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How to Build a CMS Website from Scratch

Among a variety of web building options you can come across in the contemporary web design niche, the use of CMS will remain that very objective that can come up to the needs of diverse user categories. Content Management Systems are powerful programs that provide an extensive choice of web design tools needed to effectively start and manage any kind of project. These systems differ in the objectives and functionality and all of them are not quite easy to master right from the start.

The knowledge of web design basics is desirable here, while the result is always worth time and effort investment. Websites created with CMS generally stand out from the crowd due to their appealing one-of-a-kind contemporary design, advanced performance and ability to fulfill several tasks at a time. So, what does it take to start a CMS website and what are the must-have steps the process involves? It’s high time to find that out now.

How to Make a CMS Website

If you are right about to pick a CMS for your web design project, mind the following steps you’ll have to undertake to make it a success.

  1. Pick a Platform. Prior to launching a website, choose the CMS that better comes up to your web development needs and final expectations. There are multiple systems you might be interested in, but weigh all the pros and cons of each of them to make the choice you won’t regret afterwards.
  2. Think About the Domain Name. Your website domain should be memorable, simple and user-friendly. It should not be too long – the major requirement is to make it brand-related, relevant to the niche and SEO-friendly. Take your time to choose yours.
  3. Select Hosting. Before installing the system, take care of hosting choice as well. Keep in mind that not all the CMS come with integrated hosting solutions. Some of them allow for the freedom of choice as the selection of hosting providers is really impressive. One of the best options, though, is Bluehost. It comes with strong uptime rates, fast web page load speed, reliable security tools, diverse integration options as well as affordable pricing. Thus, the Basic Plan of the system that additionally comes with a domain name choice option, will cost you $2.95/mo only – it’s close to impossible to find such a reasonable offer elsewhere.
  4. Install the CMS. The next step is to install the platform you’ve chosen. Generally, the installation process is easy, quick, intuitive and it takes a couple of minutes only. Just complete the steps the system offers and copy the files to your host.
  5. Choose and Install the Plugins. As far as almost all the reputable CMS require plugin installation, it makes sense to do that right from the start. Plugins add functionality to your project. However, if you don’t plan to launch a full-featured complicated project, you can go without them. Mind that plugins are free and paid – the latter are more secure and reliable, which makes them worth the investment.
  6. Customize the Design. As soon as you are done with plugin installation, it’s high time to pick a suitable theme and customize your website design. Almost all CMS come with integrated templates, but you can also come across multiple variants on the web. Just like plugins, templates can also be free and paid, which also may have direct impact upon their quality and safety. Each CMS comes with its design customization tools that make it possible to create and edit web pages, add logos and menus, design website layout etc.
  7. Upload Content. When you are done with web design customization, you can start uploading the content. Most templates contain pre-designed content, which comes up to the niche it belongs to. You can replace the content with your own info (images, text, media files etc.) to get a unique personalized project.
  8. Go Online. The final step implies website publication. Don’t forget, though, to fill out SEO settings and connect the system of analytics to track your website performance afterwards.

Best CMS Website Builders

When it comes to the choice of the best CMS website builders, you should realize that there are many of them out there. However, only several services are really worth the attention, if you wish to gain the worthy result to meet your needs, requirements and budget. These are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Concrete5. It’s high time to review each of them now.

1. WordPress

Product Name:WordPress
Official Website:
Complexity:Above average
Free plan:Unlimited
Premium Plan:From $2.95/mo

WordPress – is the CMS, which does not require any presentation, even if this is the first time you decide to launch a website with this kind of service. This is by far the most popular and widely-used Content Management System, which has already powered millions of websites worldwide. The platform stands out from the crowd due to its extensive integration options, broad user community, abundance of templates and design customization tools. The system is flexible and quite easy-to-master, even if you are not a web design pro. Get ready, though, to explore the basics of web design, when working with it as WordPress really implies programming experience and skills.

