WordPress as a Content Management System has a great many advantages going for it. It is versatile, customizable and is compatible with thousands of themes and plugins. It has a searchable database and a vast community that supports it. WordPress is constantly updated , is the most popular Content Management System with 39% of all websites using WordPress and shows no signs of slowing down.
However, WordPress maybe a bit of an overkill for some websites. A simple blog may need very limited functions and using WordPress for such blogs is not really necessary. It is true that WordPress can be installed and used even by novices, and WordPress’ 5 minute installation will tempt many here. But, at some stage or the other, you will feel that a bit of technical knowledge can help you get far with WordPress. You can customize WordPress a great deal, but to be able to do so, you will need some coding knowledge or a little professional help.
WordPress is not the only CMS out there. There are many more that are beginning to make a mark on this scene and some have been around for a few years now.
One alternative to traditional Content Management Systems is an online website builder. This can work quite well for smaller projects. As everything is online, it can be accessed from anywhere and a team can work on it simultaneously.
What goes in favor of an online website builder is that you don’t need to purchase software or install it locally. The CMS is located in the server of the CMS provider and a user can access it using any web browser. As the CMS and hosting is provided by the same service provider, there will be no incompatibility. To top it all, there are many free and comprehensive packages that you can avail.
With offline builders, you will have to download the software and install it in your computer. In this case, you will not be cut off from your website and you are not entirely dependent on your provider.
The advantage with these website builders is that the website design and the content are cleanly separated which means that the website design can be modified without affecting content. This separation also makes it easier for the website to be found by a search engine.
There are many alternatives to WordPress, but keep in mind that it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Each of these alternatives comes with its own set of pros and cons, and some may suit a particular type of website more than others. Many of these alternatives are not as versatile or as customizable as WordPress. But some offer a Do-it-Yourself drag and drop approach that is much easier to use and needs no professional help. They offer great customer support too.
So, who should look for an alternative Content Management System ? If you,
- Do not want to be bogged down with technicalities such as creating a database,
- Want free hosting (many providers throw in at least a custom subdomain free hosting),
- Looking for a web presence rather than a comprehensive blogging platform,
Then look at alternatives to WordPress. If you want to be hands on, but at the same time do not want to use code, read further to find out which should be your choice of CMS.
Developers who are willing to wade through code or want to utilize the particular features offered by certain CMS can also pick their choice of CMS.
With close to 100,000 users, Drupal is the most popular CMS behind WordPress. It is mostly used by larger organizations that have access to professional technical resources.
It is fast loading, open source and highly scalable. It is reliable, highly secure and content can be added and managed easily. The presentation can be varied with themes and functionality can be extended with add-ons.
Drupal is free, but you will have to find your own web host. With a single installation, you can manage multiple sites. It is multilingual.
Drupal is a great CMS, but it is much more technical than WordPress, and newbies should definitely not attempt to build a site with Drupal. It is good software to build a great looking website with advanced features, but needs technical competence to install and operate.
In comparison with WordPress and Drupal, Joomla is neither here nor there. It brings with it many of the advantages of Drupal, without being too technical.
Joomla is multilingual, extensible and allows frontend editing. It boasts over 50 million downloads. It is perfect for content heavy sites and sites that need efficient content management.
Joomla is free and open source. It can be used to run any type of website- a small store or a large government website. Advanced categorization of content and advanced search is possible. User management, user groups and contact management are features where it can best even WordPress. Some features are inbuilt with Joomla, while you would have to add a plugin with WordPress to get the same functionality. But you will need to pay for most of the themes and plugins that Joomla offers.
TYPO3 is another CMS that is popular with large organizations and corporates. It is free, open source and you can run any kind of website with TYPO without using any code. It can also be extended with many functions without using code, by simply making use of the 6000 freely available extensions.
Editors will love this CMS as it has frontend editing capability using integrated image processing, copy-paste functions, thumbnail generation and a whole range of text and media elements. It is highly scalable, multilingual and assists workflow management.
From the backend of a single installation, you can manage and distribute content across multiple websites. So TYPO well is suited to distribution websites, multiple microsites and product sites.
