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The Top 5 Content Management Systems: Choosing What’s Right for You!

by Graham Huber on October 19, 2009

If you’re planning on building a website to support your business or a personal project, a content management system (CMS) can help you publish and control your content.

A CMS manages the content of your website with a customized database that allows your site pages and website visitors to use this information interactively in many ways. For instance, a CMS can be used to run an online store, publish a blog, send out newsletters, or just maintain a large amount of information.

The number of ways you can use a CMS varies widely depending on the features supported by it. New features are constantly being created for popular CMS frameworks, in the form of plug-ins and extensions. Many also have ready-made themes, templates and add-ons that are freely available for download.

Here’s how to choose the right CMS for your project:

Know Your Options

The list of CMS frameworks available is dizzying. Fortunately, some good folks have done the dirty work of comparing CMS options.

When the dust settles, five stand out:

  1. Drupal
  2. Joomla!
  3. DotNetNuke
  4. Expression Engine
  5. WordPress

We’ll call these the Big Five.

Choosing the right CMS for your project depends on your needs. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Drupal

Drupal is a free open-source CMS based on PHP. It’s feature-packed, thanks to a huge community of enthusiastic users contributing add-ons. Drupal is powerful enough for nearly any web application.

If you need it, Drupal can probably do it – just how easily is the question. The open-source architecture is code-intensive and inherently patch-work, making it intimidating for beginners. Fortunately, our automated installer of Drupal makes the setup very easy.

Pro: Free, large user base, thousands of features.
Con: Can be complicated and messy.
Verdict: A clear trade-off between power and ease-of-use. You might need to hire a good Drupal programmer.

Joomla!

Joomla! is an enormously popular free open-source CMS based on PHP that offers a cleaner, more user-friendly alternative to Drupal. Joomla! also boasts some of the highest quality CMS theme designs available online. Free templates can be downloaded from Joomlashack.com, or you may consider a premium Joomla Template from myhosting.com.

Pro: Free, huge support community, great free templates.
Con: Weak SEO support out-of-the-box, some plugins suffer from security vulnerabilities.
Verdict: Joomla! is an attractive alternative to Drupal as a free open-source CMS, but may share some of the same shortcomings.

DotNetNuke

DotNetNuke is the leading open-source CMS and application development platform designed for Microsoft .NET. It has a strong business focus, boasting large corporate clients like HP, Bell Canada, Kenwood, and Kodak.

DotNetNuke has the honor of being the most widely used framework for Microsoft Windows Server. This gives it particular advantage for Windows-based environments.

Pro: Stable and secure implementation, relatively easy to use administrative controls.
Con: Steep learning curve, but our DNN Application Installer will help you get started.
Verdict: DotNetNuke is a serious product for serious business.

Expression Engine

Expression Engine is one of the most flexible commercial CMS systems available for a web host supporting PHP, such as myhosting.com. For a modest license fee, users are rewarded with a rich feature set and intuitive publishing system that is both extremely powerful and easy to use.

Expression Engine utilizes its own markup language to simplify code and speed up development, making it an attractive choice for beginners and pros alike. Technical support via documentation and proactive user forums is unmatched.

Pro: Excellent documentation and technical support, many features built-in, robust library of add-ons.
Con: Cost, proprietary architecture can be limiting in some very advanced cases.
Verdict: Expression Engine may not be free, but the quality of the product and support is well worth the cost.

WordPress

Strictly speaking, WordPress is a blogging platform. However, the popularity of Wordpress has evolved it into a comparable CMS through a large library of add-ons and extensions. WordPress is ideally suited for blogs and presentations, such as portfolio or gallery sites.Thousands of beautiful and free WordPress themes are available to get your site running instantly. Or you can even choose from one of our premium WordPress Themes.

Pro: Very simple to use, user-friendly publishing tools, beautiful and free designer themes.
Con: While versatile, some websites are inevitably more complex than WordPress can handle.
Verdict: It’s important to understand if your website’s needs will be met if you are considering WordPress as your CMS.

Know Your Needs

Before you settle on a CMS of choice, make sure you’ve got a clear plan for your website needs to do.

Start simple.

Know what you need, and only what you need (to start).

Divvy up every proposed feature for the site into a list of “must-have” and “nice-to-have”. Choose a CMS that has the tools, features, and ready-made templates you’ll need to get the “must-have” up first and fast.

Grow your website with your business.

Choose a CMS that will allow your website to grow with your business. This doesn’t have to mean all the bells and whistles upfront – but you should be able to add the ones you need later on down the road.

Popular and open source CMS systems have large libraries of additional plug-ins and extensions to add features when you need them. These plug-ins can literally save you thousands of dollars in development costs and dramatically improve your time to launch.

Seek support. Lots of it.

Generally, the more people that are using a CMS, the better it is – the bugs have been ironed out, the best features have been added (often by the users themselves, as plug-ins or extensions), and you won’t have trouble finding support when you need it. For these reasons, a large user base is key to spotting a good CMS.

Sticking to the Big Five will help you avoid inheriting someone else’s problems and reduce costly surprises down the road.

You get what you pay for.

Open source CMS frameworks like Drupal and Joomla! can be a great solution for budget-conscious projects, but the trade-off can be usability. Plan to budget for a good programmer to help you through the process, or elect for a commercial CMS that offers a more user-friendly experience and better technical support.

How To Get Started

The first step is sign up for a web hosting plan that offers or supports your CMS of choice. At myhosting.com we offer automated “one-click” installations of Drupal, Joomla!, DotNetNuke and WordOress, and can help you get started with the configuration and server setup.

Once your CMS is installed and running smoothly, you are ready to go!

Related posts:

  1. Joomla vs Drupal – How to Pick the Right Content Management System for You
  2. The CMS Top 3: Why It’s Time to Migrate Your Static Site
  3. Installing the Joomla Content Management System on your website
  4. Top 10 Joomla SEO Plugins
  5. DotNetNuke (DNN) & myhosting.com – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 1 of 3

{ 12 comments }

Derick Jones May 4, 2010 at 10:19 AM

I am in the process of setting up a website. This is great information. Spending countless hours checking how to videos, reading tutorials and “expert advice”, I am going crazy here. This post is great, as it gives the pros and cons of the most popular CMS all in one place. Thanks!

Ecommerce Templates November 21, 2010 at 7:40 PM

This is a very useful information…Thankies :)

Randy5 January 6, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Dividing features into must-haves and nice-to-haves is useful. You might be surprised how many things you think you need are really just “nice-to-haves.”

Stoddard January 28, 2011 at 9:39 AM

I love WordPress. I would use it unless I absolutely couldn’t for some reason.

PotsNPans February 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Any tips for knowing when something’s really needed, and not just desired?

Rusher August 10, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Anything that will improve customer experience and/or directly contribute to your bottom line is needed.

Pavan August 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM

This is really a good information about CMS. I was really very worried on doing Php programming this helped me alot in choosing right CMS for my career. Thanq very much…

OfftheWall September 26, 2011 at 6:48 AM

Glad to hear you’re on board with Php programming, Pavan. Hope it’s been going well for you so far!

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