Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a seasoned CEO, a stunning website can be an important marketing tool for your organisation to make its online presence felt. It’s great intellectual property and the face of your organisation that’s likely to be viewed by millions around the world. Of course, many businesses outsource the creation, management and maintenance of their websites, simply because it’s not their core competence and best left to professionals.
CMS (Content Management System) platforms bridge this gap as it’s not necessary to have an advanced knowledge of coding in order to manage and maintain a great website. However, unless you go for an off-the-shelf design, it’s often the case that you will still need the support of a web design specialist to carry out the initial design and build of your website. There are plenty of freelancers and agencies available, but not so many who specialise in open source. One of my personal favourites is web design agency Opace, who are a family based business that specialise in open source web design and several of the CMS platforms mentioned below. For readers in other locations, a simple Google search for any of the platforms below should return a specialist in your area. Just be sure to thoroughly research their portfolio and customer reviews.
So, which are the main open source CMS options available?
Below, we’ll take a look at the top 10 open source CMS platforms that any business can use to have a stunning website.
One of the most popular open source CMS platforms available and my number one choice for web development is WordPress. The WordPress framework is easy to download and install onto a domain and most leading web hosting services provide the option as a standard feature. Today WordPress powers 32.1% of all websites across the world and has a leading market share of 59.5% of all CMS powered websites. The platform is used to publish approximately 41.7 million new posts each month, making it by far the most popular CMS platform across the globe.
WordPress may soon be available in every language across the world and is currently available in 62 languages. The platform is an easy learning curve for most users, while advanced features require a deeper understanding of web development. However, WordPress boasts of an impressive library of 44,622 plug-ins for almost every functionality that you can imagine.
The framework is coded using PHP, which allows tremendous freedom, flexibility and speed in running and maintaining a dynamic website. Advanced WordPress developers usually have a good knowledge of coding in PHP and can build unique websites for WordPress from the ground up without the use of popular templates.
The second most popular open source CMS web development platform in the pecking order is Joomla. The platform has also been developed using PHP, and both platforms are supported by hundreds of free tutorials available on YouTube for self-learners. Just like WordPress, Joomla also has thousands of free themes available for download on the internet, along with modules that can be easily integrated to create a powerful and dynamic CMS driven website. However, while WordPress has the lion’s share in the CMS market, Joomla comes in second with only 3.1% of users opting for the platform as of October 2018. This is probably due to the fact that Joomla has a much steeper learning curve than WordPress and websites take longer to build using the platform. In spite of this, Joomla boasts of an impressive clientele that includes Harvard University, IKEA, Holiday Inn and LINUX.
Drupal is very similar to Joomla and WordPress, and all three open source CMS platforms use PHP driven frameworks that are licensed under GPL. MySQL drives their databases, and all three have different modules, plug-ins, bundles and themes which make them a popular choice for both DIY web developers as well as seasoned professionals. Drupal comes in close on the heels of Joomla with a 2.0% market share as of October 2018. Drupal has been around for a while now, with this initial release dating back to January 2000. However, its popularity has waned since 2011. A recent survey of the top 1 million websites across the world by viewership, Drupal had a 5% market share, when compared to Joomla, which had a 3% market share.
The other big player in the open source e-commerce CMS category is Magento. Magento entered late into the market in 2008 but grew hugely in popularity empowering retailers and brands with their agile and user-friendly e-commerce solutions. Magento has several extensions that include payments, shipping, CRM as well as taxes. The platform is SEO friendly and has themes that support every kind of business. According to a survey done in 2017, Magento expanded hugely in a year’s time by adding more than 48,000 websites into its fold. Since its release in 2008, Magento enjoyed more than 5 million downloads by December 2014. A study that tracked the usage of CMS platforms for e-commerce websites found that Magento enjoys a 28% market share in this category. The only other player to match this number was the e-commerce application – Woocommerce.
Are there any popular non-open source platforms available?
Shopify focuses on e-commerce and was released in 2006 offering users easy functionalities to create their own online stores. The platform has beautiful storefront themes and an affordable pricing scheme that starts at $29 a month for businesses. It integrates with all the top payment service providers and has a seamless workflow through which users can purchase a product, securely check out and avail of shipping options. Shopify rose in popularity since June 2012 and won an award for the most popular hosted solution web service in the top hundred thousand websites category.
The brainchild of CEO Avishai Abrahami, Wix is a CMS platform that allows the creation of HTML 5 websites for desktop and mobiles using a drag-and-drop method. Its functionality is limited as the system doesn’t allow too many modifications. However, customers who want to get their site up and running quickly can benefit out of their WYSIWYG model. Wix enjoys a 1% market share in the CMS category and is slowly growing in popularity. Wix is gaining ground on the back of an aggressive advertising campaign that has seen the number is growing to approximately 1.23 million subscribers.
Yet another player leaning towards e-commerce solutions is Weebly. It is free to use for basic users and charges only $4 a month when linked to a domain. E-commerce packages start at $8 a month. Wix and Weebly have grown their market share based on the simplicity of use. All that a user needs to do is select a theme that they like and drag-and-drop modules to create their website. There is no programming or coding required. Both services are well optimised for SEO and sites built on these platforms can be easily found by the Google search engine. According to Datanyze, 486,011 websites are powered by Weebly, ranking them 3 out of 70 of similar website building services analysed by the site.
GoCentral is a website building service launched by domain and hosting giant, Godaddy. It is a somewhat limited website building service that gets a site up and running quickly when you purchase a domain from them. The websites you can build using the service are responsive and mobile friendly, although mobile sites are not included with an entry-level plan. Comparably priced against Wix and Squarespace, GoCentral offers a $20 per month package for e-commerce stores, while Wix and Square space are priced at $17 and $18 per month, respectively.
Blogger is perhaps one of the oldest blog publishing services born in 1999. It was originally written in Python, a back-end programming language. Blogger is now owned by Google and customers can build an entire website using the service. According to BuiltWith, there are 388,893 live websites using blogger. Although its popularity has slowly waned over the years, blogger is still a force to reckon with and is a popular choice for many.
Programming languages used in coding bespoke business websites
As e-commerce and CMS platforms have evolved, getting a website up-and-running for an online store is relatively easy. With a few plugins and modules, you can set up of a business website or online store is quite easily. However, while technology has brought simplicity and user-friendliness into the hands of customers, actually coding and programming a CMS website requires in-depth knowledge of programming languages. Many businesses who want a unique look and feel for their website would hire a specialist to design and develop their website as programming may be needed.
2. Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails is an excellent programming language for the backend and supports e-commerce sites that have heavily customised online stores and huge volumes of purchases and traffic.
The most widely used language for CMS development is PHP. Platforms like WordPress and Magento are completely built on PHP, and an advanced developer using these platforms would have in-depth knowledge of the language in order to make customisations on behalf of the client.
All in all, the popularity of CMS-driven platforms continue to grow exponentially. Experts believe that half of all websites in the world are already run by some form of CMS platform. CEOs, therefore, need to understand the way the market is moving and make a decision to switch to CMS platforms, if one isn’t already in place. We hope that this article has been a good introduction to the most popular open source CMS platforms available and helps you choose the right web solution for your company’s website.
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