There's nothing more frustrating than needing to make a change to your website and not being able to do it yourself. If you don’t have access to your Content Management System (CMS) or it’s just too complicated to make changes without the help of an agency, your choice of platform can play a crucial role in helping you take back control.

A good content management system can help simplify the technical aspects of publishing and managing content on your site. But as there are dozens of platforms available, how do you know which is the best CMS for your organisation?

We have reviewed six different CMS options you might want to consider when deciding which Content Management System is best for you:

1) WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms, hosting more than a quarter of the world’s top 10 million websites. The system is mature, frequently updated and incredibly simple to deploy. This ease-of-use makes WordPress the ideal platform of choice for bloggers – it takes just a few seconds to create and publish a new post. There are also thousands of plugins available that add additional functions – like ecommerce or marketing list building.

However, it is important to be aware that these plugins are of variable quality. For every great add-on, there are hundreds of poor alternatives that risk the quality and stability of your website and its user experience. The popularity of WordPress also makes it a magnet for cybercriminals and hackers who exploit weaknesses in the system to break your site, or steal data as recently highlighted in the media.

To reduce these risks it’s best to ensure you have professional support when implementing a WordPress site and plugins, and ideally limit its functionality to a simple brochure or personal blog site.

2) Joomla!

Joolma! is another popular free, open source CMS platform which is geared more towards the needs of businesses. Since its release in 2005, Joomla! has racked up an impressive 78 million downloads, helping to establish it as the second most popular CMS in the world.

Similar to WordPress, Joomla! supports various plugins and extensions – some free, some paid for. Again, the quality of add-ons varies greatly. There are some sites successfully using Joomla! to support e-commerce operations, but many businesses quickly adopt an alternative that is better geared towards their needs. Although Joomla! is configurable and extensible, the reality is that the platform is best suited to serving hundreds or thousands of webpages. Advanced functions are available, but the compromises required in order to enable them risk adding to (rather than relieving) your own workload.

3) Drupal

One of the oldest CMS platforms available, Drupal has established a loyal, if relatively small user base. Since its release 16 years ago, Drupal has achieved a 2.2% market share. Reflecting its enterprise focus, Drupal counts many large corporations and government bodies among its customer base.

Drupal is supported by more than 100,000 developers who contribute updates, code fixes and over 35,000 plugins, to extend its core functionality. Drupal 8 uses major components from the well-established Symfony PHP framework, enabling integration with custom Symfony applications.

The basic deployment can be completed by virtually anyone with minimal technical expertise, allowing them to begin publishing content quickly. Drupal can also be extensively customised with the assistance of a skilled developer. Although Drupal is clearly popular with enterprise-class organisations, smaller businesses may struggle to get the help they need.

Without any kind of gold standard, the quality of Drupal developers varies widely. Customers therefore risk being left with a buggy deployment and add-ons that never quite deliver on expectations.

The popularity of Drupal with enterprise customers also makes it a natural target for hackers determined to steal valuable user data. Drupal is probably best suited to larger organisations who can guarantee access to the skilled developers required to customise the platform to their needs.

4) SilverStripe

Free at the point of download, SilverStripe has been designed to greatly simplify the process of customisation and extension without making it difficult to add new content. SilverStripe is unusual in that everything needed to build a heavily customised website is included – the content creation screens are joined by a number of tools for development. Everything can be done directly through the SilverStripe admin console.

Going beyond websites, the SilverStripe framework can also be used to build standalone web apps, making it a good choice for building internal systems. The experience gained using SilverStripe for building and maintaining a company website can be used for advanced web projects in future too. This dual focus on web content production and development makes SilverStripe a solid choice for any business looking to take their website to the next level. And in the case of the web, obscurity is actually quite helpful – SilverStripe is not a popular target for hackers.

5) Kentico

Unlike the other platforms listed here, Kentico is neither free at the point of download, nor does it use Open Source technologies like PHP and MySQL. Kentico makes use of closed source systems from Microsoft to support websites, online stores and intranet applications. Kentico is relatively limited in scope – the core modules supplied with CMS cover content management, e-commerce, social networking, Intranet and online marketing – but it does do these things well. However, it can cost from £3,600 to get started, and advanced deployments can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If you have the available budgets and want to commit to a single supplier without the flexibility of an open-source solution, then Kentico might be a good choice for you.

6) A bespoke Content Management System

If your project is unique or extensive, an ‘out of the box’ CMS might be less suitable. Symfony is an open source framework that allows Developers to create a bespoke CMS using PHP code. It can be used to build websites and web applications such as intranets or online portals. As it is a framework, there are a number of generic components already tried and tested to help speed up the development process, this then allows resources to be focused on specific areas which need more custom development.

As Symfony is an open-source framework it is free at point of download, however it does require a skilled developer to create, integrate and maintain to ensure it meets the business needs – just like any well implemented and managed CMS.

Which CMS should you choose?

There is no one-size-fits-all CMS for every project and so it is important to understand what it is you want to achieve from your website, both now and in the future. Your digital agency partner should assess your needs and then suggest the most suitable platform, rather than just recommending their preferred system. This is certainly our approach for creating user-centred digital solutions at DotLabel


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