The best CMS (content management systems) platforms available today commonly began as blogging platforms, such as Wordpress, and served as an early form of website builder.
This is because content plays a major role in the journey of building your online presence and brand, and blogs were an accessible way to use it. Without it, you're going to struggle in today’s ruthless business world. In fact, digital marketing is arguably one of the most important areas of commerce, although it’s often neglected.
To maximize your operation's potential, you need a reliable content management system (CMS). You’ll find plenty of them out there, and they all allow you to create and manage your own content, website and blogs. But some are more effective than others - and that's where we can help.
WordPress has become an especially popular CMS, and there are lots of Wordpress themes available that are free or paid for, ensuring you can have a professional-looking web design for your site without having to hire a freelance designer.
Also note that there are some niche platforms available, such as CMS for non-profits and online learning in particular.
We've compared these CMS on various points, from the simplicity of their user interface and ease of setup to their customizability and security. We also evaluated their collaboration features, documentation, and pricing, among other aspects. In this article, we’ll highlight the best systems, which cater for different needs and budgets.
We've also featured the best website monitoring service.
The best CMS of 2023 in full:
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If there’s one CMS most people have heard of, it’s WordPress. The platform was launched in 2003 and has become a major part of the internet since. Based on PHP and MySQL, it provides you with tools to create a feature-packed website or blog using written content, videos, images and more.
You also have the ability to install a mixture of pre-made and third-party themes to personalize your website. They cater for all sorts of industries, from retail to hospitality. Although you can download the software for free from Wordpress.org and install it on your server, there’s also the option to get a domain and hosting with WordPress. In addition, you have WordPress native apps at your disposal and since recently Block Editor is now supported on mobile devices.
The business plan gives you full access to the theme store, unlimited storage space and a custom domain. That’s not a bad investment if you want to create a website and maintain it going forward.
Read our full WordPress review.
Squarespace is another popular CMS platform (largely thanks to its omnipresent podcast advertising!), and it started out at around the same time as WordPress. The main difference is that it isn’t open-source – so you can’t download the software and install it on your own server.
Instead, it’s an integrated website builder, blogging platform and hosting service. The premise is that you sign up for a subscription and Squarespace makes it easy to build a website from scratch, which is obviously handy if you don’t have any previous web development experience, or if you need to get a site up and running in a short space of time. Like WordPress, you can install different themes and build a website using text, images and videos.
There’s also a commerce platform available. It lets you build and manage your own online store, without having to pay a hefty sum for a tech pro to do it for you. Again, there’s the option to go for a business-ready package to get your own domain, unlimited bandwidth and storage, SSL security, Zapier - an automation tool, and Google AdWords credit.
Read our full Squarespace review.
One of the main attractions of content management systems is that they’re often easy to set up and use. If you’re running a business, you’ll want to have a website to promote your products and services, but you may not have the technical know-how to build one yourself.
The java-based Magnolia CMS is targeted specifically at companies that need websites which can do pretty much everything. It sports a hub integrating areas such as e-commerce, analytics, marketing automation, social media, CRM and ERP. The beauty here is that you can add these functions as time goes on and your business develops.
Security is at the heart of the system, too, as it employs an architecture that separates your website’s public and private elements to help combat attacks. You can even define what users and admins are able to do, so you’ll always know who can write, edit, view and publish certain content. Prices are tailored to business needs.
Similar to WordPress, Weebly may well be a name that you’re familiar with. It’s an easy-to-use content management system that lets you set up a simple website within a matter of minutes. The platform uses a drag-and-drop format, so you can add features and media to your website easily. And by the same token, you can swiftly remove anything whenever you want.
There are a load of pricing options to choose from, all based on different business and personal needs. After the basic, free option, the cheapest paid plan provides you with unlimited storage, a domain name and Google Ads credit. There is a small business option, and for that, you get all the usual features, as well as handy tools like password protection and tax calculators.
Read our full Weebly review.
Wix is a cloud-based web development platform which lets you create HTML5 and mobile-optimized websites easily.
The platform offers a drag-and-drop system, and you can add more functionality by installing plugins. Wix caters for elements including email marketing, e-commerce, contact forms and community forums. As is normal for CMS platforms, you have the option to remove adverts, use your own domain name and get increased bandwidth by going for a premium plan. In February, Wix Turbo was released, which noticeably increases the performance and speed of websites.
If you’re a small business, you can select the Business Basic plan which the company says it's best for small businesses, and you benefit from uncapped bandwidth, generous storage, a free domain, a custom favicon, an online store builder and ad vouchers.
Read our full Wix review.
Content management systems are great for publishing content online, obviously enough, but they’re also gold dust when it comes to collaborating on content across teams. Bynder is a marketing platform that lets brands create, find, use and work on content easily.
It provides a plethora of high-quality workflows to help brand managers, marketers and editors produce, approve and circulate new marketing content. There’s also the ability to create a shareable style guide so all content is consistent and matches the company’s brand image.
While it sports some handy features, Bynder is a lot more expensive than other offerings, although you can try out the service with the 14-day trial. You'll need to contact the company for exact pricing, but you should expect to pay anything from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Although very expensive by comparison to others listed here, the software is designed to take a good deal of strain off your marketing budget by simplifying many mundane and time-consuming tasks.
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What is a CMS?
A CMS (content management system), is a software platform for users to create and manage a website without the use of coding.
Thanks to CMS, users can swiftly setup websites in minutes without requiring any technical knowledge about the workings of a site.
How to choose the best CMS for you?
When choosing the best CMS for yourself, start with evaluating the platform's ease of use. If you and your team are completely new to CMS, you'll want to choose a simple platform that'll make it a breeze to manage daily tasks.
Next, you'll want to consider the platform's customizability. Generally, content management platforms become more complex if they offer greater customizability. But if you're planning to scale, then a highly customizable website will be useful.
You could also assess different CMS based on the industry you're in, and what most of your competitors are using.
Lastly, you'll want to consider the platform's pricing plan and other hidden costs (for maintenance, security, etc.).
The best CMS: How we test
We've tested the best CMS across multiple factors, like their ease of setup, user interface, documentation, and customizability.
We looked at their security features, scalability options, themes, extensions, and tools. We evaluated what type of users the different content management platforms would be best suited for and their collaboration features.
We also checked their pricing plans and whether there were free trials, among other things.
Read how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).