When picking the best CMS platform for your website, you need to clearly understand the difference between different CMS groups.
It does not matter you plan a brand new business strategy to promote your company online, launch a digital store or simply go live with small content-based site. You need to figure out how the system works, what it is necessary for, what functionality it delivers, and if it really suits your particular goals.
The key to success is to pinpoint, which CMS is the right pick for you and why. Keep in mind that you will need to handle not only content editing but also website hosting, launching, maintaining, supporting, etc. So, make sure the chosen platform is secure and stable enough in addition to a set of extra features. If the decision seems like a huge challenge, keep on reading the article to learn more about CMS types, functionality, technologies, and benefits they may deliver out of the box.
What CMS is and how it Works
Before we get started, let’s clarify what CMS actually is. The abbreviation stands for the content management system. In other words, here we have an instrument that makes it possible to manage web content in different ways. Whether you need to add new text, update the existing page, customize some of the website elements, CMS is here to help.
The main CMS mission is to help users organize web content with a bunch of tools. For instance, the system will help whenever you want to display media content or text, post new articles, show videos or even share content through multiple channels. CMS keeps all necessary tools in one place available in the users’ dashboard.
How CMS Works
The idea of CMS implementation relies on two crucial apps. They include:
- CMA or the Content Management Application.
- CDA or the Content Delivery Application.
The CDA application comes as a part of the back-end process. The app is responsible for storing the entire web content in the proper format as well as displaying it to the end-user and transferring the entire data form CMA.
Now put those two applications together and you will get a fully functional CMS platform. After we have defined the term and found out who CMS systems work, we need to have a closer look at platforms’ types.
4 Major CMS Types
All content management systems may be divided into three major types depending on their functionality. Those types include:
Each CMS category is different mainly because of the technologies they use as well as set of features they deliver. It is vital to understand the difference before choosing the system for your particular project.
The key benefit lies beneath the open-source CMS flexibility. First of all, the platform is accessible at no cost. All you need is to download CMS and have it installed and managed on a chosen web server. The second benefit is total control over your web content. Users have full access to an enormous selection of plugins, extensions, and other website tools to create literally any site type form simple blogs to more complex digital stores and small business projects.
Apart from so many advantages, CMS may come with some downsides. For example, what seems to be absolutely free at first may eventually result in extra costs. You will need to pay for hosting and domain name. Premium themes are also paid as well as some of the plugin versions and extensions. On the other hand, you take full control over the budget and have a chance to choose the best offers in terms of hosting, domain registration, templates, etc.
Top Open-Source CMS Examples
WordPress – is the most popular CMS featuring over 400,000 000 active users worldwide. As an open-source platform, the system is free to access. Although it was initially designed to create content-based websites, the CMS has evolved over the years to let users build blogs, portfolios, small business sites, online shops, etc.
- Thousands of templates. Free and paid responsive themes are available for users.
- Endless plugins. From analytics and promotion plugins to event planning, customer acquisition, and email marketing – choose from hundreds of apps and third-party services to customize your site.
- Simple CMS. The content editor itself is very intuitive. Creating new pages, posts, and categories are easy although some technical skills may be necessary if you decide to edit the code as well as implement new functionality.
Joomla – is another popular open-source CMS. The platform was designed to meet the web needs of small business representatives, non-profit institutions, and governmental organizations. Joomla currently boasts more than 2 000 000 users and powers over 9% of all sites on the web. Apart from free access, the CMS offers a set of design features, easy content editing and publishing, worldwide support, and more.
- Enhanced Design features. Users may apply each separate template to a specific page in addition to HTML rendering, custom design archiving, etc.
- Simple Content Editing. The system has an intuitive WYSIWYG editor, editor buttons, and a set of publishing tools.
- Comprehensive Support. Joomla offers an extensive knowledge base in addition to the integrated Help system, local community of pros, and forum.
Drupal – is the web content management platform designed to create complex websites as well as digital stores. It offers a selection of eCommerce themes and rich feature set for online shops as well as other website types. The system currently powers over 400,000 live projects available in more than 200 countries across the globe.
- Ease of Use. The system is easy to install. Users may choose from hundreds of ready-made templates and get them on-site with a click.
- Administration tools. The website owner may assign roles and provide access to other users to ensure effective collaboration.
- A wide selection of plugins. Drupal users may choose from over 7,000 plugins available for installation.
Choosing an open-source CMS might also loom daunting. Different platforms require a different level of technical background. Moreover, you need to take care of hosting and domain separately. That might also be time-consuming.
