Which is the best content management system?

This is a question that we get asked quite frequently. Or when we've chosen the CMS for a new client website, they may ask "is that the best one?"

So which is the best one?

Well, the truth is that they all are...in their own way. There is no one-size-fits-all CMS. They all have their advantages AND disadvantages.

WordPress receives a lot of good reviews from amateurs (and professionals) and it really is good for its target market, ie. Amateurs setting up a basic website. But it can be quite troublesome for professional web developers (so much so that we have to charge higher management fees for WordPress sites compared to some other content management systems).

That's because we are not the target market for WordPress. That doesn't make it a bad CMS, it just means that it's better suited for different people.

Joomla is sort of the "advanced" equivalent of WordPress. But that doesn't make it better, just different. It is designed for complex sites and professional web developers. It provides the framework for much more complex functionality to be built on top of it.

WordPress has plugin functionality, but compared to Joomla (and some other CMSes), it's quite basic. You can create highly functional and complex sites using WordPress, but more advanced systems like Joomla are likely to make it easier and more maintainable.

But I certainly wouldn't recommend Joomla for an amateur creating their own basic website without professional support. It would be completely inappropriate for that. It's nowhere near as intuitive to use "out of the box" as WordPress.

A good analogy can be made with accounting software. Sage Instant, Sage 50 and Xero are ideal for small and medium sized companies. You wouldn't dream of recommending a massive system like Sage 1000, SAP, or Netsuite to one of these companies. But for other companies, they need the power of these more advanced systems and the lower end ones just won't suffice. It doesn't make either one any better than another, each one is targeted at different requirements.

What about e-commerce content management systems?

Magento tends to be the most popular e-commerce CMS, and there's good reason. It's an advanced level system, with a good architecture and good plugin system.

Compare this to osCommerce (and its many derivatives; ZenCart, oscMax, etc) with its linear architecture and complete absence of any plugin system. We see many amateurs struggling with osCommerce, and many professionals who just opted for osCommerce as the first system they could get to grips with.

So is Magento the best for e-commerce?

It's certainly a good contender, but its main problem is that it's not scaleable. It struggles with large numbers of products. Once you start to reach 1,000 products, it starts to become noticeably slow. OsCommerce however runs very quickly and has low system requirements (thanks to its basic, linear programming model and low functional abilities).

Another popular e-commerce platform is VirtueMart, which is built on the Joomla framework. This is a very flexible, scaleable system with its own plugin system. VirtueMart would probably satisfy the most requirements for an e-commerce shop.

VirtueMart's biggest problem is its volatility. The developers are good, but frequently versions are released which haven't been fully tested, or which introduce unexpected changes. It is important to do a test upgrade before upgrading your live site when a new release comes out.

As it follows the Joomla model, it's also not as easy to use "out of the box" as some other systems.

Actinic (now SellerDeck) used to be a market leader, but I would struggle to think of a single requirement that would be best satisfied using this system. It is proprietary, closed source, impossible to validate with the W3C industry standards, and is largely based on out-dated ideas of how an e-commerce site should be structured. There are a few third party extensions which are very good, but because of its closed source nature, these are limited.

So, as you can see, choosing a content management system is no easy task. You need to choose the most appropriate system for your specific requirements. OpenGlobal E-commerce have knowledge and understanding of a wide range of content management systems, so we can choose the most appropriate one for you.

Our advice is to avoid web designers who always use the same content management system regardless of the client's requirements. A CMS is just a tool, in the same way that a hammer, or a screwdriver, or a spanner is just a tool. If you need some screws putting in, someone with a hammer could have a very good go at it, but you probably wouldn't get the kind of service you'd get from someone with experience of all of the tools and knowledge of which one to use for which task.

If you are looking for a long term reliable solution, contact OpenGlobal today on 0845 269 9624 for an in-depth discussion of your requirements.