Content management system (CMS) platforms serve a critical role in digital marketing and eCommerce. They provide a powerful tool for publishing and managing content that you can use to drive traffic to your site and build your email list and social media following. They can also serve as a digital marketplace for showcasing the goods and services you sell.
But CMS systems come in many varieties, and choosing the right platform can be challenging. Some systems are designed primarily for content management. Others combine CMS functions with platforms originally intended for blogging or eCommerce. Here is a guide to help you choose the platform that’s right for your business needs.
Types of CMS Platforms
CMS platforms can be classified into several major categories:
- Full-fledged CMS platforms primarily designed for content management purposes
- Blogging platforms with limited CMS features
- eCommerce platforms with limited CMS features
- Custom-designed CMS platforms built from scratch
Let’s take a look at the general features of each of these categories before comparing some popular individual platforms.
Some CMS platforms were originally designed for content management purposes and primarily serve that function. These platforms focus at automating tasks such as:
- Indexing, searching, and retrieving information
- Reformatting scanned and electronic documents into HTML or PDF format
- Managing revision of content that has already been published
- Formatting content consistently with brand guidelines by using templates or wizards
Along with these core CMS tasks, many platforms include additional features and add-ons that provide additional functionality. Popular supplemental features include security permissions, SEO tools, help page support, and user comment capability.
Blogging Platforms with CMS Features
Some popular tools used for CMS are actually blogging platforms that have limited CMS features. Blogs were originally designed as “weblogs” to organize posts in chronological order. As blogs grew in popularity, some acquired additional CMS-style functionality for indexing and retrieving posts and performing other functions. However, blogging platforms generally provide a more limited range of CMS functions than true CMS platforms. Additionally, they lack the robust security features available to enterprise-quality CMS platforms.
eCommerce Platforms with CMS Features
eCommerce platforms serve primarily to help companies manage online marketing and sales. To perform this task, some eCommerce platforms include limited CMS features for purposes such as organizing inventory and helping customers search for products. eCommerce platforms typically lack the full range of CMS features supported by full CMS platforms, but they often have stronger security features than blogging platforms with CMS features.
Customized CMS Platforms
In addition to using popular CMS, blogging, or eCommerce platforms for CMS, companies may also elect to build their own customized CMS platforms from scratch by using an open-source language or proprietary software tool. This can allow a business to build a CMS platform with customized features specifically designed to serve the company’s business goals. However, this option requires more expertise, time, and expense than using an existing platform.
Individual Platform Pros and Cons
Today’s most popular CMS platforms generally fall into one of the categories outlined above. Now let’s compare some of the most widely-used platforms and consider the pros and cons of each for business applications.
WordPress: A Blogging Platform with CMS Features
Today’s most popular CMS tool is not actually a CMS platform, but a blogging platform with CMS features. WordPress, which comes in both consumer and commercial varieties, is an open-source blogging platform. It was originally designed specifically for blogging, but as it gained popularity, developers began extending its functionality to include certain CMS features and eCommerce features. Basic CMS features of WordPress include the ability for users to add, update, and index content. Customized scripts and plug-ins can be used to add advanced features to WordPress.
While this may serve the needs of some users, for companies seeking an enterprise-quality CMS, WordPress suffers various limitations:
- Advanced WordPress functionality depends on third-party plug-ins, which are targeted by hackers and highly vulnerable from a security standpoint
- WordPress also falls short on security because it lacks advanced permissions management features available on full-fledged CMS platforms
- Dependency on plug-ins for advanced functionality makes WordPress site design and maintenance unwieldy
- WordPress tech support depends on community forums rather than a dedicated support team
- WordPress isn’t designed as a “headless” CMS where backend content management can be neatly separated from public presentation for user-friendly display on all devices
- WordPress isn’t designed to support content displayed on multiple portals
For these and other reasons, we generally don’t recommend WordPress as a platform for companies with sophisticated CMS needs. However, WordPress can be a useful platform for some companies with very basic needs.
Wix: A Website Builder with Limited CMS Features
Wix, designed to make it easy for small businesses to build simple websites, has grown in popularity, and many companies use it as a CMS platform. However, despite this, Wix is a web design tool, not a CMS tool.
Wix includes very basic CMS capabilities, such as the ability to organize posts by categories, search for content, and add multiple writers. But beyond this, Wix lacks most advanced CMS features. Additionally, it has other limitations that make it unsuitable as an enterprise CMS platform. These include extra fees if you want to host your own site without Wix branding, limited design flexibility, and inability to easily transfer your site to another platform.
