WordPress is hands-down the most popular content management system in the world. But it remains just the tip of the CMS iceberg. There are hundreds of alternatives, each designed with a different focus and philosophy. Without further ado, let’s take a look at five content management systems I think are suitable WordPress alternatives for blogs and more complex websites.
Ghost is a beautiful open-source Node.js blogging application. Unlike WordPress, the Ghost project has no pretensions to building a complete content management solution, instead focusing on the creation of an excellent blogging platform.
Ghost has one of the most beautiful and functional writing and publishing interfaces, providing an elegant Markdown editor with a side-by-side preview of the formatted page.
Ghost is an excellent choice for writers and bloggers who would rather spend their time creating and editing content than fiddling with their website.
ProcessWire is a powerful open-source content management system. Like Ghost, ProcessWire aims for simplicity and an intuitive user experience, but unlike Ghost, it’s a true content management system.
ProcessWire is PHP-based; if you have some familiarity with PHP or WordPress’ internals, building custom sites with ProcessWire shouldn’t be a problem. ProcessWire is engineered to offer a great experience for both developers and ordinary users — something that’s difficult to pull off as well as ProcessWire has.
ProcessWire is a great option for building client sites. Developers can hand sites over to their clients in the confidence that non-technical users will have no trouble managing the site and using the interface.
Unlike ProcessWire and Ghost, Joomla! is almost — but not quite — as old as WordPress. Joomla! is a traditional PHP-based content management system which is particularly good at supporting complex sites with large numbers of pages.
Although not as popular as WordPress, around 3% of the top million sites run on Joomla! and it’s a preferred solution for large corporate sites and intranets.
Joomla! is a modular content management system with a large extension ecosystem. It’s possible to build almost any type of site with Joomla!, including social media networks, eCommerce stores, small business websites, magazines, and blogs. However, if all you want is a blog, Joomla! is probably overkill and one of the alternatives we’ve looked at would be more suitable.
Contrary to the other content management systems I’ve suggested, Craft CMS isn’t an open source project — you have to pay to use it. However, CraftCMS is so well-designed for both developers and users that the cost is often worth the time saved in development and support.
Craft CMS’ headline feature is Matrix, a powerful field type that allows for the building of arbitrarily complex web pages from simple units.
CraftCMS is a modern PHP content management system, but most developers won’t have to tangle with PHP to build a site — themes are written in standard web languages like HTML and CSS, alongside the Twig template language.
Perch is a little different to the other CMS’s we’re checking out today. Perch is a CMS without themes — instead it can be used to bring CMS features to existing designs. It does not dictate what the front-end looks like or how it’s built.
As such, Perch is not the best choice for non-technical users looking for simple website solutions, but it’s an excellent choice for developers who want to build user-friendly sites for their clients with standard web languages.
Perch isn’t free, but it’s worth considering if you regularly build website for clients and don’t need all the bells and whistles that a CMS like Craft or Joomla! provides.
I’ve mentioned five of my favorite content management systems, but they constitute a tiny fraction of the CMS world. If — as is inevitable — I’ve missed your favorite from the list, give it a shout out in the comments.