This is where WordPress wins thanks to its ease of use, flexibility, and full control over the editing process. In addition, you may have all website assets in one place when using WP-optimized hosting plans that come with seamless CMS integration and all features within a cost-effective plan.
SaaS CMS systems represent cloud-based platforms that generally come as all-in-one solutions. A user picks a plan, pays for it and gets a fully-featured CMS with customizable templates, web tools, domain, and hosting included in the final price. Such platforms are accessible in the form of virtual hosted packages with a subscription model.
The price may vary depending on the plan you chose as well as your project needs. The more complex your site is the higher plan costs. Moreover, you need to consider the amount of web data, storage, and bandwidth you might need. These factors also influence the final price.
Apart from open-source CMS, SaaS requires practically zero technical knowledge. They offer intuitive drag-and-drop functionality in addition to ready-made layouts with built-in relevant widgets and apps that refer to your particular niche.
For example, you want to create a digital store without any coding knowledge or desire to look for hosting or register a domain on your own. The steps with SaaS systems are as follows:
- You pick a platform.
- Choose a digital store template with integrated blocks and features.
- Subscribe to a plan that offers eCommerce functionality.
- Edit content and go live.
There are fully and partially cloud SaaS platforms. The first one includes all servicing aspects as well as website support and maintenance. The second one supposes using a separate cloud server as well as modules to modify the template. Partially-cloud solutions require technical skills. So, when talking about SaaS, we consider only fully-cloud platforms.
Top SaaS CMS Examples
Wix – is a globally appreciate website builder based on SaaS technology. Almost 3,500 000 websites built with Wix are available live on the web. The platform has a growing community and lets users build projects of any type and complexity. Whether you are an individual photographer wanting to launch your portfolio, a small business company desperately requiring web presence or an entrepreneur eager to sell online, Wix will handle any task.
- Great for Newbies. Wix is yet the easiest platform to create sites from scratch. It uses AI-based technologies to build websites for users with its ADI technology. You may come up with a new site in several minutes with absolutely no coding skills.
- Enhanced Editor. The system lets you not only customize ready-made plugins but implement and exclusive design and web functionality of your own with the help of Velo by Wix.
- 100% Flexibility. Apart from hundreds of apps and widgets that may be installed with a click, your website may be integrated with numerous third-party services to remote, support, and grow your business online.
Webflow – is a contemporary SaaS website builder, which encompasses the features of standard CMS platforms. The system mainly targets professional web developers, making it possible for them to start and customize all types of web projects. Offering an extensive variety of advanced design customization tools, the software allows creating appealing web page structure in the format of the element hierarchy.
- Two Working Modes. The website builder lets you create projects, choosing one of two working modes – either Designer or Editor. The choice should basically depend upon your web design proficiency and result you intend to achieve in the long run.
- Powerful eCommerce Engine. The system comes with a high end integrated eCommerce engine, which allows running small-to-large digital stores to sell physical and digital products.
- Extensive Code Editing Options. With Webflow, you get access to the rich collection of responsive templates and opportunity of code export. This eventually lets you create quality themes and offer them for sale.
This one mainly refers to corporate usage. A proprietary CMS is a software managed by a single organization or company. It is initially designed for commercial usage only. The platform comes with a monthly or annual operation fee as well as additional services that may include staff training, technical support, website maintenance, etc.
Top Proprietary CMS Examples
Kentico – is an advanced proprietary CMS, which is powered by the Microsoft technology and offers multiple features to get started with a professional web project. The system is intuitive and easy to work with, although, it may require a certain web design expertise level. With Kentico, you can start simple and complex projects – the platform is scalable enough to cater to any needs.
- Online Marketing Solution. The CMS is known for its Online Marketing Solution, which lets you launch digital marketing campaigns to target new customers. The Solution encompasses several tools, including Online Communities Solution, the Intranet and Collaboration facility, separate modules for website/content management.
- Professional Support Team. The software comes with impeccable support service. The experts from around the globe are available 24/7 and promise to fix the bugs within a week from the request day.
- Enhanced Security. Kentico features a robust security infrastructure. The system bears responsibility for the full source codes their websites include. It works great for eCommerce projects, social websites, web portals and other complex projects.
SiteCore – is one of the leading proprietary CMS, which offers advanced content management solutions, eCommerce tools and digital marketing ideas. The system encompasses several products that form the Sitecore Experience Cloud. These are the Sitecore Experience Platform, the Sitecore Experience Commerce, the Sitecore Experience Manager and the Sitecore Experience Hub. Each of them includes tools and features that help amplify your brand’s marketing capabilities.
