So you're looking for a CMS other than WordPress? Well, I have some news for you!
What is a CMS?
Certain types of websites require a content management system (CMS) in order to function as needed. A CMS makes the process of managing large amounts of content easier, allowing you to add, modify, or remove content from a visual administration interface.
You can manage your website from any computer, anywhere in the world, by logging into the administration interface in your web browser. This provides a huge relief to larger websites, small business owners, and content teams within your organization.
Using a CMS also makes it easy to ensure that your website is secure, as updates are frequently released.
Most content management systems also make it easier for website administrators to modify the look and style of the website.
There are many open-source content management systems available for free, from anywhere in the world.
Most often, they allow you to modify your website to create a solution that fits the needs of your business.
However, every CMS has unique strengths and weaknesses, and some are better at performing certain functions than others.
Some content management systems are great for managing small websites, and other CMSs are better at managing larger, more complex sites.
Because each CMS is so different, it’s important that you choose wisely.
Your choice of CMS must match the specific needs and requirements of your website, your business, and your customers.
If an inappropriate CMS is used, it could actually make the website harder to manage, rather than easier.
The main aim of content management systems is to improve the experience of managing and maintaining a website, and if the CMS causes difficulty in developing or running the website, it’s likely that an inappropriate CMS is being used.
In a situation like this, the content management system is probably not meeting the needs of the website.
Since there is such a broad variety of content management systems to choose from, it’s important to use the one which is most likely to meet the website’s needs sufficiently.
For example, for a website that consists of several informational pages, an image gallery and a blog, WordPress (the world’s most popular CMS) is most-often the best choice.
However, for a large news publishing website with an intricate structure, a CMS like Drupal is probably much more suitable.
E-commerce websites are usually best-suited to a CMS like Magento, since it’s an online shopping and transactional-based content management system, and performs exceedingly well for e-commerce sites.
The challenge with content management systems is that they are not inherently compatible with each other.
In other words, you can’t easily “switch” from one CMS to another.
Once a website has outgrown its current CMS, a migration process has to be started.
This requires manually re-creating the content from the old CMS into the new CMS.
Because this can be difficult, and time-consuming, it’s very important to make an informed decision about which CMS is going to be best suited to your website—not just now, but in the future as well.
In order to do this, you not only need to consider the website’s current needs, but also the possible growth of the business, and how that might impact the appropriateness of its CMS.
If, for instance, you expect that your website will require e-commerce functionality in the future, you need to take that into account when deciding upon a CMS, even if the website doesn’t take payments yet.
It’s an extremely fine balancing act, and it’s important to try and get it right from the start.
Why to choose WordPress
WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. It’s used for very different kinds of websites, all around the world.
The main strength of WordPress is its mature and easy-to-use blogging management tools.
Blogging and creating content with WordPress is easy, and most often a pleasure, thanks to its built-in tools and simple user interface.
The CMS provides a great base of core features, albeit simple and reserved. But thanks to the healthy ecosystem that WordPress has built around the CMS, it’s functionality can easily be extended using the plethora of third-party extensions available online.
Many of the best WordPress extensions are commercial, though, coming with a premium price tag.
Over the years, the functionality that WordPress provides has grown, though it must be said that the CMS provides fairly limited features out the box.
For the vast majority of websites built with WordPress, a combination of third-party extensions will be required in order to achieve the functionality that the site requires.
When not to use WordPress
Websites are like a balancing act. They can be fragile, and it’s really important that you get it right. From the start, preferably. It will save you a lot of stress later on.
While WordPress is a great CMS, there are times when it falls short. Incredibly short.
It’s important to remember that WordPress was originally built as a blogging tool.
In fact, its main selling point was (and actually, still is) to make the blogging process a lot simpler.
WordPress is great at streamlining this process, and is one of the most powerful blogging content management tools available today. But there are situations where the CMS is understandably out of its depth.
As much as WordPress has sought to build an ecosystem around its excellent blogging capabilities, there is understandably a limit to how far the CMS should be pushed. For more complex projects, WordPress may simply not be equipped.
Pro Tip: WordPress is best suited to blogs and informational websites. The core functionalities of the CMS can be extended via the use of third-party extensions, but each extension adds an increased security risk. It’s best to stick to popular extensions, like Visual Composer and WooCommerce. Once your site begins to accrue too many extensions, it’s probably time to consider migrating to a different CMS. There are alternative content management systems which are better suited to advanced functionality, such as intricate user management and complex e-commerce.
The Most Popular Content Mangement Systems
The market for content management systems peaked around a decade ago. At the time, content management systems were the only means of creating a complex, feature-rich website that could easily be maintained by multiple content contributors within a business.
By far, the oldest and most known content management systems come in a familiar trio.
It’s an age-old debate that has frequented many high profile blogs, news outlets and bulletin boards: WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal.
It’s common knowledge among the web development industry that these three CMS heavyweights have been held up to a standard of industry-leading content management solutions.
