What Is a Content Management System (CMS)?
Picture your local public library. The building is a great place to store information, but the only way the librarian can manage all of the books is by developing a system. Just as the librarian's system organizes and tracks each and every book in the library, a content management system (CMS) is software that helps you keep track of each and every piece of content on your website.
The content on your website can be any type of information you can think of, from simple text and documents to photos, music, and videos. The best part of a CMS is that it requires almost no technical knowledge or skill to manage and maintain; the CMS does the work for you.
The 12 Best Free Content Management Systems
In this article, you will learn about the 12 best CMSs you can use for free to create your website.
Building a website has become much easier with the availability of several content management systems. With a CMS, you no longer have to struggle with HTML and CSS coding in order to create webpages. In this article you will find the 12 best content management systems available for free that have made the jobs of web developers and website publishers much, much easier.
Although there are many different content management systems, some of them are excessively complicated and require technical knowledge. In contrast, this article will go the most simple, easy-to-use, and customizable CMSs available.
WordPress is a CMS you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. WordPress is free, and comes with priceless features, coupled with an ease of utilization that makes it hard to beat.
This software is built by the community of hundreds of volunteers, and if you decide to use this CMS, you will find thousands of plugins and themes available, which means you can customize your blog however you'd like in order to bring your dream site to life. There are over 60 million people using WordPress to power their websites.
Using Drupal will help you build any type of website, from personal blogs to enterprise applications. Again, you will find thousands of add-on modules and themes to customize your site. Drupal can be used to build an advanced database management website. For this, though, a little technical knowledge is required.
Drupal is built and supported by a community of active and diverse people from around the world. It is an open source content management platform that is used by millions of websites and applications. Most of the web-hosting services provide easy installation of Drupal.
Joomla is an award-winning CMS that can help you build websites as well as powerful online applications. Installing and setting up of Joomla is very easy, and you do not need any prior technical skills. Joomla is an open source content management solution. Many web-hosting services allow you to install Joomla with a single click, and learning to use it is just as simple—a feature that has made it popular.
4. SilverStripe CMS
SilverStripe CMS is a platform that is used for building websites, intranets, and other web applications. Most business and government and non-profit organizations are using this CMS. SilverStripe CMS is immensely flexible and easy to customize. It also provides fundamental security models, caching, workflow, and multiple languages. SilverStripe CMS is open source, contains powerful php5-based programming framework, and is underpinned by public documentation, free code, and a developer community.
5. Frog CMS
Frog CMS offers a flexible templating system, an elegant user interface, and simple user management and permissions. While the CMS does not require you to learn a scripting language (it has a simple template for you to fill out), if you know how, you can modify its code if you know PHP.
Frog CMS is based on the well-known Ruby on Rails application, and requires PHP5 and either a MySQL database or SQLite with PDO. The company's website recommends using Apache with mod_rewrite for your web server.
CushyCMS is free, lightweight, fast, and simple. The main aim of Cushy CMS is to simplify content management to make life easier for web designers. This CMS gives clients access and the ability to change the content of a specific number of pages without affecting everything else.
You can use any server, and no programming is required. You don't even have to train your clients. Provide them with FTP details, and you are done. However, with a bit of CSS knowledge, you can define editable areas of your pages.
MODX is one of the best platforms for out-of-the-box, Ajax-enhanced, accessible XHTML/CSS sites. Building CSS-based sites is easy with MODX. Also, you will easily be able to create custom applications. You don't have to learn any complex template systems, and it provides a good interface—and rumors are its next release will be more simple and flexible. MODX is like a blank canvas for a web designer's creative vision. This CMS also makes it easy to adapt your sites to any mobile platform.
The philosophy behind dotCMS Web Content Management (WCM) is that creating and managing enterprise websites should not be difficult. With dotCMS, you can easily integrate complex J2ee development stacks. This CMS also stands out because it will reduce your work time—it will finish a process in days that would take other CMSs weeks. dotCMS helps in developing engaging, responsive, multi-channel content to drive your online business. Additionally, it will provide you the ability to respond to any IT business in days, not weeks, because of its support for lightweight web scripting, web services, and comprehensive application programming interfaces (APIs).