Wix offers free CMS combined with a hosting platform. It is not opensource. With Wix you can select from a template from among the 500 available and customize your website a little. You can see your website being built visually as you drag and drop elements with Wix. Over 77 million websites use Wix.
The designs are updated regularly to keep with the latest trends. There are over 200 apps that will let you add to your functions. Wix is shop friendly and you can have a custom domain name with the premium packages. Packages start at $122 per month (will display Wix ads) and go upto $485 per month.
While Wix is good to start a website, you will not have control over it, as hosting is also done by Wix. And if you want to customize as you scale up, you may find that customization options are limited and third party plugins cannot be added. Wix is continuously adding to its own extensions, and as they come from the same developer, you will find that they are entirely compatible. Updates are done automatically with Wix, and so there will be no maintenance work to be carried out.
Here are some awesome websites built using Wix.
With SquareSpace a user will get a website builder, a blogging platform and a hosting service. You would need to pick a template and you can customize this to a certain extent. The templates are modern and you can use more than one template in a website. SquareSpace is not open source.
The design templates from SquareSpace are gorgeous and fit beautifully on mobile devices. Load times are fast as SquareSpace uses Content Delivery Network located across geographies to host content. SquareSpace is fully eCommerce integrated and you can set up an online store quickly with SquareSpace. You get free custom subdomain with some packages and custom domain with the higher priced packages.
SquareSpace is a paid service that starts at $5 per month. You can also opt for a 14 day free trial.
SquareSpace is good for portfolio, restaurant or wedding sites- basically sites that need impressive visuals. While SquareSpace does offer a limited amount of customization, you may find it frustrating if the feature your are looking for is not included. Basic features cannot be changed, unlike in WordPress, where you can change pretty much anything.
If you want a to set up a good looking website all on your own, without putting in too many hours in developing it or troubleshooting the technology behind it, SquareSpace is for you. Add to that, all updates are fully tested and added to your site automatically, so you do not have a thing to do with maintenance. We recently created a detailed list of great websites using SquareSpace and you can find them here.
If you want to start blogging in a small way, Weebly should be your pick. It is a good choice if your site is set up for only one purpose, say a portfolio. But if customization or adding to your subscription list is a big deal for you, skip this one.
You can pick your theme from the theme gallery, and build your website by dragging and and dropping images and text. You do get access to the design codes, just in case you want to tweak your website here and there. Start an eCommerce store that can manage shipping and tax, discount and coupons. You can create your website from any mobile device and edit it as well, so you can always stay in touch with your customers. Hosting is free and Weebly counts over 30 million users.
Weebly offers a free option that will suit students or hobbyists, but for every other kind of use you will have to subscribe to their packages- Basic at $8 per month, Pro at $12 per month and Business at $25 per month. All packages come with one year free domain. With the free option, you get a custom subdomain.
Ghost is starting out to do what WordPress intended to do at the start- simply being a blogging platform. It is not a complete CMS and merely aims to be an excellent option for blogging. It is suited to a full scale newspaper as well as an individual blog. About 16,677 live websites use Ghost.
Ghost is much faster than WordPress as it uses Node.js. But this can also be a drawback as Node.js is not available with many web hosts and this narrows your hosting options. The UI allows distraction free writing, with no menus or settings bothering you. The editor is split, with text editing on the left and visual on the right, so you can view and format your work even as you write. The text editor uses Markdown syntax which means you do not have to deal with HTML. It is multi user enabled and workflow can be well managed.
Ghost offers a free version which you can download and install. You have access to source code and community support. Paid packages with added features, range from $8 per month to $200 per month. You can try the premium packages free for 14 days.
Jekyll may be the perfect solution for a truly fast loading publishing platform that comes with free hosting. What’s the catch here ? Code – in fact enough of code to bracket this as a preferred option for developers. Those who prefer to work with code than fiddle about in the UI should give Jekyll a try.
