Getting people to visit your website and engaging them once they arrive is a never-ending process that requires a lot of elbow grease and faithfulness to some key ideas. Foremost among these is Bill Gate’s famous line: content is king.
Whether it is text, pictures, video, audio or other graphics you want unique and stimulating content on your site that interests people. This interest will ideally pay off with the search engines as well. You want your content to stay fresh so it perpetually requires tweaking, revision, and addition. Managing content on a website can be a big task, especially at scale. Without the help of content management systems (CMS), this undertaking would be almost unthinkable.
But there are a lot of different CMS options out there so it begs the question,which is the best?
Making the Right Choice
Do a few quick google searches or check out Quora and you’ll quickly see there is no consensus when it comes to the “best” CMS. This is little wonder as there are currently upwards of 300 available on the market.
You may be gravitating toward WordPress (or already there) due to its popularity, but we recommend you proceed carefully. Choosing the wrong CMS can turn leverage into a pitfall, create headaches for you and your team, and damage ROI.
Finding the right CMS for your website or business can be like navigating a maze. You may require only a few basic tools or complicated enterprise systems, so, (spoiler alert) there is no “best” CMS.
Rather, what works best for you is going to depend on your business’s needs. Are you building a blog? Will it have private membership? Is it a corporate website, with content segmented for different personas? Multi-language e-commerce platform? All things to consider.
Despite this subjectivity, we’re going to help you increase your odds of making the right call by breaking down 4 of the most popular CMS’s, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, and SiteCore.
According to one estimate Joomla has been downloaded around 78 million times making it the 2nd most used behind WordPress. Joomla is an open-source CMS and something of a “happy medium” between the developer-centric Drupal and novice-friendly WordPress. It offers its users a buffet of useful plugins, sharp default templates and a robust community for support.
Example sites include: Harvard University and the Guggenheim
Features and ease of use
Joomla requires a bit of techy know-how, but don’t despair if you are not a code master. Setup and installation are relatively straightforward, and understanding the Joomla framework is not as hard as many other CMS’s.
From a marketing perspective, building a site on Joomla can be great due to its community orientation and strong social media functionality. Some other key features include:
- Multilingual capacity
- Integrated user support system
- Easy content versioning
- Simple frontend editing
- Banner management
- Powerful extensibility
- Mobile Content Delivery
- Multi-user authoring
Some problems have been known to occur with approval processes and rights management, but overall Joomla is a solid choice. It allows you to build complex and flexible websites with a nice degree of developer autonomy. At the same time it’s fairly intuitive, user-friendly and does not bury the less tech savvy among us. It can be thought of as intermediate in terms of difficulty.
Joomla is geared perfectly for small and medium sized e-commerce sites and performs particularly well for sites with a strong social media focus.
With a US market share hanging around 60% WordPress (WP) is the undisputed leader in content management systems. The original iteration of WordPress was a basic blogging platform and in some senses, this original reputation stuck making some businesses hesitant to trust it. It can, however, be said unequivocally the WordPress is an enterprise level CMS [link?]. Some people criticize WP due to its broad and somewhat unfocused nature. But on the flip side many organizations stretch WP and benefit from its vast inventory of themes, plugins, widgets and functionality.
Example sites include: The Wall Street Journaland TED
Features and ease of use
WP is famously user-friendly, requiring little to no technical skill to get a site up and running. WordPress is also powerful enough for developers to create an efficient and high functioning site for your business or client. In terms of range, tutorials, user-support and theme options you are not going to beat WP. Compatibility issues arising from the integration of third party applications or programs are also likely to be minimal on a WP supported site.
The list of features that WP brings to the table is long, and could (and does here and here) warrant its own article. Some key features are a simple user interface, mobile friendly design and functionality, and plugins that seamlessly sync with other extensions. Others include:
- Easy publishing tools
- Easy installation process and frequent upgrades
- Pre-optimization for SEO
- User management options
- Multilingual (available in 70 languages)
- Intuitive media management
- Huge community support and wide range of tutorials
The Bottom Line
If you’re in a situation where you need a site managed by a non-technical team member or to turn over the reigns to client who needs an easy to manage site you should absolutely go with WP. Additionally, much of WP usage is free and if you venture into premium options their prices are relatively low.
WordPress is ideal for everyday blogging, simple e-commerce and news sites. It can, of course, be stretched into complicated high-level enterprise sites but obviously doing so will require people will real development chops. WP is also a good default if you’re simply not sure what you’re looking for.
Drupal is another well-known open source CMS platform that is used to build simple and complex interactive websites. Drupal is used by between 2-3 % of websites and it is known for being a more technical, developer-geared CMS. Approaching Drupal without knowledge of HTML, CSS and PHP is essentially a lost cause. You don’t need to be an expert but some basics are a prerequisite, and if your site gains traction and you need to scale up odds are you’ll need to find an expert in Drupal (can be harder to find than WP).
