Knowing Which CMS is Right For You

Posted by admin on April 11, 2012

I'll mainly discuss Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla and Concrete5, and why to choose one or another.

You should read this if you are evaluating different Content Management Systems.  Over the last few years, I've had the pleasure and displeasure of working with a wide variety of content management systems for many different types of websites.

There are several things you need to consider -

1. Who will be working on the website - updating content, adding pictures and creating new pages?

If you have a web team dedicated to making updates to the site, you may be able to work with a more sophisticated system.
Consider Drupal or Joomla.  These systems offer huge extensibility but have a more steep learning curve.  Drupal itself uses some very unique terminology that would keep most "non tech" editors from taking the time to learn.  You may be making a lot of content changes through HTML, and less WYSIWYG interfaces.  These systems also require much more upfront time to setup the CMS.

If your editors are going to be people who are not technical, or dont' have a lot of time to learn how to edit content in a more advanced system, then consider WordPress or Concrete5.

2. What are you doing with the site?

Are you simply putting up information, having a contact form and showing some pictures?  There is no need to use an advanced CMS.  Consider WordPress or Concrete5.  These both have rapid deployment ability, out of the box capabilities to do all the functions of a basic website.  Concrete5 can actually be even faster as you likely will not need to download any additional addons to have a slideshow, feedback form, rich text editor etc.  Wordpress does require a little work with adding modules, but the process is straightforward.

Are you planning on selling products?  This definitely complicates things considerably.  You have to consider payment gateways, order processing, SSL certificates etc.  How many products, how often will things change, who will manage the products and how will you handle the additional customer service related to an eCommerce site.  Depending on the complexity, you may want to consider Magento, as this is a dedicated ecommerce system and I highly recomend it.  If you plan on having ecommerce as a component of your website, I've found that WP-ecommerce for WordPress out of the box is the most polished.  Concrete5's core commerce component is worth every penny, and can get you up and running quickly.  it takes a little different approach, and you may have to search for some extra addons for shipping and payment gateways.  Drupal has Commerce and Ubercart, both are solid offerings, but require some heavy lifting to get off the ground.  I haven't evaluated any Joomla ecommerce solutions, but I've seen some pretty slick looking addons for joomla that usually carry an annual fee.

3. Advanced features or unique displays

If you are looking to display a large amount of very specifically formatted content, consider a CMS that can handle very custom content types.  Drupal does a great job of this, especially with Ver. 7.  Concrete5 has some newer tools, Designer Content, that allows this as well.  Make a list of all of the features that you need.  Consider that out of the box, only Wordpress is a blogging platform, while the other CMSs have blogging capabilities, they pale in comparison.  You may end up with a CMS for your website and Wordpress for you blog.  There's nothing wrong with that, in fact, it might be the best solution, and one that I find I do more often than not.  Make sure that if you don't have the knowledge to create your own addon (or the money to pay someone) that it is available to your CMS.

In Conclusion:

Drupal - Use this for "enterprise" level sites.  It shines when you have a large need for multiple editors, user "profile" pages, and lots of content.  I've found Drupal to be extremely robust, and able to build literally any site you can think of.  The other nice thing about Drupal, is there are tens of thousands of developers who know Drupal very well.  It would be easy to hire a Drupal developer.

Wordpress - Great for a very small informational website.  Out of the box it is the best blogging platform. If you are planning on mostly blogging, then just use WordPress, don't even bother with the others.  You have a huge developer network, and tons of available themes to easilly customize the look.  Don't use it for large "enterprise" sites, you'll be trying to make it do more than it should.

Joomla - Honestly, I gave up on Joomla a year or two ago, and dread having to work inside its backend.  I'd only recomend it if there is an addon that you can't find anywhere else.  There is a good number of developers out there for Joomla, and the addons are really top notch.  I'd suggest trying to find the same alternatives in Wordpress as you'll save yourself loads of headaches down the line.

Concrete5 - A super slick CMS.  Seriously great for content editors and it can do pretty much a full basic website out of the box.  Slideshows, forms, a good filemanager, youtube embedding etc.  makes this the easiest system to use.  Not only that, but the template system is the easiest.  Even someone whose never used the CMS but is familiar with HTML and CSS could have a template up and running in under an hour.  Downsides are that there is a limited number of qualified developers.  The number is growing, but your more likely going to hire a PHP guy to learn the system than be able to hire a local Concrete5 guy.

Others - I mentioned Magento previously when talking about eCommerce.  I've found its a solid system, but it's really just for eCommerce.  Look around, see what works.  I've used Typo3 in the past, and it grew on me.  I've tried plenty of others and they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, I'd say to stick with one of to top five (or at least my top 5).  Remember, it's all code, so in the end, you can make it do whatever you want.

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