install a plugin, change its permalink settings, add blog posts, and more.
Its new editing interface, Gutenberg, brings drag-and-drop functionality to the platform so that you can develop media-rich pages rather without relying on custom code or plugins.
However, extending the functionality of your WordPress site in other ways — say, to display a list of random posts in the sidebar of your site — will require you to either install and configure a range of WordPress plugins or add code to your files. While that may not be a problem for developers, it will limits beginners' ability to build complex sites with advanced functionality.
WordPress has one of the largest collections of plugins and themes available for download to customize the design and functionality of a site. There are over 50,000 plugins in the official directory and approximately 31,000 WordPress themes available for download or purchase from the official repository and third-party marketplaces.
Using these plugins and pre-designed theme templates, users with little to no technical knowledge can easily create fully-functional websites. However, you have to make sure these add-ons are compatible with your site and updated. If they aren’t, then they can pose a serious security risk.
Every CMS is vulnerable to hackers and malicious users. Open-source CMS systems with outdated or unmaintained parts of their code are particularly vulnerable to attacks. In fact, 36.7% of infected WordPress sites in 2018 were running an outdated version of WordPress.
Outdated or incompatible plugins can also make sites built on open-source CMS systems more vulnerable to attacks. According to data from Wordfence, plugin vulnerabilities represented 55.9% of the known entry points for hackers.
That is why it is critical that site owners regularly update their software and plugins. Thankfully, WordPress has a built-in update system that lets you make these updates with a click of a button.
However, some updates may not be compatible with all the extensions on your site. That is why software and plugin updates can require considerable administrative effort, especially on larger web projects.
If your security is your top priority, then you may want to check out some WordPress alternatives, like Drupal.
As open-source software, WordPress is free to download. You do have to pay for a domain name, hosting, and any premium plugins or themes you want to install, however.
While that means the costs of building and managing WordPress sites can range dramatically. the average costs are relatively moderate. According to Website Builder Expert, building a WordPress site will cost you a one-time fee of $200 and managing it will cost $11 to $40 per month.
- Largest collection of plugins and themes
- Plugin and site maintenance can be time-consuming
- Costs vary by domain registration, hosting, and premium plugins and themes
Drupal is a highly flexible CMS designed for developers or other users with coding skills to build complex sites that can handle large volumes of data and heavy traffic.
Ease of Use
Because Drupal was designed by developers for developers, you’ll need to have some understanding of PHP, HTML, and CSS to take advantage of all of Drupal’s power. You’ll also have to spend more time setting up and configuring your site than you would on WordPress, for example.
With over 44,000 modules available in its directory and thousands of free themes in its theme repository, Drupal’s selection of add-ons and templates just falls short of WordPress’s impressive selection.
However, unlike many WordPress plugins and themes, Drupal’s modules and themes are highly configurable. That means, if you have the required coding skills, you can use these resources to create a site that does exactly what you want.
Drupal has the highest reputation for security among open-source CMS platforms. According to data from the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures system, Drupal has the least number of incidents to market-share ratio when compared to WordPress and Joomla.
To help keep the platform secure, Drupal has a group of 40 community members that deliver bug fix and security updates every month and bigger updates every year. However, since these updates aren’t automatic, site owners must remember to make them and adhere to other best practices.
When they do not, hackers and other malicious users can more easily attack these outdated or unmaintained areas of Drupal Code. For example, in 2018, a remote code execution vulnerability left at least a million Drupal sites at risk.
Like WordPress, Drupal is open-source software that's free to download. However, the costs associated with building and managing a Drupal site are much higher than WordPress, particularly for non-technical users.
Since Drupal was designed by developers for developers, you'll likely have to hire a developer or agency to build and design a Drupal site. For that reason, Zesty.io estimates the cost of implementing and customizing a site to range anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000, depending on the scale of the web project.
- Geared towards developers
- Vast selection of highly configurable modules and themes
- Highest reputation for security among open-source platforms
- Costs of building and customizing site typically range in thousands
Designed to be the middle ground in the open-source CMS marketplace, Joomla combines the versatility of Drupal with the user-friendliness of WordPress.
Ease of Use
Joomla has more out-of-the-box features than most open-source CMS systems. With its built-in functionality, you can manage hundreds of users, build pages in multiple languages, and create custom post types that use different templates or themes. You can also configure many of your site’s settings to modify your articles, banners, menus, media, redirects, and SEO settings.
However, you’ll have to do this on the backend of your site. That’s why Joomla has a steep learning curve for beginners. Users with some experience in web development, on the other hand, can use Joomla’s built-in flexibility to create more complex sites right out of the box.
