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Choosing the right CMS (content management system) solution is crucial for easily managing a website’s content, pages and functions. In this comprehensive CMS comparison guide, we evaluate the most popular CMS platform options across key criteria to determine the best systems fitting varying needs and use cases.

What Does A CMS Do?

A content management system (CMS) is a software that provides an interface for easily creating, editing and organizing content on a website without needing technical coding expertise. CMS capabilities span from basic blogging sites to full-fledged enterprise platforms powering ecommerce experiences.

Key CMS functionality includes:

🔹 Content Authoring – Intuitive editor for writing articles, blog posts and web copy.

🔹 Media Management – Upload and manage images, videos and rich media seamlessly.

🔹 Page Building – Drag and drop page creation with modern templates and layouts.

🔹 Workflows – Review, approval and publishing mechanisms for collaborations.

🔹 Site Management – Dashboard for managing menus, metadata, navigation and architecture.

🔹 Extendability – API and integration ability with third-party applications and services.

🔹 Performance – Inbuilt optimization, scaling, security and infrastructure mechanisms.

evaluates popular CMS options across these criteria covering use case fit.

Top CMS Platform Comparison

1. WordPress

The world’s most used CMS powering over 43% of all websites from personal blogs to enterprise media sites. Dominates the market thanks to its ease of use, scalability, vast third-party integrations catalog, affordable pricing and flexibility making it our #1 recommendation.

Key Strengths

  • 15K+ third-party plugins for endless functionality from SEO to analytics.
  • Open source PHP/MySQL framework allows advanced customizations.
  • Great documentation and guides for user self-service.
  • Easy content creation and publishing.
  • Most affordable and cost-effective capabilities.

Best For

WordPress excels at being an intuitive, versatile and customizable CMS suitable for a wide spectrum of uses at compelling TCO. Ideal for bloggers, small businesses, online publishers and portfolios to ecommerce stores.

Pricing

The open source WordPress software is free to download and install on your own hosting servers. Paid managed WordPress hosting plans from vendors start at $5 per month providing infrastructure, security, backups and integrations. Around $45 per month plans offer advanced commerce features and support.

2. Drupal

A flexible and sophisticated enterprise open source CMS platform used by over 2% of all websites globally with a robust ecosystem preferred by developers, governments and universities needing advanced functionality.

Key Strengths

  • Handles complex workflows.
  • Ideal for collaborative large team environments.
  • Enterprise-grade scalability, security and permissions.
  • Backed by developer community, training and support.
  • Thousands of add-on modules for extensibility.

Best For

Drupal shines for building advanced community portals, digital experiences, intranets and complex membership sites managing large diverse content libraries, multiple user roles and groups along with extensive integration requirements.

Pricing

The open source Drupal software is free but requires technical resources for installation, management and customizations. Preferred managed Drupal cloud hosting plans start at $35 per month while enterprise support plans are $22,500+ per year providing full-service management.

3. Joomla

A widely popular open source CMS used by over 3% of the web great for more sophisticated sites than WordPress but more approachable than Drupal without extensive coding skills needed. Trusted by hospitality firms, non-profits and multilingual sites.

Key Strengths

  • Straightforward content workflow functionality.
  • Multilingual site support.
  • Dedicated templates and extensions library.
  • Developer-friendly modular framework extensibility.
  • Integrated community forum for questions.

Best For

Joomla strikes a versatile balance suitable for school websites, community magazines, hotels sites and organizational intranets requiring more structured processes, multiple languages and customizations beyond basic blogs.

Pricing

The Joomla open source software is free. Paid professional Joomla hosting and management plans on cloud start around $7 per month. Further customizations, migrating services and training packages are available as add-ons.

4. Squarespace

An extremely popular SaaS website builder used by over 3 million sites globally praised for its elegant templates, intuitive drag-and-drop editing, built-in ecommerce capabilities and superb content creation experiences making it the easiest CMS option.

Key Strengths

  • Gorgeous mobile-friendly templates.
  • Straightforward page building.
  • All-in-one simplified SaaS model.
  • Integrated image galleries, blogs and commerce.
  • Award-winning responsive designs.

Best For

Squarespace excels for savvy online entrepreneurs, creative agencies and bloggers needing a stylish web presence including stores with easy content updating without technical complexity.