- Digital Asset Management. The CMS allows for easy management of digital content assets to make them well-organized and accessible when required. There is also access to the experience manager that lets you create and publish the required digital properties in any language.
- eCommerce Solutions. With SiteCore, you can set up and manage a feature-laden digital storefront to further customize it to your needs. This ensures personalized customer approach and an unsurpassed shopping experience.
- Marketing Automation Approach. The software contributes to better communication with customers by offering them relevant, timely and targeted marketing campaigns.
A headless CMS is the one, which ensures quality and efficient work with all types of interfaces regardless of the platforms and screens they are created for. Frontend and backend connection is ensured here by means of using API and microservices. The CMS itself can work either in the cloud or on a client’s server (self-hosted solution).
Top Headless CMS Examples
- Long List of Integrations. You can integrate multiple services into your Strapi-powered website. These include static interfaces and those created with popular website builders and frameworks. The software also supports different types of databases, including MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL and more.
- Used for All Project Types. The software works great for the development of all types of web projects, including e Commerce websites.
Sanity – is the best corporate cloud CMS and one of the most popular unified content services, application of which ensures enhanced digital experiences. The software is written in React. It easily integrates with any interfaces, being a scalable web design solution. The platform allows for effective real-time team cooperation, offering multiple tools out-of-the-box. The content is edited on the go, which ensures timely website updates.
- Complex Web Design Platform. The use of the system is not limited to its CMS application. It also proves to be a useful tool for interface creating and editing.
- Extensive Integrations. The platform can integrate with multiple third-party services and tools. This allows starting multifaceted web projects to comply with multiple needs and requirements. Plugin integration is available here as well.
- Sanity Studio. The platform allows working in the Sanity Studio – a functional free web design environment. There is opportunity for convenient content editing with a real-time preview option.
Things to Consider when Choosing CMS
After we have learned a bit more about the CMS nature and types, we may start comparing and contrasting to pick the platform that meets your website needs. With so many offers on the web, you need to stay focused on your website functionality and complexity.
What type of website is it going to be? How many pages do you need? What functionality is required? Do you have technical skills? What is the budget? These are the questions to answer before picking the CMS. To put users at ease, we have conducted a list of features to consider before choosing the content editing system.
#1 – Ease of Use
The prior thing to define is how easy the CMS to use. While open-source platforms are free, you may test them and decide, whether they suit you without actually going live. When it comes to SaaS solutions, they offer free plans as well as free trials. That might also come in handy to check how easy it is to:
- Get started with the platform in terms of setting and installation.
- Customize the template, move objects or use any of the available web tools.
- Add and edit texts, upload images, insert links, install widgets, etc.
- Go live with the ready-made site.
Ease of Use Comparative Table
|Getting Started||Download and installation required + hosting and domain unless using with Bluehost||Subscribe using a social account or email and password||Cloud-based SaaS software||Sign up using email/password, integrate with the available CMS or connect to Netlify/GitHub account|
|Template Customization||Ready-made templates, coding skills may be necessary||Intuitive drag-and-drop editor, AI-based tools, no coding required||HTML templates, coding skills required||HTML templates, deep coding skills required|
|Content Editing||Beginners level||Beginners level||Advanced level||Advanced level|
#2 – Platform’s Security
Security is the key aspect in terms of a stable website running. In situation with open-source CMS systems, you are responsible for picking up suitable hosting with enough storage and bandwidth to prevent your site from breakdowns at the traffic pick. Moreover, you need to look for hosting providers with additional security means, system backups, CMS version updates, etc. In most cases, users are forced to take necessary actions manually.
SaaS cloud-based platforms are more flexible when it comes to security. Users do not need to handle anything. The platform is responsible for updates, website operations, etc. At the same time, you need to choose a plan with enough storage facilities and bandwidth to ensure smooth operation in the long run.
CMS Security Comparative Table
|System Updates and Backups||Manual updates and backups unless used with Bluehost||Automated updates and backups||Manual updates and backups||Manual updates and backups|
|Plugin updates||Manual updates unless used with Bluehost||Automated updates||Manual updates and backups||Manual updates and backups|
|Additional Tools||Additional plugins to be installed and handled manually||Anti-spam protection, DDoS prevention, etc.||Additional plugin installation||Additional plugin installation|
#3 – Technical Support
Both beginners and dedicated pros will hardly appreciate being left on their own with the technical error or website breakdown. The customer support availability is an important factor to consider as well as the time necessary for managers to provide assistance.
While most SaaS platforms come with various means to get in touch including instant contacting, open-source CMS usually does not have custom support unless you are a Premium user. On the other hand, they are so popular with users that you may come across endless video tutorials, forums, and professional communities with answers to all questions.