The payoff for this higher level of technical skill requirement is unleashing the power of arguably the most powerful CMS out there.
Example sites include: Tesla Motors and the Louvre
Features and ease of use
As we’ve already noted, using Drupal takes a good bit of skill and in fact finding top professionals who work in Drupal is a little bit harder than other platforms. So, with ease of use clearly not the selling point why use Drupal? Drupal has a famously powerful taxonomy and probably the biggest capacity to create complex and high performing sites.
Drupal sites typically load faster than many sites on other platforms, which can be critical if your site needs to display large scale graphics of video. Another plus in the Drupal column is that their sites are less resource dependent which can help your budget in terms of savings on servers or hosting fees. Although its updated slightly less often, Drupal has frequent patches (on average every 51 days) to bolster its already outstanding security reputation. Some other key features include:
- Thousands of free Modules (16,000+)
- A wide variety of themes and templates
- Enormous scalability capacity
- SEO friendly with clean code and modern web publishing tools
- Easy integration of payment gateways
- Easy to control user permissions, multiple authorship, etc
- Connects easily with 3rd party services and API’s
The Bottom Line
Drupal does not let you self-host in the way that WordPress does, so for some people, this is a negative. But if you have (or have the resources to hire) a bit of technical know-how, Drupal can be a great CMS option. It’s best for complex, advanced, and versatile websites and for sites that require complicated data organization.
Additionally, if you’re looking to build a community platform site with multiple users and/or an online store (with room to grow) Drupal is worth considering.
While Joomla, WordPress and Drupal are the usual CMS suspects we wanted to throw a curveball into the mix. Sitecore is an enterprise .NET platform, and it’s much more of a niche platform than the others mentioned in this article. It’s known mostly for its innovative push on the boundary of what most CMS’s offer, in that it offers a series of marketing-specific functions as part of its “digital marketing suite”. From the perspective of customer engagement and marketing integration with site content, you’re going to be hard pressed to find something similar elsewhere.
Example sites include: WinnDixie and ConEdison
Features and ease of use
Sitecore’s interface mimics that of Windows, so for many users it will feel comfortable and familiar. Sitecore is, however, only available through licensed partners with skilled, certified developers. So, in this sense it doesn’t score terribly well from an ease of use perspective (or accessibility for that matter, either).
It does offer up some truly unique benefits, though. Sitecore is much more than a simple CMS, it is an entire framework that enables you to create reusable site components in one repository. With a focus on engagement, Sitecore also gives a site owner every chance to be as search engine-friendly as possible. A few other highlights include:
- Built on cutting edge Microsoft Net 2.0 technology
- A highly customizable workflow engine (for 3rd party integration)
- Robust scalability capacity
- Fluid and adaptable for international users/clients ( multisite and multilingual functionality )
- Intuitive end user interface
- Has the ability to run on Azure cloud
The Bottom Line
Sitecore is not a CMS that you casually pick up in the way that you might with say WordPress. Running a marketing team you undoubtedly always have budget and ROI near the center of your thinking. Using Sitecore is probably going to represent a bigger investment than some alternative CMS’s (full pricing details here) and their licensing requirements can be prohibitive, but in some cases these issues are worth working around.
Sitecore is best utilized as part of a comprehensive digital strategy, and in this context can offer benefits many CMS’s can only dream of. The options available for targeting customers, building end-to-end shopping experiences, optimizing for mobile, personalizing a marketing story are all part of their digital marketing suite. If this weren’t enough, they allow you to easily track website experience and user behavior information to helps drive conversions.
Now that we’ve unloaded all this information what happens when all the dust settles?
Well, you’re still like faced with a decision to make and although you have more information you may still be uncertain. With the caveat of subjective needs firmly in place, here are some things to think about when picking the right CMS:
- Understand why you’re buying a CMS in the first place. Your CMS should do exactly what it’s needed to, no more, no less. Which features must you have? What problems are you trying to address?
- Think critically about open source vs proprietary options. Remember “open source” doesn’t really mean free. You may end up investing more in open source for support or for an additional paid plugin to operate at the level you’d like.
- Create some usage scenarios. Take a few minutes and visualize or write down how your team will work with the CMS. Encourage employees to do the same if appropriate, and ask for feedback. If a new CMS is going to create a lot of confusion and disorientation it may not be worth it.
- Don’t get blinded by a demo or flashy website. Viewing a CMS through the lens their salespeople project might lead you to a false conclusion. Get your hands dirty, give it a practical test and run through some of your usage scenarios to see if it’s what you want.
At the end of the day investing in or switching your content management system is a big step. But only someone with intimate knowledge of business needs, marketing strategy and team function will be able to say which is the best for a given situation.