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Now that everyone is online, your website plays an important role to gain a competitive edge.
Did you know that 85% of consumers use the Internet to find a local business , and 81% of shoppers research a business online before visiting a physical store or making a purchase?
Imagine if people can’t find your business on the web!
Having a website helps promote your business to a larger market so you can have an edge over your competitors.
It’s your 24/7 virtual store and customer service.
Your brick and mortar business may not be enough to serve your customers and prospects.
Creating a website doesn’t cost you much time, effort and money these days – thanks to content management systems (CMS), software that manages and publishes your digital content on the web. It makes managing your website hassle-free.
You must have heard about WordPress, for good reasons, but there are several other CMS platforms in the market right now that can help you build your website.
Yes, you can even create your website from scratch but it is a painstaking, time-consuming task which we don’t recommend.
That said, here are the top five CMS we think are functional and versatile regardless of the type of business you have.
WordPress is by far the most popular CMS as it powers 30% of the web. Just don’t get confused between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Despite sharing the same name, the two are different platforms. Both do use the same core software, though.
The difference is that WordPress.com is a blogging platform, hosted by WordPress on their servers, with more limitations and less flexibility, while WordPress.org is the open source software that anyone can download and use to create their website. As you may have surmised, WordPress.org is the one we are taking a closer look at here.
Like most open source CMS platforms, WordPress is free and it’s highly customisable – which means you have complete control of all the features in your website. You can use pre-made themes, plugins and templates to style your website the way you want it and to fit your visitors’ needs. Or, you can hire a developer to create personalised features for your website.
Also, you can utilise third-party applications.
WordPress happens to be quite user-friendly as well, which is why it is one of the fastest growing CMS solutions. And since it is self-hosted (meaning you download and install WordPress on your own hosting server), you also get to pick the hosting partner of your choice.
WordPress has a massive library of plugins and widgets to choose from but not all of them are secured and up-to-date. It’s best to always read reviews. You will have to keep in mind that the more plugins you install, the more bloated your database is going to be and it will affect your website’s load time. Some pre-made themes are known to cause slow load times too.
Always uninstall unnecessary plugins.
The WordPress.org CMS is also regularly updated (which can be seen as a pro), along with regular updates to themes, plugins etc, so it does require regular attention to ensure your site is up to date and functioning as it should.
“Setting and forgetting” a WordPress website leaves you open to performance and potentially security issues, as out-of-date websites can be easier to hack into.
Drupal is a security-focused CMS software that is designed to handle complex website projects and to support massive traffic.
It has an extensible framework, supporting all types of website personalisation. Its third-party integrations include Yoast, Google, MailChimp, Shopify and popular social media channels.
Preferred by most government organisations (such as the Prime Minister of Australia’s website, USA’s The White House, UK’s NS&I, and Canadian Tourism Commission) to host their websites, Drupal is notable for being the most secure CMS software. It remains a favourite for experienced developers because it’s scalable and customisable to support enterprise-grade contents and data repositories. If you want to produce an advanced website, Drupal is the top choice.
Drupal has quite a steep learning curve. You may want to think twice before using this if you are not a developer. In fact, installing it can be quite a challenge as it requires some technical expertise. You must be a tech-savvy user in manoeuvring the back end and front end of the website design. Fortunately, the Drupal community is proactive in answering your queries.
Joomla is another free and open source CMS that caters to any type of website.
It has a repository of extensions and templates for easy and versatile website design modifications.
Joomla deploys a WYSIWYG editing interface so you can see how your website design is progressing real time. While not as easy to use as WordPress, it won’t take you long to get the hang of the platform. It has an active community as well where you can ask for advice and tips.
There are also several Joomla extensions available that support e-commerce to simply manage your content and products in one place.
One of the main advantages Joomla has over the other top CMSs is that it allows you to download and install language packs. This allows you to create a multilingual website without the need to install third-party applications.
Joomla’s biggest disadvantage is that unlike WordPress, additional modules and add-ons are hard to find since there is no official site for these. It is also not as flexible and the customisation features are not as huge as WordPress.
Anyone can use SquareSpace.
It’s an all-in-one website building platform with its stunning, well-designed website templates, so you can create your professional web space, online store, or portfolio in no time. It does have advantages over open source CMSs since it does not require any technical coding skills.
As a proprietary CMS, SquareSpace gives you everything you need to make a website. You get a domain and a host for your website (as your website will live on SquareSpace’s hosting server). Of course, you will have to pay a fee for this. A person with basic computer knowledge can easily create a professional-looking website with its drag-and-drop editor and selection of ready-made templates.
SquareSpace’s strength can be its weakness as well. They do have a 14-day free trial but if you want to enjoy more features, its paid plans range from $12 to $40 per month – which is paid annually – so it may get expensive if you’re a business owner who wants your website to look great. Its limited features and pre-made templates may not be ideal for some, and it is not as flexible as WordPress and Joomla.
Like SquareSpace, Wix is a proprietary CMS and is geared towards the needs of less tech-savvy users.
With Wix’s drag-and-drop website builder, you can simply see the best possible end result of your website design in real time. And it has hundreds of website templates for you to choose from. You also get your domain name directly from Wix and they handle the hosting, so you don’t have to worry about security updates. Creating a basic website? You can’t go wrong with Wix.
Because all the elements of your website are hosted on the platform, you don’t have much freedom to modify your website and extend its functionality. Wix does have a free plan, however, you will have to use a Wix domain e.g. username.wixsite.com/siteaddress as opposed to your own custom domain, and there will be Wix-based ads on your website. Additionally, you can’t access all the features. If you want your website to look better you will have to consider upgrading to a premium plan and that can be expensive.
Other popular content management systems (CMS)
Some other content management systems to consider include Shopify which is designed specifically for ecommerce websites (online stores), and Weebly which like some of the other options, offers a range of templates and drag-and-drop editor.
Choosing the best CMS depends on you, your business requirements, and how you want to deliver your products and services to your customers and prospects on the world wide web. Your website must entail how your business is unique and what you can offer.
You should ask yourself the following questions:
- How much can I afford to spend on building and maintaining a website? (From initial set up costs, to ongoing plans, hosting, domain registration etc. Consider the return you expect from your website as well, remember, it’s your 24/7 star employee).
- Is this a short term website to get me started? Or am I investing for the long term?
- If I have to re-develop or move my website in the future, how easy/hard could that be with any particular CMS?
- Do I want any specific features or customisations? Either now or in the future. Or will I be happy with the options available to me within the platform?
- Who will be responsible for managing the website? (Both content and any potential development or customisation. If you’re also planning on growing your team and having others help you with content, you’re going to want a user-friendly CMS).
Many of the proprietary content management systems have online support and live chat where you can ask pre-sales questions, and there are forums available for the open-source CMS options.
It is worthwhile taking the time to do your research and consider exactly what you want from your website.
Regardless of which CMS you choose, ensure that you have useful, clear content, a contact information page and a place for your customers to leave feedback. It’s also vital nowadays that your website is optimised for mobile devices.
And once your website is up and running, it’s time to figure out how you can get traffic to your website.
Need more help planning your website? Check out this post – How to Design a Website: A Complete Guide by Slick Plan