With high-quality digital content playing an increasing role in engaging and delighting website visitors, it’s critical to choose the right content management system (CMS) for your needs.
After some research, you’ve probably come across Joomla. The Joomla CMS is well-established online, used by around 2% of websites today. It’s not hard to see why — Joomla is free and strikes a balance between being accessible to new users and flexible for experienced developers. With a motivated team behind it (and perhaps some additional extensions), Joomla can be used to build a website for nearly anything.
Despite its pros, however, Joomla may not be an ideal fit for your online pursuits. Some website owners may want even more control over their assets and publishing, while others would rather opt for a website builder without having to think about details like hosting.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other tools that accommodate for different types of websites and experience levels. In this post, we’ll look at some of the best free and paid Joomla alternatives available, so you can publish the content you’re proud of to a website that visitors love.
What is Joomla?
Joomla (sometimes stylized as Joomla!) is a free CMS for storing, organizing, and publishing digital content. Launched in 2005, Joomla has become the second most popular CMS after WordPress, and is celebrated for its flexibility and features.
Importantly, Joomla is open-source, meaning that anyone can access and modify the PHP source code. This has resulted in thousands of free and paid third-party extensions that enhance the functionality of the CMS, making Joomla a solid contender for websites of any niche.
Still, Jooma isn’t perfect for everyone — no CMS is. Those without programming experience may encounter a steep learning curve with the tool, while some developers might prefer a different open-source tool. Some might see a system like Joomla as too bare-bones and instead prefer a fully hosted platform.
No matter your reason, there are alternatives out there. Let’s look at some of the best ones.
- CMS Hub
- Magento Commerce
1. CMS Hub
CMS Hub is HubSpot’s content management system, an all-in-one platform for building and managing any organizational website, online store, or blog. Built with marketers in mind, CMS Hub is the only option on our list with a native CRM — all actions that visitors take on your CMS Hub website are synced with HubSpot CRM, allowing for seamless lead capture and reporting.
As far as page building goes, CMS Hub is based around a drag-and-drop interface that requires no coding to produce a stunning site — simply choose a template and populate it with your content. You’ll also get SEO tools, hosting, built-in security measures, a global CDN, and unparalleled customer support. HubSpot will handle the technical side so you can focus on delighting your visitors, leads, and customers.
CMS Hub is also made to function alongside other HubSpot tools that power your marketing strategy, from CTAs to marketing automation to live chat. Everything is available in one place, and there’s no need to search for third-party addons or switch between programs to get things done. Lastly, HubSpot selectively partners with third-party apps that you can integrate with your HubSpot portal for more tailored functionality.
Pricing: CMS Hub is available on two pricing tiers: Professional is $270 per month (billed annually), and Enterprise is $900 per month (billed annually).
Powering over a third of websites, WordPress hardly needs any introduction. First launched as a blogging platform, this free, open-source CMS has established itself as the free CMS for any online property. Still, WordPress is especially well-suited for online publications like blogs and content-heavy news sites.
WordPress makes handling content simple, from customizing your site appearance with a theme, to setting layouts with its drag-and-drop block editor, to organizing pages and posts with tags and categories. WordPress also helps site owners manage their teams by allowing them to assign different user roles based on permissions. All of this is possible with little to no coding experience — just know that you’ll be responsible for finding hosting and implementing security measures yourself.
However, the real power of WordPress lies in its plugins, software extensions to enhance your CMS functionality. There are over 50,000 free and paid WordPress plugins, and more are being added every day. Use plugins to add dynamic page elements, improve your SEO, or even turn your entire site into a store or a community site.
Pricing: The WordPress CMS is free.
If you find Joomla limiting and want more control over your website’s CMS, Drupal is the next most popular choice on the market. Built for developers by developers, this free and open-source CMS is more code-oriented than WordPress or even Joomla, and requires knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP to fully leverage its functions. This means a much steeper learning curve for non-developers.
However, those willing to embrace the programming side of things can take full advantage of the system. Supported by its rich developer community, Drupal comes with powerful native functionality, security, over 44,000 free third-party extensions, and thousands of free themes. Everything is customizable, so you can build the exact site you want.
Quick note: We also have a more in-depth comparison of CMS Hub, WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla if you’re interested in these leading CMSs.
Pricing: Drupal is free.
Those in the online retail space have likely heard of Shopify, a fully hosted ecommerce platform. Since Shopify is all about selling online, you’ll get ecommerce features built into your account from the start, such as inventory management tools, payment processing (that allows for multiple currencies), and the ability to sell products on other marketplaces like Amazon.
Shopify aims to give you all you need to grow your online shop under one roof — it will host your website, provide security including an SSL certificate, back up your website regularly, and give you access to thousands of app extensions to fill in the gaps on your site.
For visuals, there are over 100 free and premium themes to apply to your pages, though this selection is limited compared to what CMSs like WordPress have to offer. Still, it’s difficult to find a dedicated ecommerce solution that’s higher quality than this.
Pricing: Shopify is available as three main plans: Basic Shopify ($29 per month), Shopify ($79 per month), and Advanced Shopify ($299 per month). There’s also Shopify Lite for $9 per month, and Shopify Plus for enterprises.
Another dedicated ecommerce platform, Magento Commerce is more on the level of Drupal than Shopify — if you’re comfortable with code (or have a development team to work with), you can tailor your online store to your exact needs. However, if you’re more focused on the marketing side of your business without the technical expertise, Shopify may work better for you.
Like Shopify, however, Magento Commerce is a paid cloud ecommerce solution. It will handle hosting and security, and keep your pages fast with image optimization and a CDN. For your store, you can implement nearly any feature you please, from product tiers and recommendations, to coupons, to comparison tables, to payment processing. You can even manage multiple online stores from one Magento account.
