It’s 2019. By now, the vast majority of businesses understand that having a website is a crucial factor in their success.
But nowadays, with over 1.5 billion websites on the internet, it’s not enough to just have a website. The most successful websites need to offer an exceptional user experience, perform well from a technical SEO perspective, publish regular, high quality content, and encourage users to make certain pre-defined actions such as buying a product.
To do this, many websites use a content management system (CMS).
What Is A CMS?
In its most basic form, a CMS is nothing more than a software application that allows webmasters to build, manage and optimise a website.
Many of the CMS platforms aimed at beginners and small businesses offer an easy-to-use interface, often utilising a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG system, with easily-customisable pages and website elements.
The enterprise-level CMS platforms usually offer a more complex interface that gives web developers greater flexibility when customising a site, allowing them to create a truly bespoke website. This is taken to even greater extremes with high-traffic e-commerce sites that require an in-depth reporting dashboard to help manage their online store.
Why Does My Business Need A CMS?
Traditionally, a CMS would make it easier for users with little-to-no development experience to make changes to a website. As the capabilities of CMS platforms have gradually improved, they allow website developers to build a bespoke, complex website that can be easily edited by content marketers and other people that may have minimal development experience.
In the past, many enterprise-level companies would opt to build their own bespoke website back-end. Whilst this usually allowed them to have greater customisation of the site, it was difficult for anyone without a deep knowledge of website development to make changes to the site. As you can imagine, this would present an endless list of problems; and this is without taking into account the massive upfront investment as well as training and maintenance costs.
What Are The Most Popular CMS Platforms In 2019?
With a market share of 60%, WordPress is unarguably the most popular CMS platform out there. It’s been around for over 15 years and over this time has gained a reputation as the go-to platform for anyone wanting to build a website.
One of the best things about WordPress is its easy-to-use interface, offering a clean back-end that’s comprehensible for even the least technical people. This was made even more accessible following the introduction of Gutenberg, WordPress’ new WYSIWYG editor. Saying that, WordPress also offers the ability to directly edit HTML code within your pages and posts, as well as edit the CSS on-site. Combine this with the 50,000+ plugins that you can add to your site and you should have no problem in creating pretty much any website that you desire.
Another huge benefit of WordPress is its affordability. If you choose the self-hosted version (WordPress.org) then you can access the full WordPress software completely free of charge, although you will of course need to pay for hosting and a domain name. With the hosted version (WordPress.com), pricing starts with the Free package which includes all the necessary features to get your website up-and-running. Although if you want to access professional features such as a fully-custom domain name, being able to monetise your website and having access to all themes and plugins then the higher pricing tiers will be more suitable for you; ranging from £4 to £20 per month.
Finally, due to its significant market share, the size of WordPress’ community gives it a notable advantage over most other CMS platforms. There are countless forums and social networks that you’ll be able to visit if you ever have a problem with your website; more often than not, you’ll be able to troubleshoot your problem easily enough. WordPress’ large community also means that if you ever decide to work with a new agency or hire new members of your in-house marketing team, they’re almost guaranteed to have experience working with the platform.
As one of the most established internet companies of the last few decades, offering website hosting since back in 1997, it’s no surprise that GoDaddy also offers a website building solution. With pricing ranging from £4.99 per month for the most basic plan to £19.99 for the more advanced plan, it’s relatively affordable too. Surprisingly, none of these plans actually include domain hosting, but you can purchase this for an additional fee.
The main advantage of GoDaddy’s CMS platform is its ease of use. In fact, it’s so easy to create a website that GoDaddy claims you can “Build a better website in under an hour” and “create and update your entire site on your phone”. GoDaddy websites are also built with responsive layouts right out of the box, meaning they’re made to adapt to smartphones and tablets of various sizes; something that is crucial following Google’s move to a mobile-first index. If you take a look at some of the example websites that GoDaddy promotes on its Website Builder landing page, you’ll notice that the design is very sleek and professional too.
Saying that, the range of designs and themes you can choose from is fairly limited, even compared to similar website builders that are aimed at beginners, such as Squarespace and Wix. This means that many of the websites using GoDaddy as their CMS end up looking pretty similar. If you have a specific vision for your website, then GoDaddy’s limited design selection will restrict that vision quite a bit. It also offers basic SEO features such as Robots.txt, Sitemaps and a blog; although these features are quite limited too. Some users have even reported that all of their product pages display the wrong title and no meta description; far from what you need to rank well on Google.