Contao is for people who want professional presence with easy-to-maintain software. Two of the best features of Contao are the high standard of security and the ease of managing user rights. Contao also has an array of specialized modules, such as news, calendar, form, and other modules.
Radiant is an open source content management system designed for small teams. It has an elegant user interface and a great extensions/plugin system. It also features flexible templates that allow you to choose your layout, arrange page parts, add snippets, and tag your pages. This CMS makes it easy to manage your users and their permissions.
Similar to MovableType or Textpattern, Radiant is a general purpose CMS that may be used for far more than blogging. If you are a developer, it will be useful to know that Radiant uses Ruby on Rails. It has a MIT License, which means it is free for both commercial and non-profit use.
11. Expression Engine
ExpressionEngine is a powerful content delivery platform. With ExpressionEngine, web professionals can build the website or application of their dreams. Thousands of people use this CMS by EllisLab software to build their applications, sites, and businesses. It provides you with the ability to design template files in-house and manage multiple authors.
With concrete5, you will be able to start a simple content site and easily use it to share information inside of your organization (via an intranet) or allow controlled access to people outside of your organization (via an extranet) in order to create an active and vibrant community. Concrete5 is completely free to use and provides add-ons and themes that will allow you to customize your site. If you have any major enterprise requirements, they also have a good support system that will be willing to help you.
Which Content Management System Should You Choose?
So after going through the best CMSs, now the question is which one to choose. Many will settle down with Wordpress, Drupal, or Joomla because of their massive popularity and add-on availability. These are all well-suited choices for a personal website or blog. If you are a web developer making a website for your company, I recommend looking closely at the other options to see if any better fit the needs of you and your client.
© 2013 Anand Kumar
Mittal Avinash on August 27, 2019:
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Codexco Technologies from Colombia on January 14, 2019:
Thank you for the list. Nice article.
Jerome Speed on July 22, 2016:
Looking for a new CMS can be pretty stressful. The reviews on oxcyon seem to be pretty positive. In looking for a new system I researched a ton of reviews of potential systems, but oxcyon stood out from the crowd. Centralpoint is a UXP (User Experience Platfform) providing CMS, Portals, Reporting, SSO, RIA, Email alerts to manage all of your users needs. It's nice to have found a system that's more than just a typical CMS.
Jeniqua Mclester on April 06, 2016:
Take a look at www.oxcyon.com. Centralpoint is more than just a Content Management System, its more of an entire library of tools. Yes, it includes all the necesary tools for a CMS but it really is so much more than that. I use it for everything within my small business. The email broadcast system is built in and RSS scheduled emails take so much time out of manually creating each weeks email.
Rodney from Canada on February 24, 2016:
When I'm creating websites and blogs, I typically use WordPress for the most part and its also my favorite choice in CMS for various reasons but Drupal and Joomla are excellent as well. Thank you for sharing this list. I've found some new avenues for me to explore.
DrupalArt on August 18, 2015:
Personally - I used a lot of CMS systems - but I realized that Drupal is the most powerfull one. There is no project you cannot do with it!
Atelier Scheidegger from Schwarzenburgstrasse 35, 3007 Bern on May 24, 2015:
I agree with your ranking. I used wordpress for the first time and I am astonished how easy it is to learn.
Daniel Keith on April 15, 2015:
Hi all, very nice article. Weebly is also a very nice CMS. It's free and easy to use. You should also try this.
Schwartzyy on December 31, 2014:
I have found very interesting content management system named PHP-Fusion. It is based on PHP and it is free like the others on the list. I installed it following the official tutorial at https://www.rosehosting.com/blog/install-php-fusio... and it is really easy to use. I have tried WordPress and Joomla before and I think they are great too.
The Capital Driving School, Edinburgh. from Edinburgh, Scotland on November 27, 2014:
I have built many Wordpress sites over the years dismissing all others but will definitely try out one, or two of the listed CMS programs. I always used Wordpress as it is easy to use with online tutorials for every element of building and developing these sites. I think I will try Joomla next!
Snakesmum on November 18, 2014:
Until I found this article, I had no idea there were so many CMS programs available! Wordpress is what I'm using currently, but don't think I'll change, as learning a new interface is not my favourite pastime. Good read though.
