How To Select the Right CMS for Your Site

A Content Management System is a type of web application that makes it easy to publish and maintain an informational web site. Before content management systems became popular, building and managing web sites with large amounts of content was an unwieldy task. Hours upon hours of programming work you did yourself or paid for, making redundant edits in multiple files and if you wanted to change things like the design. It was a total nightmare.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on general Content Management Systems and not specialized CMS solutions like e-commerce platforms, which are CMS solutions for online stores, or learning management systems, which are specialized CMS solutions for running an online training initiative.

The value CMS solutions provide is making all of that much easier, plus integrating all kinds of features and third party tools that would be expensive to develop on your own. On the front end, you get an easily customizable user interface that you can apply a pre-made template of your choice to, or have your web designer create a new look all your own. On the backend, you get a management interface that allows non-technical people to create and manage content on the site.

Content Management Systems come free and open source as well as proprietary and aimed for the enterprise. There’s no one size fits all solution, so you will want to consider what variables are most important to you.

Here are several questions to ask yourself when evaluating content management systems:

  • Do you have budget to pay for software licensing? If not, you might only choose from the free solutions, however be wary of the hidden costs of integration. Make sure you don’t pick a solution that will require a lot of on-going developer maintenance if you are on a low budget.
  • Are you going to run a large site with many pages now or in the future? Then make sure your CMS gives you a good way to organize and structure content as your site scales.
  • Are you looking for something relatively simple without a lot of frills, or do you need advanced features?
  • What features are most important to you?
Free Solutions
Wordpress (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP)
Wordpress first made its mark as blogging software, but is also a fine CMS to run a basic informational web site. Wordpress’s multi-user version is feature-full and easy to use. There are many free modules to augment the included features as you look to customize your CMS to meet your needs.
Joomla (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP)
Joomla provides similar benefits to Wordpress on the core application level, and it also has a large community of developers who have created additional modules for it that can be used to customize your solution. Two of the knocks on Joomla are that there are many modules that do the same thing and its hard to locate the best ones, while many of them are also not free which chips away at one of the benefits of being a free CMS solution.
Drupal (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP)
The most popular free CMS solution for larger sites, Drupal is considered one of the most functional content management systems on the market, easy to manage and easily extendable with modules. Giving a Drupal site an enterprise look and feel with your own custom theme is relatively easy as well.
Enterprise CMS Solutions
Ektron (.NET/SQL)
Ektron offers a powerful enterprise CMS that allows for multisite, multilingual functionality and strong built-in SEO. Multivariate testing, bi-directional integration with and user-based content targeting have helped Ektron take their game to the next level. It’s wide array of business-class features come with a price not only in terms of licensing but technical expertise to integrate. However if you are a well-resourced business with a serious application to run that may not be an obstacle.
SiteCore (.NET/SQL)
SiteCore provides an enterprise CMS with an easy to understand interface for non-technical users while providing a very flexible framework for developers to build a site around to their own look and feel.
Sitefinity (.NET/SQL)
Sitefinity is an emerging CMS that is considered easy to use and easy to customize with user created modules. A drawback can be the performance of the user interface, but the software has steadily improved and gained on the larger more popular CMS solutions with each release.
CQ5 (Java)
A powerful CMS tool favored by companies with large catalogs of media assets, CQ5 is also very complex to operate. It benefits greatly from native integration into other Adobe products such as Omniture, SiteCatalyst and PhoneGap.
Kentico (.NET/SQL)
Kentico offers an enterprise CMS solution that is easy to use for content editors, easy to customize and integrate and is highly scalable. Some of the draw backs is that it can take a while to build the site and the multisite management may not match up compared to some of the other CMS solutions on this list.

We hope this article helps you narrow down your CMS choices. For more in-depth feature by feature comparisons of CMS solutions, we recommend the excellent comparison tool at Here are links to comparisons for the CMSes we have covered in this article:

Best of luck in your CMS search, and remember to use this site to find your CMS integrator!

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