For our buying guide of the best content management system (CMS) software, we evaluated the top performers as well as programs that occupy a specific industry niche. We sought out services that go beyond just uploading and managing content. We looked for platforms that offer customization, including plug-ins for eCommerce and SEO optimization, so your website does what you want it to do, and it shows up high in search engine rankings. We also looked for applications that allow multiple users to upload content and that allow you to customize security settings for different users of the software.
Best Overall CMS
While it may have started as a blogging platform, WordPress is one of the largest and most widely used CMS platforms today. It's estimated that nearly 60 percent of websites that use a CMS choose WordPress. By its own estimate, 24 percent of the web operates through WordPress. Major websites that use WordPress include The New Yorker, Best Buy and Xerox.
WordPress is open source, which means that you don't need to purchase a license to operate it. In addition, open source software is constantly being enhanced by a community of contributors, including web developers, who create plug-ins and themes for the software. This makes it a good choice regardless of whether or not you know how to code or have a web developer or a team of developers. The software can be customized to fit your needs.
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems, servicing thousands of users and websites because it offers flexibility of tools with an easy-to-use interface. While it lacks in basic web creation tools, it still has extremely useful native and third-party business add-ons to quickly create functional eCommerce sites.
Its content-approval tools, SSL compatibility and granular privileges secure your content by limiting access according to administrative levels you set. WordPress has email verification, automatic problem-notification features and captcha tools to keep the site secure on the user side as well.
WordPress has a fair amount of standard add-ons that should be included with any content management program, such as blogs, email help forms and site maps. It is also one of the few CMS programs we reviewed that has graph and chart generators. In addition, it offers thousands of native or third-party plugins and add-ons for small businesses, including shopping carts, inventory management, affiliate tracking and point-of-sale systems. Using the clearly labeled dashboard, you can customize any of these tools to fit your personal business needs. WordPress offers a sandbox to test content changes without having to publish it first.
It offers content, document and project management, file distribution and project tracking. However, it doesn't support database reports, and lacks search engines.
WordPress is simple to use. It offers drag-and-drop functions, a spellchecker and quick undo tools so you don't have to delete large sections of your work and start over. The interface is intuitive, but this CMS program lacks site and style wizards that provide step-by-step instruction for novice users.
Because WordPress is so popular, there is a large web presence of community users. It offers blogs, web pages and social media posts concerning common – and uncommon – problems using the CMS software. You can also find source codes for features you may need. WordPress itself has user guides and discussion forums on its website and offers email support.
WordPress is a powerful content management system with easy-to-use web-development tools for both standard web pages and interactive business sites. It lacks a couple of common CMS tools, but the app section is vast as is the community of users who are willing to share tips and code to help you make a powerful business website.
Best CMS for eCommerce
If you have an online store, what you need from a CMS will differ from that of a standard website. Many CMS applications have plug-ins for eCommerce, but there are also those that are developed specifically for eCommerce sites. Magento rates as one of the best, with an open source platform and a variety of different options for eCommerce businesses of all sizes. Prominent clients include Burger King, Nestle and Zumiez.
Magento Community Edition is the basic platform, well suited for small businesses or tech-savvy entrepreneurs just starting out who want to build a webstore from scratch. If you don't know how to code, there is a community of users creating extensions with new features that you can add on to your store. Magento also supports multiple currencies and languages, which makes it a good choice if you have international customers.
Enterprise and Enterprise Cloud Edition are options for larger-scale sites. The Cloud Edition includes webhosting. There are costs associated with these options, but they include assistance with installation and troubleshooting.
The Magento content management system (CMS) is geared toward creating attractive and powerful eCommerce websites. It offers out-of-the box capabilities with ready-made themes while allowing for unlimited ability to customize with your own code. Thus, it's a good choice for growing businesses.
The dashboard has a look and organization familiar to most CMS software, making it easy to navigate. You can choose from templates or create your own. It offers security and privacy capabilities to meet current laws and payment card industry requirements. You can set up a single store or multiple stores, even stores in different languages depending on their locations.
Because this CMS is geared for eCommerce, it has extensive features for creating a product catalog, with advanced pricing tools, image watermark capabilities and the ability to add multiple attributes or variations. You can also add general content pages, formatting each page individually to meet the needs of the content. There are also customer account and grouping features.
The software also allows you to set up invoicing and billing through the program as well as shipping. You can set up the website to create reports on sales, customers, products or performance. The program also stores the statistics for use in the future.
This open source content management software nonetheless has expert tools and add-ons to efficiently program a versatile website that can handle the needs of your online business. You can find paid and free add-ons in the Magento marketplace for analytics, communication, payment processing, shipping and more. If you wish, you can program your own widgets or seek codes from the over 150,000 developers through Magento community forums.
In addition to users, Magento has over 3,000 trained solution partners, professional experts for consultation, code audits or business analytics. They can provide technical consultations and performance reviews. If you prefer to master they system yourself, there are user guides, live and online courses, certification processes and even Magento meetups to learn from other users.
