The best CMS isn’t a platform—it’s an approach

CMS stands for content management system. It’s the system that manages your content. Simple enough, right?

Odds are you already have one. It’s the back-end that you log into to add things to your website. And it lets you do that without knowing how to code, which is a real bonus.

If you don’t have a CMS, you’re missing out. (That or you’re in some kind of shit-hot, dev-first utopia with the budget to pay a whole team of programmers to hard-code every little thing).

CMSs rock for five reasons:

  1. Freedom from (and for) developers—Without a CMS, the only way to make changes to a site is in the code. That means you need a developer for everything, from creating pages to adding apostrophes.
  2. Add new content faster—Not needing a developer means a faster turnaround. So more contributors, more agile. Less bottlenecky.
  3. Control who does what—You can still limit what people can do using user-based roles. Maybe anyone can draft a blog post, but only managers can publish them, for instance. It’s much better when the whole team are chipping in, rather than one group taking on everything.
  4. Automate stuff—A good CMS is like a little robot butler than spring cleans when you make changes. It makes sure you use the right fonts, it refreshes the search when you add new content and it updates links if you change a URL. Stuff you might never have thought of (and now never have to).
  5. It’s just soooooo much easier—When you’re trying to grow, add new staff, more content etc. your CMS does a lot to make the whole process quick and predictable.

Working without a CMS is like training a carrier pigeon because you can’t be bothered to buy stamps.

So CMSs are great, but which one is best?

There are a fair few CMSs available. And there are a shit-tonne of comparison blogs saying which is best for what.

This blog is not one of those.

Why?

Because I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

If you get your approach to building your site right, the CMS you choose doesn’t fucking matter.

The problem with comparing CMSs

These comparisons, by their nature, compare the out-the-box version of these CMSs.

Now, out of the box, some CMSs are more secure than others. Some are better at analytics. Some do have a better user-experience.

But if you have a great dev team, you won’t be getting an out-the-box system. They’ll customise it, add plugins, make new tools just for you, building a more powerful system than the out-the-box one.

(That’s literally what you’re paying them to do).

The reality is that, with the right setup, every CMS will offer all the security, analytics, ease-of-use and anything else that you need. You’ll get a system that works for you, whichever you pick.

That said, we do have a favourite…

Here at Velocity, given a choice we’ll always pick WordPress.

We’ve worked a lot with other CMSs (Joomla and Drupal are the big ones, and we’ve worked with smaller platforms like ExpressionEngine). But we always come back to WordPress.

(Now admittedly part of that is because we’re PHP people. If we were .Net folk we’d be all over Sitecore. And not just because they’re clients of ours. We played with others, like Umbraco and AEM, but Sitecore was the best of the .Net batch).

But for us PHP devs, WordPress rules.

And there are two main reasons:

1) Popularity

WordPress’s stats are huge. It powers around 30% of the internet.

That’s of ALL sites. If you take just sites with a CMS, that doubles to 60.2%.

To put that in context, the next two biggest platforms come in at just 6.3% and 4.4%.

That popularity means that WordPress:

  • Offers the largest user base of any CMS platform—with the community and support forum to go with it (as well as making it easier to hire devs familiar with it)
  • Is the most thoroughly tried-and-tested system—all those users mean that bugs are found (and fixed) at super speed
  • Boasts a huge number of plugins (55,803 at last count) giving more options and tools than anywhere else

Millions trust it. Including us.

2) Simplicity

Despite the scale and customisability, WordPress is really easy to use.

The back-end (where you log in to make changes to the site) looks great. It feels intuitive and familiar to many people whether they’re used to managing websites or not.

It’s simple—fill in the boxes to make web pages.

When you’re adding text it feels kind of like a word processor. Want to make something bold, set up a heading, add images and whatnot? You can do all that in just a few clicks.

Nothing’s perfect, but WordPress is damn good.

Some people don’t like WordPress. And that’s because when there are so many websites powered by it, some of them are bound to suck.

After all, when the system is user-friendly enough that anyone can spin up an entire site for free in a few hours, some of those sites will be terrible.

Then if someone is trying to keep costs as low as possible, they’ll do very little customisation. And the little customisation they do will be using free plugins.

Now there’s nothing wrong with free plugins. There’s an army of damn fine developers out there who want to help each other, which is great. But free plugins (and all plugins really) need to be properly vetted.

Free generally means one of three things:

  • There’s a paid-for version with extra bells and whistles that you’re missing out on which could be perfect for you. (Although if there’s a paid-for version, it at least means there’s a good incentive for the owners to keep the free version updated)
  • It was made by someone as a hobby and they have no incentive to keep improving and updating it
  • It tries to appeal to as many people as possible to get as many downloads as possible. That one-size-fits-all approach can leave some pretty gaping security issues

But you’ll find that if you’re paying someone to do the job of building you a site, and giving them the budget to do it well, those issues disappear. Then you find out WordPress can do pretty much anything any other CMS can (and a whole heap more besides).

For instance, considering Drupal because of its reputation for security? WordPress with All In One WordPress Security added on becomes like a digital fortress.

Like Joomla’s snippet content editor? So did we, so we created our own custom WordPress plugin that lets us do the same thing.

The result is a system that has the benefits of all the others, but is still the easiest to use.

Specialists are the way to go—but in approach, not platform

A CMS is a powerful tool. But the real power behind your system, whichever you choose, is your team.

To be the best team we could, we trialled a lot of different systems. We weighed the pros and cons. Then we looked at what we could take from each of them to make one system from the best bits while filling in any gaps.

By picking one platform we’re able to create the best possible product for clients.

We got pretty great at it and are doing incredible things with it every day.

And that’s a way better approach than simply picking a CMS because you’d heard good things.

Comments

Its a good article if somewhat biased but hey thats human nature. We love WordPress too but it definitely doesn’t “do everything the others do and more besides”. It does do somethings better than the others but it can’t do some things platforms like AEM and Drupal can. It simply can’t.

I don’t believe a CMS should not be chosen because people “like” it. Its horses for courses and in a lot of cases that means WP. It also means there are plenty of times when its not the right choice.

Like you we’ve used most of the big platforms out there and decided that Drupal was right for us and our clients BUT only if we could improve some key features. Thats why we built a low-code platform that plugs into Drupal and gives it the design, build and editing powers beyond anything else available ANYWHERE. (Just an opinion of course). It was so good its now its own technology business and its changing the way websites are built. Think Gutenberg on steroids.

I suggest you might want to take it for a spin!.

    Hey Craig – Sounds like we have a similar approach: Find a great base for what you need to do, then fill in the gaps wherever the CMS doesn’t give you what you need. What you’re doing with Drupal is kind of what we do with WordPress – on it’s own the editor is simple, but super limited – so we built a modular, component builder on top too.

    The full AEM stack is insanely powerful, and indeed truly a different beast to WordPress, but the principal of what it’s opening up (data integrated into your CMS in a holistic way) is again something that can be ported to your platform of choice if you so desire!

    The main point here is: don’t take the ‘CMS comparison guides’ verbatim. With the right approach a CMS can be configured however you need it to – and if it’s done well and works effectively, then that is way more important than what platform you do it on!

    Your Drupal solution sounds great though – send some details over to my email!

I do not know if it’s just me or if everyone else encountering issues
with your website. It appears as though some of the text on your
posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and
let me know if this is happening to them too?
This might be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had
this happen previously. Cheers

Hi ebooki pdf (guessing that isn’t your real name).

Thanks for the note. We haven’t had that complaint from anyone else but it’d be good if you could tell us some more details about your browser so we can investigate?

Which browser and which version is it?

Cheers

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