WordPress Editor

WordPress was initially launched to start and manage blogs. Thus, it remains the best blogging CMS ever, offering multiple top notch blogging tools and capabilities. What you can do to start a blog here is adding, editing, scheduling and updating posts, setting up RSS and email subscription feeds, enabling user commenting feature, integrating media files, choosing and customizing blog design etc.

WordPress provides creative freedom and multiple design customization options. Just browse its control panel to see a variety of tools you can apply to create unique website design. Plugin integration is one of the highlights of the service, which makes it possible to gain one-of-a-kind website appeal by using the features the system currently lacks. At the same time, plugin integration requires maximum attention and understanding of the subject matter. This is needed to avoid the malware that is potentially associated with third-party plugins.

Apart from plugin integration, the CMS is also known for its social media embedding feature. You don’t have to register with popular social networks separately as they are already integrated into the system by default.

The CMS comes with an astonishing variety of templates, which can be found on the web. Its own collection is not quite rich, so, it definitely makes sense to pick and integrate third-party templates, which cater to your individual web design needs. WordPress designs are available in free and paid variants. Paid designs feature better quality and are not that risky, when it comes to malware and spam threats.

Generally, WordPress is a free CMS for all user categories. You can download, install and use the basic feature set of the service at no cost at all. Howsever, if you decide that you need to boost your website performance and add functionality to it, you won’t go without buying extra templates and plugins on the web. Additionally, you’ll have to get hosting and domain name to go online and make your project accessible for the target audience.

2. Joomla

Product Name:Joomla
Official Website:
Free plan:Free system
Premium Plan:From $2.95/mo
Headquarters:United States

Joomla – is another popular platform, which ranks second after WordPress in the list of contemporary Content Management Systems. This is the open source software, which makes it possible to launch and manage projects, which differ in complexity and level of mastering. If you’ve never worked with platforms of this type, you should know that Joomla is a bit more complicated than WordPress and, thus, it takes more effort, time and skills to master and use it. While WordPress is initially a blog-focused service, Joomla can be used to start different website types, including business projects and landing pages. It’s a good pick for freelancers, small-to-large enterprises and web design pros.

Joomla Dashboard

Just like WordPress, Joomla is unthinkable without plugin integration. There are lots of free and paid plugins that are specially designed for Joomla. It’s up to you to choose from multiple free and paid variants, but, again, mind the security aspect. Proper plugin choice, however, will bring your website to the brand new level in the long run.

Integration with useful and functional third-party apps and services is possible here as well. Joomla lets you add the following applications: LiceChat, Zendesk, Campaign Monitor, Active Campaign, Constant Contact, Bitium, LiveAgent, ZohoSalesIQ, Post-Affiliate Pro, Bookeo Appointments, Kayako and Vision Helpdesk to mention a few.

The CMS covers a broad spectrum of web building needs. To let you express creative freedom, the system puts you in charge of the web design process. What you can do here is controlling the content management options of your project as well as banner features and user performance. The Language Manager of the service will be a huge advantage to those users, who have an intention to create multilingual websites. By using the integrated tool, you can adjust the required language settings to launch any language versions of you website.

The integrated template collection of the platform is not quite rich, although, the quality of designs is rather high. Fortunately, the web abounds in professional Joomla templates you can use, if you don’t manage to find the one in the system’s set. Developed by third-party web designers and community members, Joomla designs are free and paid. Their quality differs as well. The fact that free templates are not quite safe for large-scale projects is rather persuasive for users, who intend to get quality full-featured projects.

As an open-source CMS, Joomla is completely free for everyone. You are welcome to download, install and work with it at no cost. Thus, the time you can spend exploring the feature set of the service is unlimited. Mind that the prevailing amount of integrated tools and features of the system have limited functionality. To launch a full-featured professional website with Joomla, getting paid templates, plugins and third-party apps is a must. The same is about domain name and hosting.

3. Drupal

Product Name:Drupal
Official Website:
Free plan:Free system
Premium Plan:From $2.95/mo

Drupal – is the open-source Content Management System, which provides extensive design customization options. The system works great for the development of small, mid-sized and large business projects. However, it is also possible to create other types of website with the platform. Drupal is frequently used by professional web design studios and freelancers, who focus on the creation of custom-made websites for clients.

