In my last article I discussed why we use a Content Management System, or CMS. However, now that there are so many CMSs on the market I often have clients asking why we would use one over another. In fact, the wide spread usage of at least 3 major CMS systems shows that there is no clear obvious answer. Instead, when developing a new site we must focus on choosing the appropriate CMS for the job at hand. Obviously if you have an existing site built upon a CMS already and you are happy with the tools it provides, then there is no reason to go to the expense and trouble of moving all your content over to another. However, if you are starting a new site or your CMS is not meeting your needs, then hopefully this article will shed some light on the best options out there.
First of all, the 3 big CMS we use in the web development world are, in rough order of popularity, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Additionally, there are many other niche systems out there that cater to a more specific business type, for example TYPO3 is frequently used in areas such as Europe where multiple language support is a priority. MediaWiki is the goto platform for hosting Wiki specific content. Magento and Shopify are content management systems made specifically for e-commerce, etc. However, for the vast majority of general purpose clients WordPress, Joomla or Drupal will prove more than sufficient to your needs and so this article will address these 3 specifically.
WordPress started off as a niche CMS intended for blogging platforms, and indeed this is what the CMS is still mostly known for today. However, WordPress is not a truly full-featured CMS that drives all kinds of sites – including major e-Commerce retailers, high traffic news and media sites, artistic portfolios, informational business sites and more. Known specifically for its extreme ease of use, WordPress has a huge selection of 3rd party plugin support for a wide variety of applications and is an excellent choice when you are looking for a one-time setup by a professional that can then be managed day to day by non-technical personnel. A frequent criticism of WordPress used to be its speed, however modern optimization and caching engines developed for the CMS have made this issue a thing of the past and WordPress frequently outperforms even its lighter-weight peers these days. Overall WordPress is probably the best overall CMS solution available when you include 3rd party plugin and addon support and you would be hard pressed to devise a website that WordPress couldn’t power. Few clients will go far wrong choosing WordPress as the CMS of choice.
That being said, for demanding projects with a need for massive scaling, major custom work and truly innovative architectures, Drupal delivers blistering fast performance and unrivaled flexibility. If you can imagine it as a website, then I guarantee it can be done with Drupal – but it may not be for the faint of heart. Drupal eschews extreme ease of use in favor of flexibility and power user control, and as such is only really recommended if you will continue to have access to skilled web developer staff over the life of your website. If your idea is truly revolutionary and needs some serious horsepower behind it, then Drupal is likely your best option for a CMS, but Drupal developers tend to be in high demand so be ready to pay for the privilege.
Joomla aims to be somewhat of a middle ground between WordPress and Drupal. Originally focused on delivering a solid e-Commerce foundation, Joomla now supports a wide range of content types including blogs, forums, pages and more. Like Drupal, you will likely need some technical know-how in order to get a quality Joomla site up and running, but once its set up you can probably maintain and add content yourself even if you aren’t the most tech savvy. Joomla stands apart from WordPress by giving you more out-of-the box functionality and integrated e-Commerce and social media support – something WordPress relies on plugins to achieve. If you are an e-Commerce oriented site but you don’t need the full flexibility (and associated difficulty) of a Drupal site, then Joomla is an excellent middle ground.
I hope this article has given you a solid understanding of the major CMS systems available for your next site, however if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Remember, here at Vance Media Services startup advice and quotes for web development are always free, so get in touch and we’ll have your next web site up and running in no time.