They’re most often the three CMSs of choice. These content management systems have conventionally been viewed in an order of three-tiers:
- WordPress is used for blogs and smaller informational websites
- Joomla is used by medium-sized websites which require more native functionality and scope for code development
- Drupal is used for larger, enterprise-level websites of a complex nature
There is some truth to this formulation, but not entirely. It isn’t really as simple as this.
Perhaps ten years ago, when each of these content management systems struggled with an overlap in feature availability, there were grounds for comparing them.
But today, the same rules don’t apply.
WordPress has come a long way from its state ten years ago.
It’s now used to power more websites than any other single platform on the web, and enables extension of its features through the use of a seemingly infinite number of third-party plugins and extensions.
Particularly in the last five years, Joomla has also seen explosive change in its capabilities as a CMS. Joomla completely revamped its coding structure beyond version 1.5, with its massive 2.5 release.
Since then, all subsequent versions of Joomla 3 have continued to push the boundaries of what can be expected of a content management system, breaking many boundaries that earlier versions saw.
As of now, it would appear that Joomla remains dedicated to furthering the power of the CMS, with work on version 4 already underway.
As for Drupal, it is the oldest of the three big content management systems, and benefits from this maturity.
It is, unquestionably, the most feature-rich open-source content management system available today.
The latest version of Drupal has been completely rewritten from the ground up, and the CMS now uses the Symfony framework. This huge development has completely changed the course of the CMS, positioning it as the superior choice for corporations and enterprise-level solutions.
Drupal is now more powerful and secure than ever before.
Historically, Drupal has been often utilized by enterprise-level websites, including large corporations, news and media outlets, government websites and educational establishments.
Indeed, some of the most influential organizations have made use of the CMS to utilize its powerful built-in tools.
WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal
Today, though, things are different. Big shifts have been observed throughout the industry, and these show no signs of slowing down. The three big CMSs can no longer be compared so directly, and especially cannot be viewed using the three-tier model I’ve explained above.
Quite simply, it’s now a heavily outdated way of viewing the three content management systems. Things have changed, massively.
While WordPress remains the #1 most-used content management system worldwide, it has changed considerably since its earlier releases, from years gone by.
By far, WordPress’ strengths lie in its native blogging capabilities—but also in the hugely diverse ecosystem of themes and plugins that can be used to extend its functionality.
The majority of WordPress websites today are no longer standalone blogs, but full-featured interactive websites, thanks in entirety to the wide availability of plugins available for the software. Using third-party plugins for WordPress enables site builders to create websites with far more purpose and functionality than they could in years past.
This a great thing for WordPress, and keeps its momentum going strong, as the world’s leading CMS. That’s not to say that WordPress combined with a host of third-party plugins is recommended, efficient, or effective though.
In fact, it can be even dangerous. But nonetheless, far more is now possible with the CMS.
WordPress vs Joomla
As for Joomla, the bare bones of the CMS provides far superior functionality when compared to WordPress.
The benefit of this is that security and integrity of websites running Joomla aren’t compromised due to heavy third-party plugin usage, in quite the same way that WordPress is. Joomla ships with core functionalities that range far beyond the scope of native WordPress, which positions the CMS much better for more complex websites.
In general, this avoids the problem of plugin overload, which causes several significant problems.
One of Joomla’s key strengths is that it uses object-oriented programming, which allows developers to create custom extensions for the platform with ease and a minimal learning curve.
This is something that both WordPress and Drupal don’t cater to so easily.
WordPress vs Drupal
Regarding Drupal, things have certainly changed quite significantly.
Over the years, the CMS has slowly transitioned to serving a more enterprise-level market, offering more complex functionality and feature-availability than both WordPress and Joomla.
In fact, there’s now a very strong argument from removing the ‘CMS’ label for Drupal, as today it’s seen as more of a framework for developing complex website and application solutions. With the recent release of Drupal 8, the focus on enterprise level clients has risen even further.
There are now probably more enterprise clients transitioning their websites to Drupal than any other CMS, on a global scale.
The other side to this, though, is that increasing feature availability and development capability in newer versions of Drupal (7, 8, and beyond) have alienated a large number of smaller businesses and individuals using the CMS for small, low-traffic websites of minimal complexity. It’s safe to say that in 2019, Drupal is the least appropriate CMS for simple websites.
It’s a beast of a CMS (or framework, if you like), and utilizing it to power a very basic website is more than likely overkill, given the sheer strength and power of the software.
For these reasons, Drupal has positioned itself to cater toward a more enterprise level market—one in which nor WordPress or Joomla can compete, and this renders the framework largely incomparable to the likes of these content management systems.
Today, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal cannot be compared.
Should I build a custom CMS?
Whether or not you should consider building your own custom CMS is always a tough question. And realistically, there isn’t an easy answer.
In web development, it’s usually said that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, this is quoted by nearly every web design agency or freelance web developer.
