There’s a 3-way cage fight of sorts when it comes to picking a Content Management System (CMS) for websites.
If you are considering a website redesign and in charge of the effort, you will come across a lot of discussion about CMS systems. You might be wondering which CMS is the best choice for you. But you also might be dreading having to learn something highly technical. So here’s a look at 3 CMS systems compared among the most widely-used; WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
This is not a technical article. We won’t be talking code or development standards. This is a top-level introduction to help decision-makers like you understand the basic differences in non-technical terms. The 3 CMS systems compared below all have strengths and weaknesses. There is no perfect CMS for everyone. The most important takeaway is that a one-size-fits-all CMS solution may hurt more than help.
Who’s in the 3-way cage fight? The CMS systems compared…
WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are the 3 CMS systems compared here. If we looked at each one, here’s what we’d find:
Of the three most popular CMS systems, Drupal is the one that really requires technical expertise to set up and administer. It’s the full-bore, heavy duty-geeked out brute of the bunch. It is engineered and adept at handling large data sets and creating complex sites. You need to commit to the learning the software and mastering its intricacies.
- Requires most technical expertise
- Capable of producing advanced sites
that need to organize complex content
- Excellent for high-count SKU ecommerce systems
- and community sites
- MUST Commit to learning the software, OR
- Pay $$$ to someone who knows it.
It’s easier to learn and deploy than Drupal. But still very powerful. To use is to its fullest, you have to master elements that allow you to extend it. It’s more ‘hands-on’ than WordPress, and was intended to provide a ‘right out of the box’ ease of setting up websites. Developers who prefer Joomla cite that while it’s somewhat rigid, it doesn’t require as much work as WordPress for customizing. Like WordPress, Joomla uses add-on applications that extend its features. Joomla add-ons are very specific (read: picky) and conflicts between add-ons are not unusual when several are installed.
- Less complex than Drupal
- More complex options than WordPress
- if you are willing to customize, but customization is limited.
- Originally intended to be a community platform
- Sites can become very ‘heavy’ and slow-loading, an SEO issue
It promises a lower level of technical skill to administer and edit WordPress sites, but I always try to warn clients not to expect this to be without some learning. When I interview clients who are interested in WordPress because it’s supposed to be easiest to use, I ask them if they’ve ever sold anything on ebay. If they can relate to that user experience, it helps me to help them understand what to expect from a WordPress site dashboard. And there is no getting around the need for someone to have the skills needed to set up a WordPress site so it has the content and features that will make for an effective website.
- Technical experience not necessary
to produce and edit content
- Intuitive interface.
- Powerful enough to build sites that are complex, then give site management over to less-technical personnel
- Well-positioned for sites that add content via blogs or updated pages
- eCommerce options are greater than ever, and keep growing.
In full disclosure, I use WordPress in many of my projects, and started working with it in 2011, when I took notice of the ‘mommy blogging platform’ that was becoming more sophisticated. It was showing promise. As a designer, I was very excited to see how it could save time and work coding and creating sites.
So why might you want to go with WordPress?
It’s no lightweight. It has grown from earlier versions to be poweful, flexible and stable. It’s well supported by the largest community of plug-in, theme and add-on developers in the world. And it is well positioned for a wide range of site needs.
All things being equal, here’s why you might want to consider WordPress: While in 2011 it held 10% of the CMS marketshare, as of 2015, it is used on 53% of the top million (by traffic) websites that use CMS (Source: http://trends.builtwith.com/cms). It also runs 24% of all websites in the world. The others don’t even come close.
- BBC America
- eBay Blog
- Ford Social
- People Magazine
- Network Solutions
- Mozilla Firefox
- The New Yorker
- Reuter’s Blog
- NY Times Blogs
- General Electric (GE)
- ESPN products
Here’s how NOT to pick a CMS system.
Every developer will have a preference for which CMS they recommend. But their preference may not fit your need, especially if your site needs to support some complex data or features. Choose developers based on what you need your site to do.
I’ve seen too many clients shoehorned into a CMS for their site that wasn’t a good fit because they relied only on what their developers were saying to them. They didn’t do a little research on their own before going along with the recommendations. I’ve had to explain after the fact why something the client wants done won’t work without some major time and money. And usually, the problem could have been avoided had the right questions been asked prior to site development (Those questions will be something I’ll post another day).
Your priority is to identify the right CMS, then the right developer who knows how to maximize it to your needs. Because long after the development team has been paid and said goodbye, your organization needs to live with the results. Make sure you picked the right CMS for the right reasons.
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