Drupal Dashboard

Just like other popular CMS, Drupal ensures deep and flexible plugin integration options. The system cannot offer a sufficient choice of plugins and apps by default. Instead, users can find plenty of variants online. The service also allows choosing and adding modules and designs, which come up to your website specialization most of all. As to the integration of the CMS with third-party systems and apps, Drupal offers a broad selection of services you can pick to boost your website performance. These include Zendesk, Bitium, Google Analytics, LinkedIn, Zapier, HubSpot, MailChimp, ShoutEm, iPaper, Magento, Salesforce, Twitter and some other well-known systems.

Drupal comes with convenient and handy user management options that contribute to safe and quick content uploading and its further editing. The advanced menu of the system will simplify the process of adding different types of content (images, videos, media files, blog posts, polls etc.). Apart from that, Drupal delivers exceptional content and graphics management.

As a Content Management System, Drupal cannot offer such an extensive selection of integrated templates as contemporary website builders, for example. Built-in themes work well for the development of personal projects or for the system exploration. That’s it. If you target large audiences, you will definitely have to look for third-party templates on the web. Fortunately, there are lots of high quality themes designed specially for Drupal by professional developers, web studios and community users. Drupal designs are both free and paid. The latter are safer and more professional. Thus, they are worth the investment, if you expect to get a full-featured website to meet your business needs and objectives.

Drupal is a free CMS software that comes with the open-source code. You can download and install the system at no cost, but there is much you might need to get the most out of its functionality. To start with, you’ll have to get the domain name and choose a hosting provider as well as one of the plans it offers. The cost of the plans will differ with regard to the terms and services included. Secondly, you’ll have to invest into quality templates, plugins and third-party applications that will contribute to your website performance.

4. Concrete5

Product Name:Concrete5
Official Website:
Free plan:Free system
Premium Plan:From $2.95/mo
Headquarters:United States

Concrete5 – is a powerful and innovative open-source CMS, which makes it possible to launch and manage websites in a comprehensive and convenient way. Actually, this is one of the systems that provides advanced functionality at no cost without compromising with the result. Websites built with Concrete5 look modern and functional. However, the CMS is more complicated than many of its competitors and, thus, implies deep learning curve. As you get used to its features, you’ll be able to create different types of projects.

Concrete5 Dashboard

The CMS offers worthy design customization features to come up to various preferences and needs. There are lots of plugins and core supported add-ons you can find online and integrate into your project to broaden its functionality. Lots of these add-ons are updated automatically on a regular basis. The CMS also comes with the integrated form builder, which easily lets you create, edit and update the online forms available at your website.

Additionally, the system ensures quick installation, extensive plugin integration options, one-click updating, user permission rights, integrated reporting system etc. The CMS ensures intuitive website editing, while projects created with it are well-optimized for the search engines.

The platform has its own collection of integrated templates, which feature good quality and are customizable. However, the number of the available themes may not be enough to meet web design needs of all system users. In this case, the service makes it possible to integrate third-party themes available on the web. They are designed by web developers specially for Concrete5 and come in two possible variants – free and paid. Free templates also have good quality, but they are not that safe as compared to paid designs because of the potential malware threat.

Just like its major competitors reviewed above, Concrete5 is absolutely free. You don’t have to pay anything to download, install and use the service. At the same time, it’s impossible to call the system free at all. To get the most out of its feature set, you’ll have to pay for the domain name, hosting provider, extra plugins, templates, add-ons and applications. The eventual cost of a project will depend upon the amount of extra features you’d like to integrate into your website as well as on the hosting plan and design (if any) you will eventually pick.

Best SaaS CMS Website Builders

Apart from using CMS platforms for professional website development, you can also pick one of the available SaaS website builders. These systems come with distinctive tools and features tailored to diverse user needs and requirements. They make it possible to run all types of web projects for commercial and non-commercial use. If you currently consider an opportunity of using one of these systems, have a look at short reviews provided below.