And in my opinion, it’s usually a tactic to enable the ability to overcharge a customer.
I would argue that, largely, one size definitely does fit all.
Over two billion websites exist, and for the vast majority of them, the requirements are mostly the same. For websites which do require a content management system, it isn’t common for websites to require a custom CMS.
It’s entirely possible that the particular nature of your project may benefit from a custom CMS. The trick here is definitely being able to distinguish whether your project does or not.
But before we get into that, let’s discuss the purpose and function of a custom CMS.
What is a custom CMS?
A custom CMS is one that has been developed solely for the purpose of meeting the content management needs of one specific website.
Of course, they can be used for multiple websites (that you own), but most commonly they’re developed to suit the specific requirements of a single website.
So, in other words, you’d be hiring someone (or a team) to create and build a CMS whose use would be restricted only to your website. The source code that powers the CMS wouldn’t be available to anyone else; it would be owned, or solely licensed, to you.
Typically, a custom CMS is considered when a website requires very specific, tailored content management.
Perhaps the website administrator desires a very specific remit for content management, but this negates the possibility to easily integrate additional features and functionality into the custom CMS in the future.
And since websites are like living, breathing organisms, and they change and develop with time, this more than likely isn’t the most sensible idea.
Why might you need a custom CMS?
There are many potential reasons you may be considering a custom content management system.
But, in my opinion, it can be a slippery slope. The biggest issue with custom CMS development is maintenance.
In fact, the initial development of the content management system is the easy part in comparison. The real challenge lies in the ongoing maintenance, and that’s for the simple reason of security.
Although, there are also several additional reasons you may not actually be benefiting (overall) from a CMS that’s been built custom for your site.
Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely implement some strategies to prevent and overcome these potential issues, but you’ll likely have to sacrifice a large amount of money in order to do this.
What's the closest alternative to WordPress?
Believe it or not, this question is one that’s asked often.
- See here: What similar options do I have for CMS other than Wordpress for my custom website?
- Here: Best alternative to WordPress for client sites?
- Here: What is best modern blogging CMS besides WP?
- ...here: What's a CMS other than Wordpress that has strong blogging capabilities?
- And here: What is the best blogging cms other than Wordpress?
If you’re wondering what the closest alternative is to WordPress, then stop. If you’re satisfied with WordPress then why are you seeking to find its closest alternative?
Let me give you a quick analogy.
It’s probably not needed, but here it is anyway: I have a favorite drink at Starbucks (it’s a Venti Mocha Frappuccino Light, with soy milk, no cream, 3 additional espresso shots and an extra helping of ice... in case you’re wondering).
I love this drink so much, that I order the same on nearly every visit I make to Starbucks.
And each time I’m forced to enter another coffee shop, I grimace at the fact that I’ll be having to drink something which tastes (to me) far less appealing.
Thing is, I’ve never considered what the next-best alternative is. And that’s because I don’t want to settle for an alternative.
If you’re pretty satisfied with WordPress, and it meets your business’ needs, why change?
Personally, I don’t think there’s any good reason to be searching for an alternative to WordPress if the CMS meets your needs.
There’s a lot of power behind WordPress, and most additional needs can be accomplished with the use of the plentiful extensions available, both freely and commercially.
I would say, in fact, that you should only really be looking at alternative content management systems if WordPress isn’t meeting your needs. And if that’s the case, what you certainly don’t want to be looking for is the closest alternative.
Seeking a CMS that works very similarly to WordPress would effectively be shooting yourself in the foot; WordPress is the single most used content management system, with by-far the largest ecosystem online.
WordPress isn’t meeting my needs
If WordPress isn’t quite cutting it for you, then what you should be looking for is a CMS that works very differently to WordPress.
In other words: NOT the closest alternative.
Look for a CMS that works and behaves differently, because this is obviously what your project is demanding.
WordPress is the best CMS
When WordPress works, it makes for the best possible solution. That’s because of how available and accessible WordPress-related development is.
The community is huge, and growing exponentially.
WordPress will likely always hold a sizeable stake in the content management market.
At this point, regardless of how many competitors enter the space, WordPress dominates such a large market share now that they’ll always be one step ahead of the game.
So, to reiterate: the closest alternative to WordPress, is WordPress.
And to summarize:
- If WordPress meets the needs and requirements of your project, don’t switch. And that advice can be universally applied to any CMS or website management platform. If it works and provides the functionality you need, stick with it. There’s no need to play around with the dynamics of your website if it works sufficiently.
- WordPress has years and years of development behind it, with a thriving community and ecosystem. It’s by far the most popular content management system — and that speaks for itself. It’s certainly great at what it does. It simply doesn’t make sense to attempt to reinvent the wheel if it meets your project’s needs.
- There are plentiful reasons for wanting to switch from WordPress to an alternative CMS. But if this is the situation you find yourself in, save yourself further headache by migrating to a CMS which is not similar to WordPress. Or else you’ll end up facing very similar challenges with the new CMS as well.