Despite Joomla’s robust built-in functionality, you’re not limited to the features that the platform provides. You can download any of the 7,800 extensions available in the official directory for additional functionality and control over your site.
Like your settings, extensions will have to be installed via the backend. Both installing and managing them is more difficult on Joomla than WordPress. So if you think you'll need extra features on your site, then Joomla may not be the best choice.
According to the CVE data comparing WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, Joomla has had the largest amount of found vulnerabilities since its launch in 2005. The majority of these vulnerabilities are flaws in its code, which allow attackers to inject shellcode that manipulates the system into granting them administrator privileges.
While Joomla’s 13-member security team does regularly release security patches, the platform’s lack of built-in functionality for scheduling automatic updates gives attackers more opportunities to target known vulnerabilities. According to a report by Sucuri, 87.5% of infected sites in 2018 were running an outdated version of the Joomla software.
As with the other open-source platforms mentioned above, you'll have to pay for domain registration, hosting, themes, and maintenance to create and run a Joomla site. Costs associated with hosting and site design tend to be higher for Joomla sites than WordPress but lower than Drupal. In total, data from CMS2CMS shows that running a website on Joomla will cost $700 to $6500 on average.
- Middle ground between WordPress and Drupal in terms or ease of use and price
- 7,800 extensions available but difficult to install and manage
- Lack of built-in functionality for scheduling automatic updates leaves sites vulnerable
Shopify is a hosted ecommerce platform designed for online retailers to set up and manage an entire store.
Ease of Use
Shopify makes running an ecommerce store as simple as running a site on WordPress.com. Though you won’t have as much control over its appearance and functionality, you’ll get a range of features, security, and support to help you manage your site.
If you’re a first-time shop owner or just don’t have the time or resources to design every aspect of your site, this may be ideal. You can use Shopify’s built-in blogging tools, customer reviews, ready-to-go payment options for customers, abandoned cart recovery, and analytics on web traffic and products, among other features, to quickly get your store up and running. Shopify also handles software updates and other aspects of the day-to-day management of your site.
In exchange for this simplicity, you’ll forgo some customization options. Most notably, because Shopify is a proprietary platform, you can’t modify its code.
You can however change the appearance and functionality of your site by selecting from over 70 themes and approximately 1,700 free and paid apps in Shopify’s official store. Many of the apps enable integrations between Shopify and other platforms like HubSpot to fill in any gaps you need to run your business.
This selection is limited, particularly when compared to the CMS platforms discussed above which offer thousands of templates and add-ons.
To sell online and accept payments from Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover, your store needs to be PCI compliant. With Shopify, you don’t have to invest your time and money to obtain a Level 1 PCI certification. All Shopify stores are automatically PCI compliant by default.
Shopify will also manage security issues, manually back up your website, and ensure the software is up to date for you.
Shopify is a proprietary platform that offers three paid plans. Starting at $29 per month, Shopify plans include web hosting, SSL certification, and a Shopify subdomain (yourname.shopify.com). If you want a custom domain, that will be an additional cost.
For additional seats and other advanced features like gift cards and more reports, you can upgrade to "Shopify" for $79 per month. As you continue to grow, you can upgrade to "Advanced Shopify" for $299 per month for even more seats, analytics, and discounts on payment processing fees.
- Ideal for first-time shop owners
- Limited selection of themes and apps
- Handles backups and softwareupdates for you
- Offers three premium plans, ranging from $29 to $299 per month
Magento is an eCommerce platform that offers nearly unlimited possibilities for tech-savvy store owners.
While Magento offers two versions, Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce, we'll focus on the more popular self-hosted variant below.
Ease of Use
Like Drupal, Magento Open Source is a highly flexible platform that you can use to build a site that does exactly what you want. However, it will take time to understand and explore all of the platform’s out-of-the-box features and extensions — even if you have experience in website development.
After exploring Magento’s built-in features, let’s say you want to add extra functionality to your site. You can head over to Magento’s Extensions Marketplace to install or integrate any of the 5,000 add-ons and apps available.
Magento regularly rolls out patches and security updates to address vulnerabilities exposed in its source code. You can use the free Security Scan tool to receive notifications right in your dashboard when these updates are released so that you can make them as quickly as possible.
However, patches and updates need to be manually installed and the process can be difficult. Site owners who don’t have the time or resources to patch their installations will leave their stores vulnerable to hackers — and research shows that many site owners do.
