Tired of having to call up a developer every time you need to make a quick website update? Feeling like you need to be a top coder to even touch your website is frustrating. But the good news is that some of the best CMS platforms around are ultra-intuitive and easy even for a beginner to find their way around.
The key is to choose the best CMS for your use case. Whether you’re showing off your photography portfolio or opening an online shop, there’s a CMS for you. Here we’re breaking down what makes a great CMS and our top 10 options.
What makes a great CMS?
So how do you know if a CMS is right for your site? Here are the key features to look out for:
Customizable: You want to stand out for all the right reasons––with an on-brand site that shows off your business to its full potential. Look out for lots of customizable templates and themes. Alternatively, look for a platform that makes it easy to design a website from scratch.
Easy to use: Unless you plan on hiring a developer, you may want an intuitive and simple-to-use CMS interface. Drag-and-drop editors and content block systems make it easier for the whole team.
Secure: CMS security needs to be a top priority. After all, you don’t want hackers or glitches ruining your new site. Look for different user permission options and varying levels of access. Your chosen CMS should also have a dedicated security team to solve any issues.
Integrations: A CMS that integrates with your tech stack makes life easier. Make a list of all those apps your business relies on and ensure your CMS integrates with them.
Solid customer support: Sometimes it can feel impossible to sort out that glitch. Available customer support means you won’t waste time trying to fix it alone.
10 best CMS platforms in 2021
Now you know what to look for in a CMS, here are our 10 best CMS options.
1. WordPress [For an open-source CMS]
If there’s one CMS on this list you’ve heard of, it’s likely WordPress. Launched in 2013, it now powers about 42% of websites on the internet.
The new and easy-to-use block editor is intuitive enough for beginners to find their way around. Drag-and-drop options make it easy to construct a website from scratch—you don’t need to have technical coding skills or to hire a professional to achieve a great-looking website.
The best thing about WordPress is that it comes with a selection of pre-made and third-party themes to customize your website. You can build pretty much any kind of website with the CMS whether that’s a membership site, online store, or blog.
WordPress is also well set up for managing and improving your site’s SEO. It’s easy to build SEO-friendly URLs, tags, and categories for your posts. You can also install SEO plugins like RankMath to help ensure your content is SEO optimized.
Pricing: WordPress is free but you’ll need a domain name ($9 – $15/year) and a hosting account with a web host that can run WordPress (around $7.99/month).
2. HubSpot [For a combined CMS and CRM]
HubSpot is a fully integrated Content Management and Customer Relationship Management system. It’s best for business owners and marketers looking for an all-in-one solution. HubSpot comes with tons of marketing automation, operations, service, and sales tools.
The ultra-simple to use website builder is easy enough for beginners to use. A drag-and-drop editor, built-in SEO tools, and contact attribution all make it straightforward to build and optimize web content.
Pre-built themes make it easy to set up your site. Optional custom development also means you don’t need to worry about mismatching designs, logos, or navigation menus.
Solid contact attribution helps you analyze the impact of your site. You can dig into which content types, sources, and campaigns are pushing the most leads.
Adaptive testing allows you to continually optimize your website. Choose up to 5 variations of a web page, and HubSpot will track and serve up the best performing option.
HubSpot CMS integrates with their email marketing tool and their sales CRM, making it much easier to streamline your workflows.
The main limitation worth considering is that HubSpot isn’t suitable for ecommerce websites. However, it offers integrations with WooCommerce and WordPress.
Pricing: The $45/month Starter plan allows you to remove HubSpot branding and have up to 1,000 contacts. The Professional plan is $800/month, comes with more integrations and reports, and allows up to 2,000 contacts. Finally, the Enterprise plan allows more advanced reporting and team management and allows up to 10,000 contacts.
3. Wix [Best for beginners]
Wix is a great CMS for beginners looking to create a slick-looking website quickly.
The intuitive drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to create customized web pages in no time. Simply select any part of the page and start editing.
There are also 500+ website templates to choose from, making it easy to give your site a slick and professional design from the get-go. All the templates are also fully responsive, so look great on both mobile and desktop.
The Wix App Market enables you to add lots of apps to your site to give it new features. For instance, there’s a Privy integration to enable email marketing, pop-up, and SMS automation. There’s also Simple Affiliate to make influencer and affiliate collaborations easier.
The main issue with Wix is that once you choose a layout you can’t switch to another one. So, you may get stuck with something that’s not right for your business.
Although Wix is simple to understand, it doesn’t have the breadth of features like WordPress or WooCommerce. But if you’re looking to display a simple online portfolio, Wix could be a great choice.
On the other hand, if you’d like to build a more complex site with multiple navigations, you’ll probably find yourself migrating to another CMS.
Pricing: If you don’t mind a Wix-branded domain name and ads running on your site, Wix is free. Paid plans enable custom domains, ad removal, support, and integrations. The Combo plan is $14/month and the Unlimited plan (recommended for freelancers) is $18/month.
4. TYPO3 [Best for building enterprise platforms]
TYPO3 is a free open-source CMS with a huge range of customizable features. It’s best for advanced programmers who are looking for a comprehensive application with multiple functionalities. As such, it’s not for beginners and will take some time investment to get the most out of it.
As an enterprise CMS, it’s useful for company intranets (internal sites) as well as websites.
There are over 6,000 applications and extensions you can add to your site to include new features. There are no pre-built themes or templates, so unless you have a high level of technical expertise, you’ll need to hire a programmer to build one for you.
TYPO3 has top-level language management enabling you to build out your site in multiple languages in just one installation.
Smart content management allows you to create and deliver across digital channels, from content planning and modeling to smart authoring workflows.
Community-backed, global coders, programmers, and editors keep TYPO3 going. This means when you download the CMS, you have access to a network of contributors who can provide technical support.