Squarespace has been investing heavily in marketing over the last few years and seems to be ramping up its marketing spend even more, so it’s certainly a CMS platform that you’ll hear a lot about throughout 2019!
Its drag-and-drop website builder makes Squarespace ideal for freelancers that need a professional website to act as a portfolio for their work. The platform offers a wide range of themes that look stunning from a design point-of-view; if you’re in a rush then you should be able to create a pretty compelling website in a short space of time. Another huge advantage of Squarespace is its affordability; starting from £10 per month for the Personal plan. Saying that, if you’re after a more advanced package this price can increase all the way up to £30 per month for the top plan. Although, if you have a look at some of the popular YouTube influencers, such as Peter McKinnon, you should be able to find a link to get an additional 10% off your first website. Squarespace templates are all fully responsive too, meaning they are optimised for mobile sites straight out the box. You can also enable AMP on your site, which is known to increase organic traffic.
One of the main downsides of Squarespace is its lack of customisation, particularly if you opt for the Personal plan. This plan doesn’t let you add CSS or scripts, it doesn’t offer e-commerce functionality and it fails to meet the needs of several other important aspects of a business website. Of course, if you’re just looking for a fairly one-dimensional website for personal use, this plan should do the job. With the more advanced plans, features like the ability to add CSS and e-commerce features is possible, but it can still be fairly limited compared to platforms like WordPress.
Shopify has made a name as the go-to CMS platform for e-commerce brands, powering over 800,000 online stores. It’s particularly popular amongst people that have no coding experience but want a professional e-commerce website.
Shopify has made a name as the go-to CMS platform for e-commerce brands, powering over 800,000 online stores. It’s particularly popular amongst people that have no coding experience but want a professional e-commerce website.
As one of the main competitors of WordPress’ e-commerce solution ‘WooCommerce’, Shopify offers an easy-to-use platform that allows users to create, manage and optimise an online store. The main difference with these two platforms is that WordPress’ solution is essentially a website, with the add-on of an online store; Shopify’s sites are purpose built for e-commerce.
In general, Shopify performs exceptionally compared to a lot of the other e-commerce-focused platforms. It offers an intuitive interface, great customer support, a wide range of marketing features, and most importantly, the ability to build beautiful websites. Whilst it’s often compared to the likes of Squarespace and Wix, described as a website builder for beginners, it also offers the ability to be fully customised by website developers. Saying that, the template language that Shopify uses is something that a lot of developers may be unfamiliar with: ‘Liquid’. This is a language that was actually created by Shopify, written in Ruby. It is fairly easy to pick up though, and Shopify also offers a useful reference guide on its site.
Shopify offers three main plans, at $29, $79 and $299 a month, although it also offers two other plans, Shopify Lite and Shopify Plus. Compared to most of the other platforms on this list, these prices are certainly on the higher end of the scale. It does offer a 14-day free trial though, unlike many of the other platforms.
One of the main disadvantages of Shopify is that whilst it does offer a blog add-on, the offering is pretty basic. Anyone with SEO knowledge will understand how crucial this is to ranking well on Google. Of course, for many e-commerce websites the onsite blog is an after-thought, but it’s certainly something you need to consider and something that is known to increase conversions.
Another major disadvantage of Shopify is that you are required to ‘lock-in’ to the service. This basically means that if you ever choose to move your store to another platform it’s going to be near-impossible to do so. In fact, if you do cancel your account, the best you will get is a CSV export of your product information. In its defence, this is the same with most hosted e-commerce platforms, but it’s something that is a deal breaker for many businesses.
First released back in 2005, ‘Joomla!’ is one of the most well-known open-source CMS platforms on the market with over 2 million active websites. In terms of market share, it’s actually the most popular platform behind WordPress.
Unlike some of the other open-source CMS platforms on the market, Joomla offers a relatively wide variety of extensions, although many of these aren’t free. It’s also one of the few CMS platforms that is built for multilingual websites without the use of any plugins, offering over 70 different translation packs.
As we mentioned before, Joomla has a pretty large community. This can be very useful if you run into any problems with your site; there are countless forums with Joomla users offering their help. You may also be able to find Joomla meetups in your local area, where you can meet with fellow Joomla users and share tips and best practices. On top of this, you can find several in-depth training videos on Joomla’s website to help get more familiar with the platform.
