Building a website from scratch can seem daunting, especially if your experience with coding is limited or nonexistent. The good news is, no matter what kind of site you are looking to build there’s probably a content management system (CMS) out there that has already been built and tested that will fit your business needs.
The top three CMSs are undoubtably WordPress, Drupal and Joomla!. All three are free, open source and PHP-based. These are recognized as the top CMSs because of their ease of use and the amount of resources available to help you build the site that is perfectly-suited for your requirements.
WordPress is great for beginners as it is very well documented and the backend is pretty intuitive. There are also thousands of free and paid themes and plugins available for use as you create your site. WordPress is great for small-to-medium-sized business but also has the capability to be more complex, therefore stretching beyond the popular blogging platform that WordPress is known for.
However WordPress is not without flaws, for instance it is highly dependent on plugins for many features and special functionality. This can be problematic as not all plugins are kept up to date or are poorly developed. Outdated plugins and themes can cause security issues and in some cases cause your site to crash, so be mindful of the themes and plugins you install.
Some sites that use WordPress: TechCrunch, BBC America, The New Yorker, WNBA, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art
Drupal is a much more robust CMS. There are thousands of add-on modules to help you extend the functionality that Drupal already offers. Drupal also does a great job of monitoring add-on modules, so you know that what you are installing is actively maintained.
The caveat here is that Drupal is not the easiest to use. More than just a CMS, Drupal is a complex framework. You can accomplish just about anything with it, but you’ll need some moderate to advanced developer skills to really get your site working the way you want.
Some sites that uses Drupal: The Weather Channel, National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Edmonton International Airport
A good mix between WordPress and Drupal, Joomla! is a little more complicated to use than WordPress but does not require the advanced level of programming as with Drupal. Joomla! also offers lots of themes and plugins to choose from, however, many of the best and most useful plugins are not free.
Unlike WordPress, Joomla! has a hard time being stretched beyond its basic intended use. Joomla! also does not have the framework capability of Drupal. So, all in all, Joomla! is the monkey in the middle of these three CMSs. It requires more coding knowledge than WordPress, but less than Drupal.
Some sites that use Joomla!: Nook Developer by Barnes and Noble, GE Transportation, University of Alabama at Birmingham
What do we like?
For most of our clients, we prefer WordPress. We can rapidly develop wonderful, highly customized sites that fit the needs of our clients and, with about an hour of training (for those who have never touched a CMS), we can hand the site over to our clients after launch and they don’t have to worry about knowing any code in order to edit or add content to their site.
Since we work in WordPress so much, here are a few of our tips for maintaining a healthy WordPress site:
- Do some research on your host provider; some will offer one-click installs. Make sure they are installing the most recent version of WordPress so that you do not have worry about security issues right off the bat.
- Research the themes and plugins you are installing on to your site. If the last update was made over a year ago you can pretty much assume that the theme or plugin is not being maintained and that it is a potential security risk.
- Always keep your themes and plugins up to date. If you purchase a theme or a plugin from themeforest.net or codecayon.net you can set up email notifications whenever an update has been made.
- Always use a child theme! This will allow you to update the parent theme without losing the customizations you have made.
- If you purchase a theme that comes packaged with plugins, you should still purchase those plugins. Not only will you be able to access support should you need it, but you will not have to wait on the theme developers to push a theme update just to update the plugins.
- Keep backups of your site. CodeGaurd does a fantastic job of making sure our sites are backed up daily, and they notify us immediately if any changes were made.
So tell us – Which CMS do you prefer and why?