5. Shopify [Best for online retailers]
Shopify is an all-in-one hosted CMS platform best for retailers looking to open an online shop. Easy to get started, Shopify is another CMS with a simple drag-and-drop interface.
Plus, you won’t need to buy hosting, manage updates or backups or install any software—Shopify handles all of these technical elements for you.
With real-life website examples from coffee stores to rug shops, Shopify has a library of visual templates and themes to give you inspiration on how to brand your shop.
With Shopify, you can add loads of apps and integrations to your store too. Link Shopify to your email marketing tools, conversion optimization platforms, and payment apps.
You can accept credit and debit cards through Shopify’s integrated payment system, Shopify Payments. PayPal is also one of Shopify’s default payment providers. There’s support for in-store sales, which is great for if you have a brick and mortar store as well as an online one.
The main downside is that your costs could end up quite high since Shopify charges extra for each additional third-party app.
Pricing: Their Basic plan is best for new ecommerce businesses with occasional in-person sales. It includes up to 2 staff accounts and 4 inventory locations. The Shopify plan is $79/month and includes up to 5 staff accounts and 5 inventory locations. The Advanced plan is $299/month and allows up to 15 accounts with 8 inventory locations.
6. Webflow [Best for designers]
Webflow is a no-code CMS platform for designers looking to create visual and custom-made sites on a canvas. Choose to drag in unstyled HTML elements for total control or use pre-built pieces for more complicated elements like sliders, tabs, and background videos.
The Webflow editor is intuitive and visually pleasing— unlike the messy appearance that more complex CMS platforms like WordPress sometimes have.
Adding new content is as simple as filling in a text box. You can then see new content directly on the page to see how it will look when live. Responsive design makes it easy to preview and adjust layouts for mobile and desktop devices too.
Webflow also makes SEO pretty straightforward. There’s no need for a plugin, instead, the Webflow editor handles all SEO. From meta descriptions to URLs, to Open Graph Settings, it’s easy to optimize every page of your site for search.
Collaboration tools make it easy to track who’s working on what.
Pricing: It’s free to start building, but you’ll need a plan to go live. The Basic plan is $15/month and is best for a simple site that doesn’t need a CMS. The CMS plan is $20/month and is best for blogs or other content-focused sites. For a higher traffic marketing site or blog, you can try the Business plan at $45/month.
7. Joomla [Best for complex sites]
Joomla is another free open-source CMS platform great for professionals looking for high levels of customizability and extensions. While it’s free to use, you’ll need to purchase hosting and a domain name.
Given all the different templates and extensions, Joomla is a top option if you need to build something ultra-unique and complicated. Equally, if you don’t want to do any coding, you can still edit your content. You can also use Joomla to build and run an ecommerce store with its extensions.
Since it’s open-source and open to contribution, users will find that there’s plenty of community support for using the CMS.
Pricing: Free, although you’ll need to purchase a domain name and web hosting that supports Joomla.
8. Drupal [Best for security]
Drupal is another top option for a developer. Again, as an open-source CMS platform, it’s great for building a highly customized site that needs to handle plenty of data.
You can choose from a library of modules (like plugins) to customize your site and improve its experience.
If you prefer to customize your site’s content according to different audience segments, Drupal is a top choice. Use the CMS to draw from geolocation, browser history, and device type to build a more complete picture of who they are and what they’re looking for. That way you can display relevant case study examples, recommended products, or targeted marketing messages.
With more than 1,000,000 global contributors, Drupal is known as one of the most stable and secure CMS platforms. Drupal also has a strict community code review process and strong coding standards.
Pricing: Free. Again you’ll need to purchase a domain name and web hosting that supports Drupal.
9. Magento [Best for extensions]
Created by the software company Adobe, Magento is a powerful open-source ecommerce CMS platform.
The drag-and-drop content editor makes it easy to create personalized content and shopping experiences without needing developer support. Choose from multiple responsive themes and quickly customize your commerce experience with thousands of extensions in the marketplace.
There are lots of built-in payment gateway options—choose from PayPal, Stripe, cash on delivery, and bank transfer among others. Because Magento can handle lots of products and customers, it enables your site to grow without slowing it down.
Solid business insights enable you to define your metrics and the data you’re using. Easily track metrics like your average order value and customer lifetime value with eye-catching visuals.
Pricing: The open-source software is free. But if you want the platform to take care of the backend for you and offer support, it’s worth noting that Magento is known for being one of the pricier CMS platforms. There are no prices listed on the site, but plans reportedly start at around $2,000/month.
10. Storyblok [Easy to use headless CMS]
Storyblok is a popular headless CMS. What’s a headless CMS? A headless CMS means you can manage all your content on the backend only, allowing you to use your content anywhere from a website to a mobile app.
Content blocks make it easy for designers to create components like features sections, grids, and teasers which they can reuse later with fresh content.
Great for content-driven sites like blogs, Storyblok allows you to set up your own content staging workflow. Define several workflow stages of your content and then publish approved changes. That way there won’t be any surprises when you hit publish.
Storyblok also transforms, optimizes, and caches your images in a CDN for faster sites and apps.
Pricing: It’s free for 1 user or $7/user/month for more features like a responsive preview and an activity log.
AppSumo’s verdict: best CMS in 2021
The best CMS comes down to your individual use case. An established ecommerce business will have different needs from a photographer looking to display their portfolio. It’s worth thinking carefully about the right CMS for your site before you make a decision. Migrating a CMS, although not impossible, can be complex and time-consuming, so it’s always better to get it right the first time.
Check out each site’s unique features, tools, and uses before choosing. Schedule a demo if you can. This extra step will help you see the CMS in action and whether it’s something you’d want to use.
While you’re choosing the best CMS for you, take a look at the AppSumo Store for some of the best software deals available.