December 4, 2010

Which Content Management System (CMS) do I need?

Following some of my previous posts on this topic (see the cms tag) I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on how to choose which CMS to use. There are three big opensource (free) CMS systems to choose from and then there are some notable specialised packages. It does take time to learn a CMS and if you have already learned to use one that might be enough incentive. But if you’re new to it all, or the CMS you’re using isn’t cutting the mustard, I’m going to scream through the big 3…

1. WordPress

At revive we use and recommend WordPress. In fact, this website is powered by WordPress. It has by far the fastest upload and install of any of the big 3 CMS systems, especially compared with Joomla! I find the backend design is more slick and intuitive to navigate than Joomla! and MUCH superior to Drupal from a user’s point of view. From a design point of view it’s completely customisable. This means great looking custom WordPress websites (one major criticism of many Drupal websites).

If it’s a blog you want, there’s no competition. WordPress is the world’s best platform for blogging. Likewise, if you are a small business looking for a CMS it would be pretty hard to go past WordPress. It is simple to use, fast and lightweight, and is the only one to ship with a built in blog, which is a valueable tool for social networking and SEO. (You’re reading one right now!)

There are thousands of free plugins available to extend the capabilities of WordPress. Many medium sized organisations would also have good cause to look at WordPress, especially if social networking is an important component of their marketing plan.


Joomla! was my original choice of CMS. Like many, I was sucked in by the plethora of shiny, free extensions that are available. It was like walking through Willie Wonka Website land. Joomla! has a pretty backend design, though not particularly intuitive. For instance, to publish your first article you have to add a section name in one screen, then add a category name in another, before it will let you write your article. Similarly, the menu system can be confusing. Joomla! is a very heavy package that can take an eternity to upload if your broadband speed is lacking. (Took me 4 hours once!) What ultimately screwed my nose up at Joomla! was the security problems that clients reported, especially with many of the popular extensions.

It seems to me that Joomla! is designed as a flashy CMS, very attractive to organisations who want to add a lot of fancy plugin functionality to their website. To this end it might be a great choice, but make sure you carefully evaluate the security of every plugin you install. We know businesses who have had their webserver and Joomla! database taken over by hackers!


Unlike the others, Drupal has been designed for web developers. If you’re a pure developer it is the logical choice. You’ll probably think it’s a wonderland! Likewise, if you represent a truely large organisation that is going to require a lot of development then it is really the only opensource CMS choice.

That being said, it has a huge learning curve compared to the others. Some may disagree, but I think it is not particularly web-designer friendly and many people comment that Drupal websites have a pretty lousy standard of design. The default backend administration design is woeful. Your web developer will need to do quite a bit of configuring to a Drupal site after installation to get it working properly, whereas the previous two CMS systems are designed to be out-of-the-box solutions.

In summary, Drupal is total overkill for a small organisation and probably a poor investment choice; but it is a logical choice for big business. (The USA “Whitehouse” website reportedly runs on Drupal). If your organisation is sitting somewhere in the middle, then it is probably a question of whether you expect to be investing in a heap of custom web development in the future.

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