From a design perspective, the user interface is fairly poor compared to platforms like Squarespace and WordPress. It’s relatively easy to navigate through but the interface does feel very old school, although it looks like this will change following the official release of Joomla 4.0.
One of the main benefits of Magento is the amount of customisation it offers. If you want to do something with your website, there’s almost no doubt that Magento will be able to do it; albeit with the right development team. This includes offering on-site coupons, optimising your site for mobile, implementing advanced SEO strategies, or even offering various prices for different customer groups.
Another huge benefit of Magento is its inventory management system. The system offers a clear interface with countless filtering options including Product SKUs, Quantity, Price, Name and so on. This can be incredibly useful if you ever need to find the availability status of a specific product. As Magento is primarily built to handle the bigger e-commerce sites out there, it is extremely capable at handling huge inventories too. And with such a large community, it should be relatively easy to find a solution if you come across any problems when building or managing your website.
As you can probably tell, Magento isn’t a CMS platform for beginners. The pricing reflects this too; whilst the Community Edition is available for free, the Enterprise Edition, also known as the Commerce version, will likely set you back five figures a year. It has been reported to cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 dollars per year for the full Commerce version.
Another disadvantage of Magento is that the user interface can take some getting used to, especially if you’re more familiar with beginner-friendly platforms like Shopify and Squarespace. Saying that, you should have no problem in making the most out of the platform after playing round with it for a while.
As the third most popular CMS platform, with a 3.5% market share, you may have come across Drupal before. It’s most commonly used on larger websites; out of the one million most popular sites it actually has a larger market share than Joomla. It’s also one of the oldest CMS platforms on the market, starting up back in 2001.
In a time of increased concern over online security with data leaks seemingly occurring every other day, Drupal is a step ahead of most of the other platforms on this list in terms of security. In the rare case of a potential vulnerability with its sites, Drupal will announce the issue on its official website followed by instructions on how to resolve it. The platform also offers numerous security-focused extensions, including one that creates regular security reports for your site owner to monitor.
Drupal is also famous for its wide range of functionality; it offers advanced menu management, in-depth user management, a wide range of mobile-first themes, graphics management, and thousands of plugins to make your site even more advanced. As it’s an open-source platform, you can even create your own plugins. It’s also another one of the few CMS platforms that is available in multiple languages right out the box. You can actually see the progress of Drupal’s translations in various different languages on its website.
As Drupal is aimed at larger websites it probably won’t come as a surprise that you’ll need a development team or at least some pretty in-depth coding experience to use the platform properly. All the way from the initial installation to building the actual website it’s going to be a tough task. But if you get it right, the results can be totally worth the time investment.
Created in 2011, Craft CMS is one of the newer CMS platforms on this list. As you can imagine, this means that its market share is relatively small and it has some elements that are bound to be improved in future updates. Saying that, it’s on this list for a reason – the platform ticks a lot of boxes and is increasingly being considered as one of the main alternatives to WordPress.
Often described as one of the most flexible CMS platforms on the market, Craft comes with minimal building blocks and pre-sets during the initial set up. It encourages users to build up their own dashboard and settings to create a truly bespoke website; something that people who have used Craft tend to either love or hate. It allows developers to create various blocks and label them with user-friendly names, which in-turn makes it easier for clients to customise the website to their preferences. This also makes it far easier for people with minimal development experience to make ongoing changes to the website, which can save a lot of time and money in the long run. Craft also offers a powerful ecommerce solution called Craft Commerce which allows the platform to be used for building comprehensive online stores.
The general UI of Craft is fairly similar to WordPress, only cleaner and more modern. The layout is pretty streamlined and most of the components of Craft are labelled in a beginner-friendly manner. It also performs really well from a content point of view – the layout is easy to understand, even as someone with no experience of using a CMS platform. In addition, the fact that Craft was only launched back in 2011 means that it will likely see tons of new features popping up over the next few years.
Saying that, the fact that Craft is relatively new to the CMS scene can also be a disadvantage. Firstly, it means that if you have a problem with your site, it’s going to be a lot harder to find a solution than if you were using a platform like WordPress. Of course, Craft still has a strong community of users that will be happy to help, but it’s not going to be as easy as if you were using a bigger platform; it’s certainly not going to be as easy as finding the solution with a quick Google search. We’ve even seen some users complain about the naming convention – Google often returns ‘Minecraft’-related listings when you troubleshoot for Craft CMS. On top of this, it’s much harder to find the right plugin on Craft’s library of 350+ plugins. When compared to WordPress’ library of 50,000+ plugins, you can see why this is a problem.