For anything that Magento doesn’t do itself, like adding a CRM or live chat, the extension marketplace of over 5000 items can take care of it. We recommend researching which extensions you anticipate using, as multiple extensions can be costly for this option.
Pricing: Contact sales for pricing information.
Here’s another one you might have heard of — Squarespace is a leading website builder aimed at new website owners looking for a lightweight solution. Those who want to quickly establish their presence online will appreciate Squarespace’s no-code approach: Create, customize, and manage your assets in one place without having to worry about the complexities of hosting, security, or mobile optimization. Squarespace handles all this for a relatively low monthly rate.
Diving more into specifics, Squarespace's page builder interface uses content blocks for organizing page elements and allows for simple and complex layouts. There are dozens of mobile-optimized page templates, so you don’t need to worry about building from scratch either. Plus, you’ll benefit from native SEO and analytics tools, allowing you to monitor your traffic sources and better understand what visitors want.
As mentioned, Squarespace is best for new site owners and those who might not have the time or resources to devote to running a large website. As a result, some users may run into limitations with the platform — aside from a handful of extensions, what you see in Squarespace is what you get. Consider alternatives if you’re looking to launch a highly tailored website. On the other hand, informational sites, blogs, portfolios, and simple ecommerce will do well with Squarespace.
Pricing: There are four Squarespace plans: Personal ($12 per month), Business ($18 per month), Basic Commerce ($26 per month), and Advanced Commerce ($40 per month). There’s also Squarespace Select, an enterprise solution.
Wix is often compared to Squarespace — it’s another website builder that gives you hosting, security, SEO tools, and an intuitive page builder. Its monthly pricing is comparable as well. However, what differentiates Wix from Squarespace is its app market of over 300 different add-ons. It’s no WordPress or Drupal, but there are still plenty of integrations to work with without the need to worry about the more technical aspects of your site.
Wix is also known for its drag-and-drop editor which lets you customize any of its 500+ templates to build your site fast. Or, you can construct your pages from scratch with HTML and CSS. As a nice touch for new businesses, Wix also comes with informative guides for online sales and handling your business finances. Also note that Wix offers a free version, though it’s limited in capabilities and ad-supported.
Pricing: Wix offers four pricing tiers: Combo ($14 per month), Unlimited ($18 per month), Pro ($23 per month), and VIP ($39 per month). It also offers an ad-supported free plan, tailored business and ecommerce plans, as well as an enterprise solution.
The last dedicated ecommerce website builder on our list, Weebly is ideal for shop owners with a tighter budget — Weebly’s plans are cheaper compared to Shopify and Magento, and there’s even an (ad-supported) free option to start with.
As a tradeoff, you’re not going to get as much out of Weebly as with other options. The functionality is relatively limited against its competitors, but it still possesses the basics that all online stores need: shopping carts, inventory management, gift cards and coupons, and the option to sell digital goods. Consider browsing Weebly’s app store for any missing functionality. Plus, the page editor is easy to use, and your pages will automatically be made mobile-friendly as well.
Pricing: Weebly offers three paid tiers: Personal ($6 per month), Professional ($14 per month), and Performance ($26 per month), all billed annually. There’s also an ad-supported free plan for basic sites.
For those looking to go all-in on their content management system, TYPO3 is a free, open-source, enterprise-level CMS. It’s intended for use by development and marketing teams at large companies, and is capable of deploying highly complex websites and multisites that require granular control over functionality and appearance.
TYPO3 possesses powerful features for developers and marketers alike. For marketers, it packs a toolset to create and organize your media and digital assets across your distribution channels, plus advanced user roles and permissions, SEO tools, and language translation. Like other open-source CMSs, TYPO3 allows for third-party extensions to do much of the heavy lifting for you — there are hundreds available in the extension repository.
Overall, if you’re willing to put a lot of time and effort into mastering one of the most flexible CMSs around, consider TYPO3.
Pricing: TYPO3 CMS is free.
All content management systems and website builders we’ve reviewed in this post share one thing in common — they’re website-oriented, which means that they couple the back-end content management tools with front-end publishing tools under the same platform. Ultimately, the goal of these tools is to produce a website. But, what if you want to distribute content across more channels than just a website, like an app, a display ad, or a smart device? Can a traditional CMS handle that?
This is where a headless CMS can be invaluable. A headless CMS removes front-end publishing tools (i.e. the “head”) from the equation and focuses solely on the content management aspect. A headless CMS makes its content accessible through an application programming interface (API) — in simple terms, this allows developers to write their own publishing applications that “ask” the headless CMS for content. This “headless” approach makes it easier for businesses to keep all content in one place, and ship it to any digital channel.
Contentful is one such headless CMS. This cloud-based enterprise tool is considered among the best of its kind. With it, marketers and editors can manage content through the service, and developers can work on the distribution side of things. It’s a more involved process to work into your strategy, but a headless CMS like Contentful accommodates distribution strategies that many “traditional” CMS solutions simply can’t.
Pricing: Contentful is priced on three tiers: Community (free), Team ($489 per month), and Enterprise (contact sales).
Alternatives Are Out There
If one thing is clear, it’s that there’s no shortage of software and apps to help you organize your content and publish your website. There’s the all-in-one CMS Hub, free open-source CMSs like WordPress and Drupal, and hosted solutions like Shopify and Squarespace. It’s worth taking the time to scope out your options before taking major steps to avoid any major disruptions or software transitions in the future.
If you’re still unclear on what to expect from a content management system, check out our list of essential CMS features for some guidelines, and weigh these in your decision. A CMS that best suits your needs will more than make up for the extra effort upfront.
Originally published Feb 12, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2022
Topics:Content Management System