Based on Sucuri’s 2018 analysis of hacked websites, 83% of Magento websites were out of date at the point of infection. However, it is important to note that Magento’s overall infection rates dropped from 6.5% in 2017 to 4.6% in 2018.
Magento Open Source is free to download and use. When compared to WordPress, the costs of domain registration and hosting are relatively the same but the costs of premium apps and themes are higher for a Magento site. Because Magento is a more complex platform than WordPress, you’re also more likely to need to hire a developer to help with the set up and customization process.
The total cost of building and managing a Magento store ranges because of these variables, but a basic Magento store starts at $15,000.
If you're interested in Magento Commerce, the premium fully-hosted version designed for enterprise companies, it starts at $22,000 per year.
- Learning platform and its features takes time, especially for beginners
- 5,000 add-ons available in Magento's Extension Marketplace
- Security patches and updates need to be manually installed
- Average cost of building Magento store starts in thousands
Similar to Joomla, PrestaShop is designed to be the middle ground in the ecommerce CMS marketplace, combining the power of Magento with the simplicity of Shopify.
Ease of Use
PrestaShop offers plenty of out-of-the-box features to build a large ecommerce store. You can customize messages for out-of-stock items, make your e-shop available in 65 languages, and configure coupons right in your dashboard.
With so much built-in functionality, the process for setting up a PrestaShop site is longer and more complicated than using a platform like Shopify. But you will be able to create a more complex site right out of the box.
After configuring your basic settings, you may still want to add extra features to your store. In that case, you can head over to PrestaShop’s official marketplace, which offers over 3,700 modules and 3,400 themes. With so many add-ons available to change the appearance and functionality of your site, Prestashop can host large online stores that have an extensive product catalog.
As with any open-source CMS, the task of securing your PrestaShop store mostly falls on your shoulders. To protect your store, you can buy an SSL certificate, regularly update the software, and follow other best practices.
However, research indicates that, like Magento store owners, PrestaShop store owners fall behind on updates and other security protocols because they don’t have the time or resources. This leaves their stores vulnerable to attacks. According to Sucuri’s 2018 analysis of hacked websites, 97.2% of infected PrestaShop websites were using out of date software.
Since Prestashop is open-source, you just have to consider how much domain registration, hosting, and premium modules and themes will cost. Let's use estimates from ecommerceplatforms.io and then tally up a total.
Domain registration and hosting are similar to other open-source platforms. It costs about $15 per year for a domain and anywhere from $3 to $60 for hosting. Premium modules range in price from $30 to $550, while premium themes range from $50 to $250. That puts the total anywhere between $131 to $1,532.
- Middle ground between Shopify and Magento in terms or ease of use and price
- Over 7,000 modules and themes available
- Have to buy an SSL certificate and regularly update software to protect shop
TYPO3 is an open-source CMS that’s designed for building enterprise-level sites.
Ease of Use
TYPO3 includes more than 9,000 features directly out of the box. Such robust functionality will enable you to create a complex multi-site installation — but it won’t be easy to install or set up. Even developers and advanced users will have to invest a lot of time and effort into studying the platform.
Despite its incredible built-in functionality, TYPO3 is missing some standard features, like modules for embedding videos and adding image galleries to your site. To fill in these gaps, you can integrate with any of the 6,000 third-party tools and services available in the TYPO3 Extension Repository.
To help keep your site secure, TYPO3 provides built-in security features, compliance tooling, and regular updates. The TYPO3 Security Team releases these updates regularly and lets site owners know by email, but ultimately upgrades and other maintenance tasks are up to individual users.
Let's break down the costs associated with building and launching a site on TYPO3. In addition to the average cost of $15 per year for domain registration, hosting a TYPO3 site ranges from $6 to $69 per month. The average cost of a premium TYPO3 templates and extensions are $49.
The biggest expense of building and managing a TYPO3 website is hiring a developer or agency to help with the process. The good news is you can find certified help right on TYPO3's site. The bad news is the price can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the duration and scope of the web project.
- Difficult to learn platform, even for advanced users
- 6,000 extensions available in TYPO3 Repository
- Upgrades and maintenance tasks fall to site owners
- Freelancer and agency partners can be pricey
Picking the Best CMS for Your Business
While you can’t find “The Best CMS,” or one solution that best suits all websites, you can find the best CMS for your business. Your ideal platform will offer the CMS features you need, improve the ability of your teams to manage content, and ultimately, enable you to provide a desirable website experience for your visitors.
Originally published Apr 7, 2020 1:21:00 PM, updated April 23 2020
Topics:Content Management System