In addition, Craft doesn’t come cheap. The Solo version is actually free, although if you’re building a professional website it’s going to cost you $299 up-front followed by an annual fee of $59 for updates. If you don’t have much development experience it’s likely that you’ll need to fork out for a website developer to put together a template for your site too.
As one of the longest-running website builders, Wix has amassed a whopping 35 million registered users. When you look into its offering you can see why it’s so popular.
Firstly, Wix markets itself as a beginner-friendly drag-and-drop website building tool. With plans from just £3 a month, it puts itself in a completely different market than platforms like Squarespace, which has plans starting at £10 a month.
Wix also has an extremely wide variety of themes to start building your website with compared to its competitors, but it also allows users to ‘start from scratch’. The platform offers a very wide library of plugins too, which allows you to customise your site and add in-depth features such as email newsletters, site search, live chat functionality and so on. On top of this, Wix offers the ability to add some pretty cool features to your site. Some of these features include text and graphic animation, member login and even parallax navigation; features that would usually need to be installed by an experienced web developer. All of this comes packaged up in a user-friendly drag-and-drop platform, which allows people with no development experience to create and manage a pretty advanced site with minimal effort.
Saying that, there are some downsides to Wix. Firstly, once you select a template for your site you won’t be able to change it, instead being forced to redesign your website from scratch. Of course, you can still change all the individual elements of your site but the theme itself is a one-time deal.
Wix also fails to offer native blog support; users are forced to install a plugin in order to access this functionality. With the growing importance of content marketing in order to rank well on Google, this is pretty surprising from such a popular platform. This also takes us on to the next point.
Like many CMS platforms that use a drag-and-drop website builder, Wix is very limited from an SEO point-of-view. In fact, Wix recently came under fire from the SEO community following its Super Bowl advert that claimed “Wix ‘SEO Wiz’ lets you grab those top search results”. Yes, it offers the ability to customise basic SEO elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, H1 tags, alt text and so on, but that’s about it. The lack of customisation from a HTML perspective is also extremely restrictive for SEO, which again is a common theme for all drag-and-drop website builders.
This B2B CMS platform has become one of the most popular marketing tools of the last decade. Not only does it offer an all-in-one marketing suite, but the full tool also includes a Sales Hub to manage prospects, as well as a Service Hub to help connect with clients and optimise the quality of your business’ customer service.
The main USP of Hubspot is that it literally does everything – it offers a comprehensive CRM platform, a website builder, the ability to manage lists, create landing pages, automate ‘workflows’, manage email marketing campaigns and even schedule social media posts. And this is just a snapshot of the countless features this platform offers. With so many features, it eliminates the need to use many of the popular digital marketing tools, instead managing your marketing operations from one central platform. For such an advanced tool it’s also surprisingly easy to use. The UI is clean, modern and very intuitive, even for beginners. And if you do struggle to get used to the platform you could always take one of its many in-depth training courses or contact customer support, which is well-known for being at a high standard.
Hubspot also performs really well from a content marketing perspective. Its WYSIWYG blog builder has a very similar interface to WordPress’ Gutenberg, focusing on ease-of-use for beginners. It also features an Optimize tab that helps users ensure the blog post meets certain requirements before publishing; for example, the number of keywords, CTAs and internal links used.
As you can imagine, Hubspot’s premium software doesn’t come cheap. Unlike similar tools, it does actually offer a free package, although features are fairly limited. The next tier up starts at £42 a month, but if you want to get the most out of this platform then you’ll want to go for one of the more advanced packages, Professional or Enterprise, which start from £655 and £2,624 per month respectively. And this is just for the Marketing platform by itself – if you want to access the full Sales & Service Hubs it will likely cost you double this. In addition, you’re required to sign up for a 12-month contract and, like many similar self-hosted platforms, getting out of the contract isn’t particularly easy.
In most cases, we would recommend using WordPress as your CMS – but this certainly doesn’t apply for all websites. If you’re after a more bespoke site then some of the other CMS platforms on this list could be the perfect alternative.
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