Customer Support Comparative Table
|Instant Support||No||Live Chat||No||No|
|Guides and Tutorials||Video guides, how-to articles to be searched online||Custom knowledgebase||Online resources, blog posts available on a website||Online resources, software documentation, blog posts, reference materials and guides|
|Community||Numerous forums and communities online||Custom Wix forum||Online forums and communities||Slack community|
#4 – Feature Set and Flexibility
This point refers to everything you might need to customize your website. From integrated analytics and SEO to user acquisition tools, pop up forms, galleries, slideshows, and other apps to promote and grow your project as well as make it more interactive and engaging.
Open-source CMS systems come with endless customization opportunities. There are thousands of plugins available for download and installation. Not all plugins are free. Some consider having a premium account or separate extensions. Moreover, we should consider the availability of responsive templates, eCommerce functionality, and more.
In addition, the platform should reserve some space for seamless third-party integration. Every time you want to connect a new payment option or shipping method, you need to be 100% sure, the platform will let you do this. Also keep in mind analytic instruments to track the traffic and define the most successful channels not mentioning social media integration.
CMS Flexibility Comparative Table
|Templates||Thousands of free and premium templates||550+ free templates + paid pro themes||A set of web page templates||Extensive choice of niche themes for standard web projects|
|SEO||Advanced SEO settings + SEO plugins||Integrated SEO settings||Integrated SEO tools||Integrated SEO tools|
|Commecre||Ultimate WooCommerce Plugin||Additional packages for digital stores of any size||Integrated eCommerce functionality||Integrated eCommerce engine|
#5 – Pricing Policy
Last but not least when picking a platform to build a website. While the competition in the niche grows tougher, companies offer relatively low plan costs, at least for the entry-level package. On the other hand, open-source CMS systems are free to use. Everyone may access them and start building a website. The only downside is that you will have to take care of domain and hosting for the project.
Moreover, premium templates are not free as well as some plugin extensions. SaaS platforms charge for each plan with a subscription-based model. You pick the package and get everything with it inside and no need to handle technical issues separately. Users are free to switch to another plan any time as well as go lower in case of necessity. This fact certainly adds some flexibility. Do not forget about free plans. They might be a good chance to test the system or even build a small, simple, and lightweight site.
CMS Flexibility Comparative Table
|Free plan||Free on default||Yes||No||Yes|
|Extra costs||Domain, hosting, templates, extensions||No. You only pay for a chosen plan.||Depends on the selected product and plan.||You can buy extra tools and services (disk storage space, users etc.) on each plan, if required|
|Starting price to build a website||From $5 per month||From $0 per month||From $1249/mo||From $0/mo|
SaaS vs Self-Hosted CMS
Now, you are almost ready to make the right choice and pick the best-matching CMS. As we have mentioned before. There are 3 major CMS types. While proprietary platforms are mainly for corporate usage, you would probably never consider them for a solid web presence. For this reason, we are going to compare and contrast SaaS and self-hosted CMS options based on real-life examples representing Wix and WordPress with WP-optimized hosting solution brought to you by Bluehost.
Wix – All-In-One SaaS Solution
Wix – is the world’s best SaaS website builder. It is extremely easy to use and perfect for beginners. You get an advanced web instrument that creates a website from scratch for you using all the latest web technologies based on Artificial Intelligence. The platform is so popular with users that it currently features 154 million subscribers.
To start building a website, you only need to sign in and start your free trial. There is no need to pick a plan right at once. Moreover, you may stick to Wix free package in case you only want to test the system. As it was said before, the system is one of the easiest in terms of website building. It is perfect for newbies with absolutely no coding skills. The starting stage includes several simple steps:
- Signing In (use your social media or Google account or simply type in the email and password).
- Pick a template you like, start creating a new page from blank or opt for Wix ADI – an AI-based solution that builds a site for you based on your answers that describe a future project
- Add content, upload photos and videos, ad necessary widgets, services or apps.
- The preview you site using the relevant mode and go online by pressing the “Publish” button.
How about the site customization and content editing?
Wix is a drag-and-drop editor. It means you are free to edit the ready-made template by moving its elements and blocks. Users may rearrange them or move around. Simply choose the area you need, hold it with the mouse button and move to the on-page location you want. The same thing is with media files or new elements you want to add.