Magento's product focus and flexibility make it a strong choice for business that deal primarily in eCommerce. The open source content management system has multiple features for building the website without special coding and ready-made add-ons you can acquire for free or purchase. Plus, you can add your own coding. It's a versatile system without being overly complex or requiring expert developer skills.
Best CMS for SEO
Optimizing your website for search engines is critical when building a website. Drupal, an open source CMS application, has many tools and modules to help you create content relevant to your target audience and structure your website so it can be crawled effectively by search engines. Major website that utilize Drupal include The Economist, Weather.com and Fox.
Drupal is a good choice for sites that manage a lot of pages or that have a large number of users. Having good SEO tools for a large site is crucial, as issues with duplicate content and poor site architecture can lead to poor rankings.
Drupal is more complex than other open source CMS platforms. You may have to hire a web developer or a team of designers and development staff to develop a good, user-friendly site. Drupal is well regarded as being one of the most secure open-source content management platforms.
Drupal is a well-known content management system intended to help advanced designers create a powerful website capable of handling large volumes of visitors and hundreds of pages of content. Drupal is so flexible it can create a simple blog as easily as impressive, interactive business sites. This flexibility makes this CMS a great solution for a growing business with ever-changing website needs.
While Drupal, one of the founding solutions in content management programs, has some of the best add-ons and plug-ins available, it isn't the most user-friendly for novice web designers. It has a decent selection of themes and a site wizard for quickly getting your business site online. However, it requires a lot of coding to make a truly powerful site. Drupal offers a highly active CMS community with a lot of user support.
Drupal content management software includes blog tools, email forms, search engines and site maps. These are basic features found on most websites, though Drupal also has a good range of add-ons especially for commerce and business websites. These include shopping carts, point-of-sale systems, help desks, live chat features and inventory management. This program also has several tools for tracking projects, managing documents and creating database reports – vital functions for mid-sized businesses with a lot of content to manage.
Drupal has very strong community support. You can join forums to ask questions, trade code and gain insights. In addition to online groups, there are events and meetups, chats and the Planet Drupal blog that aggregates posts by Drupal users for Drupal users.
In addition to the active community support, Drupal includes several technical support options. You can connect with support personnel through email or its social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Google Plus. You can access the user guide via the website. As with most open-source CMS solutions, Drupal doesn't have telephone support available.
While the selection of themes and templates isn't as extensive as other content management systems, Drupal does have a very active community with enough support for developing your business website. It has ready-made tools to help you easily create a basic blog or website, but most of the tools and functions have been developed to support large amounts of website traffic and managing large volumes of content.
Best CMS for Small Business
Maintaining a website is a necessity no matter what type of business you operate. It is often the first impression customers have of your business. Joomla is well regarded as the best CMS application for small business owners. This is an open source CMS that is easy to develop and customize. Major websites built using Joomla include Harvard University and The Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.
Joomla is a good choice for small businesses regardless of the size of your business (whether you have one of 50 employees) or the industry because of the relative ease with which a site can be developed. Joomla offers many extensions and plug-ins that can meet the needs of most small businesses. Most CMS platforms offer different themes and templates, but the sites that share those systems all convey a similar look and feel. Joomla offers greater options for customization, so your website can be unique while also being easy to use.
Joomla is an open-source content management system designed for developers with coding experience rather than beginners who are more dependent on website builders for creating web content. With a broad selection of commerce and business add-ons, Joomla works well for companies looking to step up their basic website to something more appealing, unique, interactive and professional.
Regardless of the business add-ons you need for your website, Joomla has them all free of charge. However, the selection of website themes isn't as extensive as its other CMS solutions. You can easily search private website and blogs to find more, and the Joomla community is quite active and available to help you hunt down what you need for your business website project. It is easy to create an eCommerce site, complete with shopping carts, point-of-sale systems, inventory management and affiliate tracking.
Joomla has most standard add-ons you need for a basic website too. These include blogs, email forms, discussion forums and photo galleries. You can include user-contribution pages and allow visitors to add content. The security measures available with Joomla help protect your important content during any interactions with your site visitors. Captcha ensures that contributors sending information are human, and SSL compatibility gives you the option to password protect sensitive pages and content.
The dashboard is easy to navigate while creating and uploading web content. Additional add-ons are available to allow document management, file distribution and project management. These programs allow you to do more with your content than simply place it on a website. They give you and your employees easy digital access to data that is important to the overall operation of your company.
Joomla doesn't have many support options. You can browse through the online user guide and discuss options on the user forums. There are also online classes available through the website, but no email or phone support options. This is not unusual for open source software systems.
Joomla isn't a quick website builder with site or style wizards but rather a CMS for web designers who have experience using code to develop functional and professional websites. This CMS has an extensive list of business and commerce add-ons available, most without cost. The community is active and effective in answering questions that cannot otherwise be answered due to the lack of personal support options.