CMS (Content Management System) platforms offer a broad range of features - such as brilliant site maintenance, workflow tools and the ability to edit source code, amongst many more.
And while there are plenty of benefits, using a CMS can be a rather expensive experience.
First things first, you'll have to pay for your hosting - while there are plenty of cheap and great web hosting providers, it will still set you back at least a couple of dollars per month.
Then, there's a price of a CMS itself - many good ones are actually quite expensive!
And in this post, we're going to talk about the best free CMS options - so your website building freedom may get just a little bit cheaper.
Here are the best free CMS options you can get:
- WordPress.org (making a website is really simple)
- TYPO3 (best security features)
- Drupal (handles complex websites)
- CMS Made Simple (flexible and customizable templates)
There is a reason it is usually number one on every list, and that's because it has a huge (and the biggest) share of the CMS market.
Figures vary as time goes on but most of them state that WordPress currently has around 50% of the market for CMS software powered sites.
Oh, that’s huge.
In turn, the numbers also mean that WordPress also powers around 32% of all active websites today.
All of this popularity has a great side effect. Worldwide professional communities will always be available for both discussion and problem solving, and there are tens of thousands of professional plugins you can use to improve your site.
Getting them on your page is also going to be very simple - if you have WordPress installed on your hosting server, it's as easy as downloading an app on your phone.
The simplicity doesn't stop there - making a WordPress website is also very simple. There are tons of very professional looking free themes to choose from and a huge community to offer support.
The dashboard has a simple, intuitive interface and was designed to work for both the beginners and experienced in web development. However, if you do struggle to get to grips with the platform, there are a few page builder plugins you can install that will help you with more of easy drag and drop experience, making it fairly simple to build a website.
If you are brand new to all of this, there will be a learning curve but not as bad as you think. Remember that big community I told you about earlier? With all of those people and thousands of video tutorials you can find online, you'll have all the help you need.
Don't Get WordPress.org Confused With WordPress.com
The difference between these two really just boils down to the fact that WordPress.com is not open source. It hosts the packages and offers much more limited options. And in order to have a professional website, you'll need to pick a paid plan.
Also, the overall pricing of the .com packages tends to be tougher than simple web hosting with WordPress downloaded on it.
If you want more than a personal blog, I recommend sticking with .org. WordPress.com is really only good for somebody who isn't that bothered with value and wants to tinker around with content that they don’t need to brand or monetize.
Although WordPress.com is a great way to familiarize yourself with blogging, your time will be much better spent learning a higher functioning CMS if you want to conduct any kind of business at all.
- Biggest support community of any CMS
- Flexibility and control over customization
- Thousands of powerful, free plugins
- One-click WordPress installation
- Plugins affect site loading speed
- Premium themes can be expensive
- Updates can be intrusive
Many people say it offers the best security of any CMS and it allows you to share extensions between different sites as well as user profiles - which is almost unheard of with any other CMS.
The flexibility this offers a business, that needs more than one website is vast.
TYPO3 also uses a coding platform called typoscript. It’s definitely not for beginners, however, there are a ton of tutorials and online forums with a large community to help get familiar with the platform.
There is also a workspace environment that simulates the front-end of your website so you can see previews of your work without going live. That’s extra helpful to use during the learning phase.
So, although this CMS does require quite a steep learning curve, the security and flexibility that is offered make this a very useful platform for any company with a global takeover in mind.
- Design flexibility
- Large support community
- Considered most secure CMS platform
- Requires a huge learning curve
- Too complex for even intermediate developers
What’s unique about this one is that it uses modules as a way to build a site.
This offers a huge amount of flexibility as each module covers a different category for a website; SEO, e-commerce, content, etc.
However, just like TYPO3, there is a lot to learn.
As always, though, if you have a business that you think is going to be big and is going to grow to a point where you are going to need a complex site structure, it’s worth looking into. The flexibility and intricate module options make this an attractive option.
Another beautiful part to Drupal is that it is set up to be multi-user friendly from the beginning. Whereas WordPress has a very limited option that requires plugins to make the environment available for a development team, Drupal is already set up for a team right out of the gate.
It’s easy to see why this platform is used by many corporations and public institutions.
- Large community support
- Multi-user Flexibility
- Allows for an intricate website structure for larger organizations
- Not beginner friendly
- Not all modules communicate well together
- Bare installation requires modules for customization immediately
CMSMS (CMS Made Simple) has been around a surprisingly long time, but it isn’t as well known as the rest on this list. This CMS platform has some unique options that increase its flexibility, and there is more than meets the eye with this “simple” platform.
One thing particularly worth mentioning is its Smarty feature. Smarty is a great template engine used by CMSMS. It offers something called template inheritance, which means that you are able to keep the contents of one template when moving to another.
What this means is that each page can use a different template. So, if there is a certain format in one template that you would prefer to use for your contact page (for example), you can do this while still allowing the rest of your site to use a separate template. This offers a great amount of flexibility to build websites.
Another few great things about CMSMS is that it doesn't drain your server's resources and slow down your website speed, and it's relatively straightforward to use for building websites - hence the name 'made simple'!
- Content inheritance between templates
- Can use more than one theme at a time
- Lots of flexibility when building websites
- Support community is lacking
- Not as many templates as other CMS platforms
What Is The Best Free CMS For You?
Well, the answer to this question comes down to how big you want your site to be.
Are you looking to build a HUGE website that attracts 100s of thousands of visitors per month? Then you might want to check out TYPO3 or Drupal. However, if you are looking at a more modest future while still reaping the benefits of an all-around free content management system? Then WordPress or CMS Made Simple are your picks.
If your skill level is something you're concerned about, then I have to suggest taking on WordPress. With it being the most popular CMS around today, there is a never-ending amount of tutorials and guides that make it easy for you to create something special. But other options also have plenty of benefits - so consider your personal needs before choosing.
With that said, I'm tuning out! However, I'd love to hear what you guys have to say about each of these platforms and any experiences you've had. Also, if you felt like I missed an important free CMS software, feel free to let me know in the comments below!