Kinan on November 12, 2014:
Please add https://yclas.com to your next article :) it's also a free cms for website building
Sebastian Lesec from Santa Barbara on September 25, 2014:
Definitely a fan of Wordpress. Thanks for sharing - I had not heard of quite a few of these. Might be time to expand my horizons.
Redge on September 13, 2014:
@Beyowi : Ruby on Rails is a framework, not a CMS.
Sam on August 05, 2014:
Have you tried asp.net based cms http://www.sageframe.com ?
khushbu soni on July 23, 2014:
Hi gusy You can also try http://www.xepan.org. it also an easy and drag & drop based CMS for website development.
It is open source. Free, and I loved it.. Its easy and let us write raw html/css/js code as well. Hope to see it here soon ;)
dave on July 21, 2014:
Processwire is amazing. Seriously, give it a try.
Lilith Adams on June 21, 2014:
I had a bad experience with Joomla, so I switched to WordPress. Than I discovered the benefits of a custom-made CMS and by my surprise - it was something I can afford it. It's fast, modern and so much easier to use than everything I have tried till now! Only drag & drop, no hassle with setting up or figuring out how to use it. See it for yourself here www.xcmsdemo.com - there is a demo you can try. I choose this one, but make your research and find the CMS that works best for you, there are so many on the market. Don't go over and over the same TOP 10 lists that are only copy-paste from each other :(
centralpoint spammers on June 17, 2014:
Those.comment abt centralpoint are spammers
Gethin on June 07, 2014:
I just had to add that Centralpoint by Oxcyon not only cured all my CMS problems but also invited me to dinner, and made love to me till 3 in the morning. It also fixed several of my personality disorders, did my dishes and made me rich beyond my wildest dreams. I'd also like to point out that of of the entirely true and toally believable stories about it on this article have absolutely been written by real people like me.
Fuensanta on June 06, 2014:
Thanks for the fabulous list of Open Source CMS that you offer us. I would add to this list the Open Source Document Management System: OpenKM.
For more info: http://www.openkm.com
Ryan Kempt on May 19, 2014:
Great article Anand, but don't forget there are just as many reasons why you shouldn't be using a CMS - http://goo.gl/1MRQLD
Brian on May 10, 2014:
This is a great list but you're missing Doptor CMS. I'm not a huge fan of most CMS's to start with but when I installed Doptor CMS , opened up the files and looked through them, I was amazed at how easy everything was. It was the fastest learning process I ever had with learning the template system.
jks india on May 10, 2014:
hi m i jks form india
CMS isprovied fast and easy working
all cms is best i am use Wordpress,joomla,wordprees,opencart,durpal,
Paul on April 28, 2014:
Sri Harsha Chilakapati on April 24, 2014:
What CMS are you using now? I'm currently using WordPress and it seems nice for me, but is there any CMS that is drag-and-drop based?
Lian Cohen on March 09, 2014:
I normally don’t comment on this type of post. I’ve been an CMS admin for over 10 years. I’ve dealt with a number of good CMSs SharePoint, Google Apps, Centralpoint (by Oxcyon) and many others. I got to give credit where credit is due. Centralpoint had us fooled at first because it was such a small vendor but after reading the new Gartner report there is definitely a big change coming, and unification (or centralization) is the future!
shotex on February 01, 2014:
datalige engine is a best cms for me! t
LB10024 on January 30, 2014:
Lots of great CMS options out there. Another open-source CMS that is worth a look is Squiz Matrix - http://www.squiz.net/us/suite/matrix
Emilio Gobbi on January 23, 2014:
I worked for a company that used Centralpoint and SharePoint in the past. The big difference is the companies’ needs. Centralpoint by Oxcyon is more of an all in one enterprise solution. Smaller companies will gain too much from using this system. It’s like using a server for a desktop. You can do it but why. SharePoint is very much an enterprise solution but a costly one. It has a familiar interface that everyone one knows and now that SharePoint online has come out it gives companies under 50 users something to look forward to in price but not support.
Alyssa from America on January 10, 2014:
I think wordpress is the best because it is very easy to instal . The functions are also very easy to use, Also its cost effective as well. I am using this cms from a long time on my website (CouponsRain) and is very much satisfied with this.
thefas-solutions on January 02, 2014:
Yes Wordpress is a little overkill for basic sites but surely the ease of install and picking a theme being so quick that it makes it a perfect candidate for a basic site?