Jekyll works by taking your content, making up Markdown and Liquid Templates with it and converts it into plain HTML static documents, ready to be served up by your server. It is a static site generator, converting your text files into HTML pages. Free hosting is available on GitHub pages. Even from a very limited server, Jekyll can handle a huge volume of traffic.
More than 15 million websites around the world use Jimdo. Jimdo offers a free basic version with which you will also get a custom subdomain. Jimdo Pro at $416.67 per month, billed annually, gets you a custom domain and a basic online store. Jimdo Business at $1250 per month, billed annually, will fetch you 2 custom domains, priority support and a complete online store. You can try the paid versions for free for 30 days.
To set up Jimdo, you can pick a template and customize it. You can change it about a lot as well without losing content. Without doing anything much, you can also use it on mobiles. Setting up an online store with Jimdo is easy and its personalized support has earned it a loyal fan base.
Blogger is a blogging platform offered by Google and comes with all the advantages of the organization backing it. It combines seamlessly with Google+ to bring in your contacts and new readers, Google+ Comments to start and maintain a conversation with readers, Google Communities to share your interests and Hangouts so you can meet your readers from time to time. It is multilingual and can be accessed from mobile devices as well.
Many beautifully designed templates are available for you to pick from and use as your own, with or without customization. To make it appear distinctive, you can even modify using CSS and HTML. And if it is a business that you are using it for, you can also create a custom domain.
Google AdSense is integrated with your Blogging account so your blog can be developed into an income generating venture.
Expression Engine is not for newbies or for anyone who does not want to handle code. It is a complex, powerful CMS intended for web developers. It is PHP and MySQL based secure platform. A number of add-ons developed by third parties are available and creating add-ons at all levels is easy and helps a great deal in customization. Themes created for other platforms can also be used with Expression Engine after rendering it in HTML.
Expression Engine offers a free version Expression Engine Core which is a limited feature option. It can be used only for non commercial purposes by individuals. Credit to the CMS must be displayed on the website. The paid service for comes at $299 and the license can be used on a single live site. Support is also available only on a monthly subscription.
Magento is an independent eCommerce platform and can handle anything from a corner store to a retail giant. It has powered more internet retailers in the top 1000 merchant category than any other provider.
Magento offers many products, the most basic one being Community Edition, which is open source, free to download and has community support. Users can also look at other options like Enterprise Edition or Industry specific solutions that Magento offers.
If it is an online store that you want, Shopify is a great alternative to WordPress. It has all the tools you need to set up shop within a short time with the readymade templates and the apps that are available. You can modify the design of your templates a good deal using HTML and CSS.
Shopify is not a free platform and there are many packages that you can buy and use according to the size of your store. A Lite version comes at $9 per month and allows you to sell via your Facebook page. Big businesses may find the Enterprise Shopify Plus to be more apt for their needs.
To create a load of content with contribution from a wide community base, vBulletin would be an ideal choice. You can easily launch a site on this platform and customize it extensively. It is secure and the moderation control is excellent.
There can be an unlimited hierarchy of forums. Private forums can be set up. Posts, threads, user, user groups, registration options, member profiles, attachments, polls and more are all features that can be modified.
A license can be purchased for $249.
Statamic CMS is built with PHP. Your website building task can be reduced to simply putting a few tags in your HTML. It is a flat file CMS, the files carrying content in a simple directory structure. This CMS does away with a database. While files are served up when called up just as in WordPress, there is no database search. This means that your website is not slowed down.
Themes can be incorporated and functions can be extended. With the prerequisite being only PHP, it can run on any server. For use on a single personal website, you will need to buy a license that costs $29. For a Professional license, $99 is the cost of the license.
Now, which is the right CMS for you ? While there is no hard and fast rule, beginners can pick Jimdo and Weebly. SquareSpace is ideal for users needing advanced features without changing them too much.
For readymade online shopping platforms, Shopify and Magento are good choices. For developers, Expression Engine, Jekyll and maybe Drupal. Community platforms should look at vBulletin.
Of course, keep in mind WordPress is always there for everyone – free, versatile, flexible, customizable, updated and with good developer and community support. It may just take a little time familiarizing yourself with it.