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How to Build a CMS Website from Scratch

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


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.

Read also: WordPress review.

2. Joomla


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.

Read also: Joomla review.

3. Drupal


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.

Read also: Drupal review.

4. Concrete5


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.

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 CMS choice 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.

Before you actually make the final choice, make sure to analyze, explore and compare these services. Do they come up to your requirements? Are they feature-rich enough to let you create projects with ease? Will you be able to successfully complete the task with any of them or there is a definite leader on your list? Answers to these questions will help you pick the service that complies with your individual web design project and requirements in the best way possible.


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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