A selection of responsive templates includes over 550 themes for different niches and purposes. Most of them come with pre-set features. Those who crave for exclusiveness may start creating a new page using blank layout. Velo by Wix is for more experienced technicians who want to develop and add exclusive elements or functions. The easiest way is to use Wix ADI. The system offers several ready-made website layouts based on your info provided with integrated widgets. Simply type in necessary texts in the relevant blocks and go live n 5-6 minutes.
Features and Flexibility
The system offers a wide set of options that refers to not only website customization but also promotion, SEO optimization, etc. Here are some core features you will appreciate:
- All-In-One Solution – you get all the functionality and assets needed within a chosen package including domain, hosting, security means, support, etc.
- Wix App Market – a wide selection of plugins, apps, and third-party services available for seamless integration.
- SEO – edit page title and description, customize product details, edit URLs, social preview, and more to create SEO-friendly content.
- eCommerce – Wix offers separate plans for digital stores of any size. They include payment options integration, product management system, and a set of tools for website promoting and marketing.
- Customer Support – the system offers various ways to get in touch including 24/7 live chat, email ticketing system, custom Wix help center, local forum, and user guides.
The platform has a free plan and lets you try each plan at zero cost (free trial). However, it is not enough for a fully functional project. To get started, you might need a combo plan costing $13 per month with all the necessary options.
WordPress – Comprehensive Self-Hosted CMS
WordPress – is the most popular self-hosted CMS platform with over 65 million websites built on WPC. Despite the fact, you need to have it installed on your hosting, numerous server providers offer WordPress-optimized plans with no need to handle any process manually. Bluehost is the best offer. So, we are going to review WP when used together with Bluehost server solution.
Everything gets easier when using WordPress with Bluehost. Users were initially forced to look for the best-matching hosting solution and register a domain separately. Thanks to the server provider, the integration process is seamless. You only need to do the following:
- Register on Bluehost.
- Choose a WP-optimized plan.
- Integrated with the CMS with a click.
Plans already include a selection of free templates. Simply browse through a list of themes and install the one you like with a click. No need to download and install them manually.
WordPress makes it easy to work with content. You may create new pages and categories. The WYSIWYG editor makes it simple to organize the on-page elements as well as add new ones. Although there is no inline editing and you need to save all changes you make, there is a simple preview option to check how the changes will be displayed online.
There is not much of the baseline template customization. To modify the layout, you will need to enter the source code. This is where HTML/PHP/CSS knowledge may come in handy. On the other hand, users may opt for Premium templates with a more exclusive design in case of necessity.
In other words, it is up to you whether to dive deep into the coding or not. The issue is not obligatory. However, with a slight learning curve you may come up with a truly exclusive project.
Features and Flexibility
WordPress is one of the most flexible platforms. It delivers everything you need from thousands of free and paid templates to an enormous selection of plugins. The good news is that you do not have to maintain them manually. Bluehost hosting will take care of all system and plugin updates, backups, etc.
- Widgets and Add-Ons – WP CMS boasts probably the widest array of plugins. They include SEO boosters, analytic tools, eCommerce instruments, and more. With Bluehost, you no longer need to manage them manually.
- Ready-to-Use Solution – Bluehost lets you obtain proper hosting as well as the domain in one place with no need to choose from numerous services and pay for them separately.
- SEO – apart from SEO plugins and widgets to optimize your content, WordPress ensures fast website load speed due to its powerful engine. Moreover, you may edit the source code making it more SEO friendly as well as install image compressors and other tools. The system lets you edit everything from meta titles descriptions and URLs, to focus keywords and improved text readability.
- eCommerce – use WooCommerce plugin to create an online shop of any size. To get started, free version might be enough. If you decide to grow your digital store, you will need some extra extensions and tools that are paid.
- Customer Support – WordPress itself is an open-source CMS. Users may find thousands of video guides or articles describing the installation process, system backups, and plugin updates. You may join WP-pros forums and communities. When using Bluehost, you get full-cycle support including ticketing system and 24/7 live chat.
The hosting provider does not have a free trial. However, you may build a fully-functional WordPress site using any of the WP-optimized plans. The entry price is $2.95 per month with a free domain, seamless WordPress integration, automated updates, and 50 GB of storage. You may switch to another plan whenever your project requires more facilities.
The Bottom Line
Picking a proper CMS requires a deep analysis of your future project. With so many alternatives, you need to clearly understand what kind of functionality your website requires. At the same time, you need to take into account your own technical background and readiness to dive deep into the web building process.
Every CMS comes with its unique features. Open-source is a better option for creative-minded pros that know how to deal with coding and programming. SaaS solutions are an easier and faster way to go live with a professional-looking website. No matter what you choose, make sure the software reserves enough space for business growth and site modification in the long run.