When setting up a website, business owners are faced with a choice: to install an off-the-shelf CMS or opt for a hand-coded custom one. Having a CMS in place is essential for any business website to run smoothly. Whether you run an e-commerce business or need a website to showcase your services, in this article, we’ll explain what a CMS is, and compare some of the best ready-made systems out there.
What is a CMS?
A CMS, or content management system, is a web application that provides all the necessary tools to produce and manage a website’s content and its users. In slightly more technical terms, it’s server-side software that facilitates the creation and maintenance of websites. Open-source CMS options like WordPress allow users to access the source code and modify to suit their website requirements.
Which CMS to Choose?
If you opt for an off-the-shelf CMS for your website, you may find the choice overwhelming. With so many content management systems on the market, each boasting different features, we’ve broken down some of the pros and cons of our top three to help you select the best CMS for your business.
WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS and is best known for its ease of use. The website builder powers over 34% of websites on the internet, and although initially created as a blogging site, approximately 75 million websites now run on WordPress.
- SEO Friendly
WordPress is a great SEO-friendly CMS. It’s thought to be one of the best off-the-shelf content management systems for SEO, with features like image optimisation and alt tags, H tags, mobile optimisation, fast loading pages and plenty of SEO plugins.
WordPress is free to download but to run it on a website you’ll need to pay for hosting and purchase a domain name.
- Complete Control of your Website
The WordPress content management system allows you full control of your website files and data.
- Easy to Manage CMS
WordPress is a brilliant CMS as it’s easy to use and makes managing content simple. You can create and edit pages, upload and schedule blog posts, create image galleries, install plugins, and so much more.
- Customizable Website Design
WordPress websites are highly customizable, with more than six thousand free themes available. WordPress themes are very user-friendly, and most offer customization to help align with your company’s branding. However, for more advanced design customization, you may have to pay for a premium theme.
- Customizable Website and Back-End
WordPress offers an array of extensions, add-ons and plugins to customize the way a site operates. There are currently over 54,000 free plugins available to install on WordPress; these include everything from e-commerce and analytics tools to SEO gadgets and social media apps. On top of this, those with a knowledge of HTML and CSS can customize their websites even more.
- Online Help Available
There are plenty of WordPress resources online to help solve any issues you encounter with the CMS. These include advice guides and forums – both of which can be found through the WordPress.org site.
With so many different media devices now on the market, it’s vital that your website is responsive to them all – especially mobile, which, in 2018, accounted for 58% of online website visits. Most WordPress themes (even the free ones) are now responsive to popular devices, so there’s no excuse not to have a responsive site.
- Manual System and Security Updates
With WordPress, the user must manually install system updates and security plugins as well as make backups. Additionally, some plugins can cause security issues, so be wary of what you install.
- Basic Knowledge of HTML and CSS Makes Things Easier
While not essential, those with HTML and CSS knowledge will be able to customise their websites that little bit more. This means that those who don’t have coding knowledge won’t always get the full, customizable experience.
- Tricky for Beginners
Although WordPress is one of the most accessible content management systems out there, it can take beginners a little while to get familiar with the website builder and learn the basics. However, once you understand the basics, it’s like riding a bike.
- Can Run Slowly
If your site receives high amounts of traffic, WordPress can become slow and struggle to load pages. Be wary of the number of plugins you install as this can make sites run slower.
Like many other popular content management systems, Drupal offers an array of services and features ideal for small businesses, e-commerce sites and personal websites. However, it’s slightly more complex than WordPress, which means it’s a less popular choice for website users and currently powers 1.8% of all websites (around 1 million sites).
- Great for Advanced Websites
Drupal is the perfect CMS for creating large, advanced websites that require complex functionality. The CMS can support sites with high amounts of traffic, which is why some of the world’s busiest sites run on Drupal. Some examples of these are NBC, Royal Mail and London.gov.uk.
- Dedicated Online Support
Drupal is supported by a dedicated online community, that provides help through online forums, local Drupal groups and more. Whether you’re a newbie that needs help installing the software or a developer that wants to help contribute to improving the software, Drupal’s online community is open for all abilities.
- Top-Class Security
Drupal is hot on security, making the CMS a popular choice for security-conscious organisations or those with lots of customer data. According to Drupal, many security problems are prevented thanks to its strong coding standards and rigorous community code review process.
- Highly Customizable
Drupal offers a large selection of module extensions (over 43,000) and extra features so you can make your site exactly how you want it. Drupal says: “When assessing Drupal, it’s important to envision your goals and ask ‘Can Drupal be used to build this?’ The answer nearly always is ‘yes’.”
- Grows with your Online Business
Not only can Drupal support high volumes of traffic, it’s also incredibly scalable, and able to grow with any business. This is ideal for sites that upload lots of content, or e-commerce businesses with expanding product catalogues.
Drupal offers full translation of every area of your site, meaning you can provide a better customer experience by displaying content in a variety of languages. Drupal currently translates into 94 languages.
- Quite Complex
Drupal is more complex than other content management systems, so you’ll need to read lots of documentation to understand the fundamentals. It’s not a CMS recommended for beginners as there’s a lot to learn. Plus, users will require a basic understanding of PHP, HTML and CSS to use the software.
- Requires Technical Expertise
Due to the complexity of Drupal, installing and maintaining the CMS will likely require technical expertise. Most themes are custom-coded, so, unless you have prior knowledge of coding, you’ll need to work with a developer.
- Can Be Costly
While Drupal is free to download, unless you’re a developer, you’ll probably need to pay someone with technical expertise to set up your site, which can be costly. Then there’s the hosting and domain name, plus a website theme (if you opt for a paid one). But, on the plus side, Drupal does offer some built-in web customizing features, too.
Joomla is the second most popular open-source content management system in the world. The CMS allows users to build powerful online applications and currently runs on more than 2 million websites (2.8% of all sites). Joomla is thought to be a middle ground between the beginner-friendly WordPress CMS and the slightly more complex, Drupal.
- Free Video Training Classes
Joomla provides a variety of online video training classes to help website users gain a better understanding of how the CMS works. For developers, the site also offers a downloadable lightweight PHP framework for writing web and command line applications in PHP.
- Multilingual Content Management
Another multilingual CMS, Joomla has over 70 translation packs, providing multilingual content management without the need for third-party plugins.
Like the other content management systems featured in this article, Joomla has thousands of third-party extensions available to install from its directory, as well as a large selection of both paid and free website themes.
- Powerful Admin Interface
Joomla features a powerful admin interface that’s user-friendly and easy to customize.
- Slightly More Complex
Joomla is not as simple and user-friendly as WordPress, which means beginners may require the help from a developer with the installation and set-up.
- Limited Add-Ons
Joomla currently has around 8,000 available extensions (what WordPress calls plugins), which is considerably less than WordPress’ 54,000 and Drupal’s 43,000. On top of this, Joomla doesn’t have an official theme template library, which means users must find their own theme sources.
Joomla features a two-factor authentication and has a dedicated security team that regularly releases security updates. However, like WordPress, the site user is responsible for installing these updates, and not doing so can put a website at risk.
So, which CMS should you choose for your business? WordPress, Drupal or Joomla? While most of the content management systems mentioned do share some similarities, they also possess some individual positives and drawbacks.
Before deciding on a CMS for your business, we recommend carrying out your own research as well as thinking about your website needs. Does it need to be scalable? Do you want to upload content yourself, or are you happy to hire a developer? Does it need to be customizable? Once you figure out your business website requirements, you’ll be able to make a better-informed decision on which CMS to choose.