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There are lots of Content Management Systems on the internet and sometimes it might be difficult to choose one of them. Sure, WordPress is leading and Blogspot is following on the second place, but what if you want to have something else? If you are one of the ones who needs an advice, then this article should be perfect for you. Today we take a look at popular CMS all over the web and describe them so that you know which one fits you best. Although I could write about them, I would rather skip WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Blogspot, because everybody knows about them and I do not think they need descriptions.
Expression Engine is one of those CMS that is easy to use. Within few minutes of testing it, you will already know the basic functions and will be able to play with them right away. This CMS is very flexible and creating content should be much more than easy. The templating system shows you immediately the changes you make and the last-generation caching system minimizes the database usage, which means faster loading times not only for you, but also for your visitors. Another advantage Expression Engine offers is the option to embed and run PHP directly in the templates, similar to the widgets from WordPress.
Expression Engine allows you to have multiple sites with just one installation. The caching system I was telling you about earlier keeps the site running fast because it stores database queries in the memory and reduces the database connections when web pages are generated. The license has to be paid only once and ranges from $99 for the “Freelancer” pack to $299 for the largest pack.
Business Catalyst is an Adobe product considered to be very powerful for developers. Basically it is also for content publishing, but has many other features such as e-mail marketing and site analytics. The analytics are maybe one of the most interesting features, thanks to the depth of the information the user gets, such as customer’s actions. The CMS lets you build and manage a customer database (which is feature most of the other CMS lack) and allows you to sell your products online. Unlike many other CMS, Business Catalyst can easily be integrated with PayPal, Google Checkout and other pre-integrated payment gateways.
The main difference between Adobe’s CMS and other ones is that Business Catalyst focuses much more on online businesses than on blogs. If you want to have a blog, then Business Catalyst is not the way to go. However, if you have products you want to sell, you can skip a lot of coding and stress by going with this option, because it is probably the best one out there. You can create a custom HTML/CSS layout, upload it and then integrate the available modules into it - it can’t be easier. Adobe offers five types of monthly licenses for Business Catalyst, ranged between $9 and $79.
For Cushy CMS you don’t have to pay anything, because it comes free of charge. You can, however, go pro for $28 per month, but you have pretty much what you need if you are a beginner in the free version. Cushy is very similar to WordPress in this matter. If you go for the free version you have only very basic features available and will not be able to upload your own logo, change colors, use your domain name, customize the themes and others.
The main advantage of Cushy is that is simple and you do not require PHP, ASP.net or any other programming language to use it. Cushy produces as well standards compliant, search engine friendly content. Another advantage is that the server space is unlimited even with the free version.
Formerly known as TYPOlight, Contao changed its name in June 2010 and is an accessible open source CMS that enhances functionality. There is no CMS in the world that can compare itself with WordPress in terms of plugins and extensions, but Contao does its best efforts with a large database of useful plugins available for everybody. There are hundreds of additional modules which are easy to install and customize and there are also lots of templates available.
The downside of Contao are exactly the custom templates which have to be bought and for which you might need to know some CSS, because they definitely need to be customized to fit your needs. The templates are not great and if you look to create a visual impact but don’t have design and coding knowledge, Contao might not be the best choice.
Radiant CMS is based on Ruby on Rails and has a very active community for support and updates. Radiant focuses on making everything user-friendly for everybody and offers flexible templates which can be customized right after installation. Radiant features a very good and flexible site structure, custom text filters and page caching. It is not full of plugins and modules, but it gets the job done. Moreover, the CMS is free of charge.
SilverStripe is another open-source application written with the use of PHP. It has many configurable options and targets websites with a lot of content, because it is very easy to manage it. Built on the Saphire framework, SilverStripe offers very good SEO support and allows users to customize the administration area too, which is quite rare nowadays.
The downside of SilverStripe are the default layouts, which are pure basic templates, but as long as you know some design, customizing them should not be a problem. You might also find some custom templates on the internet and spare some time designing yourself.
Textpattern is a relatively popular Content Management System due to its simplicity. It provides great tools and allows users to create content very easy, quick and according to web standards-compliant pages. There is not a WYSIWYG editor included, because the CMS uses textile markup for content generation, which means text is automatically generated into HTML (this option is available in WordPress as well, so you should be used to it). The administration panel is very easy to use and follow.
Textpattern comes free of charge as well and allows many things such as layout editing, file and image upload, plugin installation, SEO tools, subscribing features and a big support team which continuously improves the platform.
Alfresco is very easy to install and lets you convert files into documents. Alfresco might be a bit more difficult to get used to, but if you put some time into it, in the end it will pay off. Alfresco is not that much for beginner bloggers, but targets developers much more. Don’t get me wrong, this CMS is very flexible and usable and the administration panel is organized, maintained and easy to navigate through, it just takes a bit more time to get used to it. Alfresco is an open-source product as well.
After reviewing these CMS, you probably have a difficult choice in choosing one of them, therefore I thought of sharing some tips with you very fast. First time you have to think what your needs are. If you are business oriented and want to sell something, Adobe Business Catalyst is probably the only choice, although it might be a bit pricey. The rest of the CMSs reviewed here are for bloggers, although Expression Engine might be a bit too expensive, so try to avoid it if you only do this for passion and don’t plan on getting serious with it.
You also have to think how intuitive and easy to use the system is and how good the GUI interface looks. If the administration panel is difficult to use, then why should you choose that one? In the end, the administration panel is the place where you will spend 95% of your time.
Think also if the CMS is flexible enough and allows you to use plugins or modules. And make a short research before choosing one of them and see if the available plugins and modules are enough for you. If the CMS is not extensible, I personally don’t consider it worthy to be chosen.
In case you are a developer, this tip might not be for you, but if you are a blogger only, or maybe a front-end designer, would you feel comfortable to have to edit ASP.net or PHP pages/modules? If not, then choose a CMS that doesn’t force you to do this. If it is too complex it might not be for you.
Other important thing you should consider is the security. I am aware of the fact that the largest CMS in the World, WordPress, has security issues all the time, but at least they try to work on them. There is no perfect CMS if we take a look at their security, but hey, this is the internet today, there is not that much you can do. However, it is a good to make a bit of research and see which CMS is the most secure.
Find out if the system is optimized for speed and performance, like Expression Engine is, and then look into the documentation and support. At some point in time you might need some help and it is important to have a place where you know you can find answers.
With this last tip I put an end to this article. I hope all the small, but very good and interesting CMS I’ve reviewed today look interesting to you and I hope this article helps you a bit in the process of choosing your next Content Management System.
Earlier today Salman talked about Pligg, a Social Networking CMS for people who want to create a website like Digg and Reddit. Also included are 20 examples of how Pligg is used. Be sure to check it!
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Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.