Pricing

Squarespace’s all-inclusive plans cover domains, hosting security and CDN starting from $12 per month for simple sites while their $40 per month plan unlocks advanced ecommerce functionality.

5. Adobe Experience Manager

A premium enterprise-grade CMS and digital experience platform used by leading Fortune 500 brands providing an industry-leading web content management capabilities backed by deep marketer-focused insights.

Key Strengths

  • Powerful analytics and personalization.
  • Integrates with wider Adobe marketing suite.
  • Omnichannel content delivery optimization.
  • Robust DAM media asset management.
  • Granular administrative access controls.

Best For

Adobe Experience Manager caters to sophisticated organizations driving complex, high-value digital experiences across global omni-channel content properties needing advanced workflows.

Pricing

Prices not publicly listed given enterprise nature but analysts estimate ~$5000 per month for mid-sized deployments while large global platforms run ~$100,000+ per month with extensive professional services, migration and training costs.

6. HubSpot CMS

HubSpot offers an easy CMS tightly integrated into its wider inbound marketing and sales platform architecture providing intuitive content creation coupled with lead generation tools, email marketing, chatbots and analytics in one SaaS package.

Key Strengths

  • Drag-and-drop page building
  • Templated design flexibility
  • Native CRM and marketing automation
  • SEO-focused blogging
  • Robust video hosting

Best For

HubSpot CMS works best for scaling companies already invested into their sales and marketing platform now wanting to unify owned web properties without adopting multiple systems saving integration overheads.

Pricing

HubSpot’s starter Marketing Hub plan covers CMS access at $45 per month for 1 user managing 1 domain while Premium plans at $1,200 per month provide team access, multi-site management and expanded storage. Significant discounts offered for annual subscriptions.

CMS Platform Comparison Criteria

Here are they key elements we evaluated each major CMS across for identifying strengths, target users and use case fit:

Functionality – Core content authoring, media libraries, templating, workflows support and site management console capabilities.

Integrations – Plugin ecosystem, developer community support and API access for driving third-party customizations and system connectivity.

Ease-of-Use – How intuitive and easily can non-technical users publish content with respective CMS platforms? Learning curve assessment.

Scalability – Hosted infrastructure provisions and content delivery mechanisms supporting large traffic volumes and global digital experiences.

Security – Inbuilt and dedicated information security, data governance and compliance certified controls provided.

Support – Service reliability SLAs, technical troubleshooting, documentation quality and training resources available.

Pricing – TCO models balancing capabilities with license fees, vendor lock-in, required skill sets and other long term costs like migrations.

Reviewing across these facets provides a 360-degree perspective on distinguishing CMS qualities, downsides and the environments each system best thrives within.

No CMS ranks highest across every criterion – rather has respective tradeoffs. Outlining must-have capabilities for now and future helps determine platform alignment fitting your needs.

CMS Platforms: FAQs

What does a CMS do vs website builder?

Website builders like Wix and Squarespace offer simpler drag-and-drop interfaces to create basic sites with limited design templates while CMS systems facilitate complex content production workflows, expansive site architectures and third-party integrations requiring more technical skills.

How much does a customized CMS cost?

Entry-level managed CMS hosting starts from $25 per month for WordPress and Joomla while advanced enterprise CMS deployments span $5,000+ monthly with heavy customizations, special integrations and tailored functional requirements needing extensive professional services and tied service contracts.

What is a headless CMS?

A headless CMS detached from front-end website delivery optimized for content creation experience while content delivery happens across devices via APIs. It focuses solely on content repository and infrastructure capabilities while presentation layers using React, mobile apps etc leverage content exposed via APIs.

Which CMS has most features?

Enterprise CMS platforms like Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore and Drupal have the most exhaustive range of sophisticated workflow functionalities like omnichannel content delivery, targeted personalization, compliance frameworks and deep analytics integrations catering to complex requirements while simpler systems like WordPress and Squarespace focus on ease-of-use.

What should you look for in a CMS?

With clear website goals outlined for now and future vision, identify must-have CMS capabilities spanning site content types, multi-site needs, cross-team collaboration requirements, developer skills availability, app integrations essentials, analytical needs and content delivery mechanisms across devices to shortlist aligning options.

Getting your CMS evaluation right the first time saves enormous long term headache. Weigh each platform’s cons and pros relative to your website priorities before committing. Hopefully this guide provides clarity to navigate the crowded CMS landscape! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Author

  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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