Squarespace: Another Website Builder with CMS Added
Squarespace, a leading competitor of Wix, is another website builder with very limited CMS features. Like Wix, it only includes very basic CMS features such as organization by categories and tags and support for multiple writers with roles and permissions. It lacks most other advanced CMS features. Additionally, it offers more design flexibility than Wix, but if you want extra functionality, it only supports a very limited range of plug-ins.
Joomla: An Open-source CMS Tool
Unlike the other platforms reviewed so far, Joomla is designed specifically for CMS. Its range of CMS features include:
- Nesting for categories, so you can organize your content into as many subcategories as you need
- Capability to create as many menu and menu items as you want, including menu hierarchies and nests distinct from the structure of your content
- Ability to segregate administrative content organization from how content is organized for site visitors
- Ability to archive content for administrative viewing only while hiding it from public viewers
- Options for controlling which content displays on top to visitors
- Security authentication for users
- Granular access control, including customized access permissions levels and ability to assign user groups to access levels
This list illustrates how a full-fledged CMS platform can offer more options to customize how you manage content than another type of platform with CMS features. Whether or not you require this degree of customization depends on the needs of your organization and your site.
Shopify: An eCommerce Platform with CMS Features
Shopify, designed to make it easy to set up an eCommerce site, includes a CMS feature specifically geared towards selling products online. Shopify CMS features include:
- Ability to group products into collections with common features, making it easier for customers to browse related products
- Options for grouping products into multiple collections for niche marketing
- Manual and automated collection management features, making it simple to change collection designations for individual items or for whole groups of items
- Capability to add a blog to your eCommerce site to support your marketing efforts
- Option to link to an external blog
In addition to these CMS features, Shopify includes strong eCommerce features, including robust security protections. These qualities make Shopify a good platform for companies who need CMS mainly for eCommerce purposes, or who wish to integrate an eCommerce site with a blog.
Drupal: Another Open-source CMS Tool
Like Joomla, Drupal is a popular open-source platform designed specifically for CMS. Drupal’s outstanding CMS features include:
- A flexible content architecture that allows you to organize and display content in virtually any form
- Content authoring and editing tools that make it easy to publish content
- Support for multiple authors
- Customizable writing, editing, and publishing workflows
- Ability to segregate content management from content delivery so that content displays differently for users on different devices
- Authentication tools
- Customizable security permissions
- Support for multi-site management
These features make Drupal popular for enterprise users with advanced CMS needs.
Magento: An Open-source eCommerce Platform with CMS Features
Like Shopify, Magento is an eCommerce platform that has supporting CMS features. These include:
- A content management CMS page tool which makes it easy to create, format, and publish any type of content
- CMS page hierarchy options to organize pages and navigational features
- CMS blocks which allow you to display content in widgets anywhere on a page
- Catalog management features for organizing products into categories
- Catalog search tools to make it easy for customers to find products
- Store management features for efficient updating of items such as product descriptions, prices, and inventory counts
- Customer management tools
- Order management tools
- Option to add a blog through third-party extensions
These features make Magento a powerful platform for eCommerce CMS needs. Magento differs from Shopify in being an open-source tool. This makes it more flexible, but also places more burden for support, security, and PCI compliance on the end user’s IT team.
concrete5 (C5): A Versatile, user-friendly Open-source CMS Alternative
A CMS alternative designed to be user-friendly is concrete5, or C5. C5 has some unique features that make it stand out from other CMS platforms:
- Designed for users with minimal technical skill for quick and easy content publishing
- In contrast to most CMS tools that publish and edit through a backend interface, C5 lets you edit content directly on the page
- Ability to create different types of content, including multimedia content
- Customization for content category topics via a pages and themes attributes feature
- Option to add a customizable blog to your C5 site
- Category support for blogs
- Native sitemap features that don’t require plug-ins
- Plug-ins that extend functionality are provided through a built-in marketplace supervised by C5 for quality control and security
- Customizable access control user and permissions features
- Ability to manage workflow so only authorized users can access content
- eCommerce functionality capability via add-ons
These features combine CMS, blog, and eCommerce functionality into a user-friendly package.
Select the Platform That Suits Your Needs
Each of the platforms reviewed above has its own pros and cons. Blogging platforms such as WordPress may work for users who only have very basic CMS needs and minimal security concerns. For professional eCommerce sites or for enterprise-level CMS customization, you will more likely want an eCommerce solution with CMS features such as Shopify or Magento or a full-fledged CMS solution such as concrete5, Joomla, or Drupal. Select the platform that best meets your company’s business goals, technical expertise, and budget. If you need help selecting the right platform, schedule a free consultation with our professional web design experts who can help you sort through your options.