1. Wix

Product Name:WIX
Official Website:
Complexity:Very easy
Free plan:Unlimited
Premium Plan:From $13/mo

Wix – is a multifaceted SaaS website builder, which occupies the first position in the rating of the best contemporary web design platforms. The system has much to offer to all user categories, including first-timers and web design pros. Wix works great for all types of projects, including those for personal and business use. You don’t have to be a coding pro to start projects with the system as it does not imply programming proficiency.

wix desktop editor

Wix website builder comes with powerful integrated blogging and eCommerce engines. It lets you create and customize quality feature-rich blogs as well as high end web stores to sell digital and physical products. The system grants access to the extensive list of widgets and extensions available in its App Market. The apps are free and paid, being applicable for diverse types of web projects. Additionally, you can make use of multiple SEO and marketing tools that contribute to more effective business performance. Wix Ascend platform, for example, offers over 20 marketing tools, which enhance your website performance and its promotion on the web.

When it comes to the theme customization aspect, Wix offers one of the most impressive and versatile collections of templates. It currently encompasses over 550 designs, which are completely customizable, free and mobile-ready by default. To simplify user choice, the designs are divided into categories with regard to the niches they tackle.The website builder is also known for its design editing options. It lets you pick from a Standard Editor and Wix ADI tool. The latter is powered by the Artificial Intelligence, letting users create websites in the automated mode in less than no time.

Wix also stands out from the crowd due to its versatile pricing policy. The website builder offers two types of subscriptions from Standard and business/eCommerce projects. Each subscription, in its turn, includes more detailed plans that differ in terms and cost. Their price starts at $13/mo. The system also offers a money-back guarantee to refund the invested budget, if you decide to cancel the subscription within 14 days since the moment of registration.

2. Webflow

Product Name:Webflow
Free plan:Yes
Premium Plan:From $12/mo
Headquarters:United States

Webflow – is a trusted DIY website builder, which initially targets professional web developers. The system is known for its advanced web design approach and complexity, which implies a certain coding background. To some extent, the integrated functionality of the software makes it similar to standard CMS. It takes time to master the system and to explore its feature set.

Webflow drag-and-drop editor

The website builder comes with a powerful set of integrated website creation and customization features. It allows choosing from two working modes – Designer and Editor – to come up to special user requirements and skills. The software also offers versatile style and classes management options as well as an opportunity to create personalized dynamic content.

Due to the powerful built-in eCommerce engine, it is possible to run small and medium online stores with the system to offer physical and digital items for sale. Webflow also boasts high end integrations, making it possible to use Lightbox Gallery, Lottie and After Effects to avail quality result.

To start working on your Webflow website, you need to choose one of the templates available in its collection. The designs are free and paid. They are also optimized for mobile browsing and divided into niche categories by default. The website builder allows creating unique website design, making use of advanced HTML/CSS editing options.

The website builder also offers extensive pricing options to come up to any requirements, web design needs and budget. There is a free never-expiring plan and two large packages of more detailed subscriptions. Each group of plans, correspondingly, includes several more subscriptions to diversity user choice.

3. Shopify

Product Name:Shopify
Official Website:
Free plan:14-day trial
Premium Plan:From $29/mo

Shopify – is the globally known eCommerce software, which was created with the only goal in mind – creation, customization and promotion of all types of onlines stores. The platform is used to run different kinds of digital stores, irrespective of their complexity, size, budget and niche specialization. If you intend to set up a feature-laden web store, Shopify is the top solution to go for.

shopify editor

The software delivers an amazing set of eCommerce features. It abounds in extensive product management options, SEO and promotion tools. The system grants access to numerous extensions and widgets available for download and integration in its App Store. Its eCommerce functionality is far beyond the average. It comes with hundreds of gateways, multilingual support, built-in shopping cart, shipping and tax calculations, AR feature etc.

Shopify also allows selling across multiple channels (including Amazon and popular social networks) to increase sales volume and profits. The platform includes a high end Point-of-Sale software, which lets you sell products both in local storefronts and online.