Genoveffa Morosini on December 28, 2013:
To add to this list, I have been using Centralpoint by Oxcyon. I was a bit weary of starting with this CMS at first
because I have used various CMS’s from Google, Microsoft Sharepoint, Huddle and etc. My initial reaction to Centralpoint was that it was going to be just another CMS (content management system), but I was wrong. It exceeded my expectations, greatly. One thing I noticed when I use Google Apps and Sharepoint was that navigation was a mess! I’m not saying that Google Apps and Sharepoint is the only CMS with bad navigation, but it’s just an example. I usually adapt to programs easily, but I was rather confused by most CMS programs. With Centralpoint, I don’t have any issues with navigation and changing things around. As far as storing records, it has a powerful document management system, which is full blown archival. Oxcyon also doesn’t charge per seat, per server or by the amount of data usage. Overall, navigation and proper document
management system were 2 of my largest problems with past CMS’s I have experienced. Centralpoint is painless and
efficient. I would highly recommend it.Centralpoint has many great feature that are user friendly like Microsoft office. You can setup policies and administrative rights. The best thing about it is it just feels natural.
Jihad al-Sahhah on December 10, 2013:
I’ve used WordPress, Joomla and Drupal in the past and still do for certain clients. The thing about most of these content management systems WordPress and Joomla isn’t really built for complex environments. I work mostly in enterprise environment where a simple website is a portal or interface for a library full of documents. Drupal is a little bit more enterprise friendly but isn’t that easy to develop. A few years ago I was doing a google search for content management systems/portal and I came across Centralpoint by Oxcyon. Unlike WordPress and Joomla it was able to handle the more complex issue that they aren’t meant for. Centralpoint is better than Drupal because we got of 230 modules out the box and didn’t need a Drupal Expert to configure and develop our sites.
Centralpoint not only had the Microsoft interface that was familiar to my colleagues and I it gave us an unexpected extra, the ability of ecommerce. We’re now can turn any of our reports in to a profit.
P on December 01, 2013:
hey what's about Better CMS does anyone know it? http://www.bettercms.com
Neeks on November 29, 2013:
for developers processwire is nothing short of amazing. I have used expression engine, wordpress, Joomla, and modx. As a PHP programmer processwire was the easiest to learn and most flexable to use.
Levy Tate from California, USA on November 04, 2013:
Knew nothing about half of the stuff listed on here, so... THANKS FOR SHARING! Voted up ;-)
Tracey on October 30, 2013:
Interesting read: how content management systems inspire collaboration
Jon on October 28, 2013:
You can also have a look at Ametys : http://www.ametys.org
It's a java-based open source CMS offering a website factory and user friendly interface.
Though not as well known as some of the others, it's a great alternative.
You can try the online demo http://demo.ametys.org
Angie Mclester from Cleveland, Ohio on October 20, 2013:
I've used a lot of different content management systems over the last 15 years. I tried to start off with some of the big names, such as Microsoft's Sharepoint, but as a business owner I found myself spending to much time consulting with the I.T. department try to figure out technical issues that wasn't providing my company with productivity. After a while I came across Centralpoint by Oxcyon. It was a smooth transition from
our old program because of the Data Transfer module, that allowed me to drive my old content right into the
Centralpoint CMS Portal with ease. That isn’t the only thing that is great about Centralpoint. They have over 230 modules
that have made things a lot easier.
It's more than just a content management system. I have used in the past; centralpoint offers role based filtration, email
broadcasting to update all the members, microsite management, multi-step workflow, and business intelligence. It is
all part of a centralized platform that makes it quite simple to use. Its easy.. not hard.
martin on September 29, 2013:
Check Desamaru(http://desamaru.com). It has good looking admin panel with
Installation in a minute
Search engine friendly url
Low size cms
Ip tracking and vistor chart
Joompixel on September 20, 2013:
Nice article, I have been working on Joomla for many years. Joomla is a flexible CMS that can be customized to meet specific project requirements such Corporate Web sites or portals, Online magazines, newspapers, and publications, Small business Web sites, E-commerce and online reservations,…and more. Joomla is highly extensible.
Beyowi on August 28, 2013:
I will add Ruby on rails on the list