Best Content Management Software (CMS) Systems 2022 – Forbes Advisor

Methodology

To find the best content management software, Forbes Advisor looked at everything from the popularity of each CMS, pricing and built-in functionality. We also considered features specific to CMS systems, such as post scheduling, e-commerce possibilities, security and whether hosting is included or not.

There are less tangible criteria to consider, too. For example, how easy is it to use an interface or are there so many options that a CMS is overwhelming. We also read through user reviews to understand real-world examples of the pros and cons of each CMS. We then compare multiple CMS systems to each other, applying a score to each factor and then average the ratings to come up with a ranking from one to five stars.

  • Ease of Use: For small business owners and individuals, ease of use is especially important. We gave more credit to CMS systems that are simple out of the box.
  • Costs and Fees: Most CMS systems on the market are open source and therefore free to use, but all websites require hosting. So, we looked at the overall cost of using a website builder with a CMS versus choosing an open source option with à la carte hosting and extensions.
  • CMS Features: It’s important to choose a CMS that includes the features you need to make digital asset management and content management easy. For example, post scheduling is critical, as are SEO tools and template availability.
  • Features: All CMS systems are meant to make it easier for you to manage your content easily, but some include more built-in functionality, which we ranked higher. However, we also considered the official libraries of plugins that extend the functionality of a CMS.
  • Security: Also important is the security of a CMS. This comes in the form of features, such as MFA, but also in the form of updates of the core CMS.

How To Choose a Content Management Software System

Not all content management software systems are created equally, but they all do essentially the same thing: make it easier for you to build and manage a website with various types of content and data. Choosing the right CMS for you comes down to cost, customization, ease of use, security and how much hands-on management you want to perform on your CMS and website.

Consider your budget when you’re picking a CMS. Many are open source and therefore free to use, but you’re still going to have a monthly or annual cost associated with hosting, templates, site creation and extensions. There are all-in-one solutions that are affordable, which include hosting, templates and an app marketplace with free and paid-for plugins to extend functionality. You can also find user-friendly open source CMS systems with lots of built-in functionality and free templates. Generally, the more affordable an option is, the less freedom you’ll have with source code and customization.

When it comes to customization, you’re going to find a lot more freedom in open source software that gives you access to everything in the back and front end areas. The limitations here come down to whether you want to manage everything yourself or hire someone to develop and manage content for you.

And that brings us to ease of use. You need to know how much hands-on attention you want to give to your site and what you’re able to do. Not everyone knows how to code and some CMS systems can be overwhelming with all the options and all the power. Content management software get regular core updates to keep them secure, and you may want to choose one that’s a little more hands-off with automatic updates and a host or all-in-one site builder that handles updates for you, especially as it relates to security.

Security is a very important part of choosing a CMS for your site or business. You need to prevent hackers from finding vulnerabilities in your site to keep your customers and your data safe. While all CMS systems include security features, some are more stacked than others with MFA, granular user permission settings and more frequent updates to the core software.

What To Look For in a CMS

You can expect any CMS you choose to have specific content management features, including a content editor, the ability to schedule posts and security features to help protect both your backend operations and the front-end users. Consider the core functionality of a CMS along with available extensions and support.

Usability

The built-in functionality of a CMS is especially important for small business owners who don’t have development skills or don’t want to hire a developer to create a custom solution. Look for all-in-one solutions that include easy-to-use tools, automatic updates and backups and a dashboard and visual editor that are simple to use. Beyond the included features, consider the extensions or plugins available to extend the functionality of your CMS.

Security

All CMS systems have security features, but some require more attention from you or a manager to maintain. Frequent updates of core CMS systems are needed to keep them safe—can you stay on top of those updates yourself or can you set up automatic updates? Employing MFA can help keep your backend operations safe, so look for CMS that offers authentication features that require users to log in with a password and code, for example. User group permissions are also important so you only give access to those who are authorized to view source code, for example.

Customer Support

Many CMS systems don’t have traditional customer support, as in live agents to answer questions and help troubleshoot issues. You’ll find that kind of support from platforms such as Wix, WordPress.com and Shopify, but not for Drupal or Joomla, for example. However, most CMS systems have robust support documentation and active user communities. Avoid a CMS that has a dead community because you’re unlikely to find the help you’d need.

SEO Tools

An SEO-friendly CMS should include features to make it easy for you to categorize content, run a blog and tag articles. You should be able to add a meta description, alt text on photos and customize your URLs and blog posts. Your menu navigation relates to SEO, as does mobile responsiveness. Whether your site is responsive depends on your web developer or template. You may also want to have access to your sitemap and 301 redirects for dead pages.

Benefits of a CMS

To be frank, you’d have a hard time running any type of website without a CMS of some sort, so the obvious benefit of a CMS is that it lets you create a site, manage your files on your site and manage the content you create and host on your site. Beyond that, different CMS systems benefit different businesses. There are two popular types of CMS systems you likely want to consider:

All-in-One Website Builders

These are like turnkey systems that include all you need to get started and manage your site and content. The best website builders include intuitive CMS systems that anyone can use to manage SEO, a blog, files, the look and feel of your site and the backend functionality. These are ideal for new and small business owners who don’t require a ton of customization.

Open Source CMS Systems

An open source CMS system gives you far more freedom and control over the look and feel and functionality of your site. The trade-off is that it’s much harder to learn and use. These are better suited to web developers or large businesses that need or want a custom solution and can afford the higher cost of development.

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