The platform offers a broad range of templates related to the eCommerce niche. They refer to various categories based on the web store specialization you intend to set up. The designs are free, responsive and fully-customizable. All of them have a professional contemporary look yet most templates have similar structure. Experienced users, however, can use their CSS/PHP skills to create unique web store design to adhere to their special needs.

Shopify pricing is moderate. The software does not have free subscriptions yet it offers three premium plans to choose from. The cost of the plan depends upon the terms and tools included. The cheapest subscription will cost you $29/mo. It is possible to switch between the themes when required.

4. uCoz

Product Name:uCoz
Free plan:Yes
Premium Plan:From $3/mo
Headquarters:Russian Federation

uCoz – is a modern SaaS website builder, which belongs to the list of the most popular web design platforms worldwide. The system features high en disintegrated functionality, making it possible to set up community, personal and business projects. The website builder can hardly be called a simple service yet it can be mastered by all user categories. It’s just that beginners may need more time to get used to it.

uCoz Design and CSS Editor

One of uCoz highlights is its module-based structure. The website builder grants access to multiple content modules, proper combination of which allows starting various project types. It’s up to a user to pick and adjust the modules with regard to their web design needs and website specialization. uCoz modules are free and paid, each performing a certain function. The most widely used of them include Online Store, Site Catalogue, Forum, Blog, Guest Book, Polls, FAQ, Social Media Publisher, Page Editor etc.

uCoz templates are numerous, versatile and professional. All of them are customizable and mobile-ready. You can browse multiple categories to pick a theme that works best for your project. Whatever design you will go for, it will feature an up-to-date and stylish look to adhere to your project requirements. To give the selected theme a touch of personalization, you can edit HTML code, if you have web design skills.

Speaking about pricing policy, uCoz is a reasonably-priced website builder. The system offers a free plan, which lets you test the functionality of the platform. As soon as you are ready to go live with your project, you will be offered to upgrade to one of 4 premium plans. The cost of uCoz subscriptions starts at $3/mo.

How to Choose the Right Content Management System

Choosing the right Content Management System is often a challenge. This especially concerns users, who have never worked with these platforms before and, thus, are unaware of their parameters and major characteristics.

Actually, the final decision should depend upon a variety of factors. These include your web design skills, type of the project you need, the goal you pursue, the budget you are ready to invest into its development and the characteristics of the platform itself. At the same time, it is possible to define general features and requirements that are similar for all CMS types you come across when making your search:

  • Convenience and ease of website management;
  • ntuitive nature;
  • Integration options;
  • Cost (including hosting and domain name)
  • Safety;
  • Upgrading options;
  • Design customization features included;
  • SEO-friendliness;
  • Scalability;
  • Content management features.

These are the must-have aspects you need to pay attention to, when picking the best CMS. The rest of essential points depend upon individual parameters of each system you are interested in. Anyway, if you’ve managed to find the CMS that meets the above listed requirements, it’s definitely worth your attention.

Bottom Line

Availability and rich selection of software types can make the eventual choice of a suitable web design platform a real challenge, especially for first-timers. What you should mind when exploring the most popular services is the range of features, integration options and special tools provided. But that’s not it.

The majority of CMS require hosting and domain choice, which is another aspect you should tackle, when comparing the platforms. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Concrete5 are currently the most well-known, feature-laden and trusted CMS. They make it possible to launch and effectively manage different types of projects, granting access to extra apps, plugins, templates and tools.

SaaS website builders prove to be a reasonable solution to start a CMS website from scratch as well. The majority of these systems target non-coders yet they also have much to offer to web design pros. The platforms are used to start all types of projects. If required, you can choose from all-in-one and specialized website builders depending upon your website/business niche. Wix, Webflow, Shopify and uCoz are the most popular SaaS website builders applied to run commercial and non-commercial web projects. They differ in specialization, integrated functionality, design customization options and pricing. These are only some of the factors that affect your choice.


About the Author

I'm Howard Steele, the founder and editor-in-chief of this website. With over 10 years of web building I know how complicated and tiresome this task can be for a non-IT person. Can’t decide which service to choose? Feel free to ask me for advice. Just describe your website needs, and I’ll gladly help you.

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