There are lots of tools used to build web sites. Most use a template system. Choose the template that’s pleasing to the eye, add your text, pictures, opt-in module and other features and click LAUNCH. You’re on line.
The problem with these template-based web building tools is simple: they don’t allow for a lot of flexibility. You choose a template and you get what you get.
However, there are other template-based tools that deliver features and flexibility. These content management systems (CMS’s) are used by Fortune 500 companies, The White House and other “big presence” web sites with lots of features.
The most popular CMS’s are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal If you want more flexibility, and the ability to expand your site in the future, choosing a CMS that fits your needs and skills is an important choice.
The BIG Three Content Management Systems
WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are open source software (OSS), which means the platforms are free to download. Each of the big three CMS’s has support from thousands of programmers who create modules, plug-ins and extensions that equip you to quickly build out a feature-deep web site, though there’s usually a learning curve.
No matter which CMS you choose, expect to spend some time reading online tutorials and other “how-to” information to learn how to get the most from the content management system of choice.
Which CMS is right for your online presence? A lot depends on how much you know about web site design and where you expect to take your web site in the months and years ahead. If you build a basic “billboard” web site that doesn’t change daily (or even yearly), WordPress is your best choice. It’s simple to learn and simple to use.
On the other hand, if you have numerous payment gateways, inventory that changes daily and the need to constantly upgrade visitor accessibility, a membership site, for example, Drupal is probably your best choice.
Joomla falls somewhere in the middle. It delivers flexibility, a user-friendly interface and lots of free, online support.
The pros and cons of WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are fairly straightforward, though it should be noted that the loyal programmers who develop plug-in modules for one of these three CMS’s learn from each other so the three platforms continue to develop similar features. Which CMS you choose really comes down to your business needs and skill set.
You may already have a blog on WordPress so you may be familiar with WordPress themes and other features. WordPress is a blogging platform that many site builders use to create web sites in much the same way you (and thousands of others) build a blog.
WordPress is easy to install. In fact, sync up occurs on download so you’re ready to roll as soon as you click the “Finish” button. This is a big plus if time is a critical factor in the launch of your site.
WordPress also offers numerous themes, or templates, to simplify site creation. But unlike straight-up template sites, WordPress developers have created more than 15,000 plugins – pre-programmed features, like an email module or an easy-to-use checkout, to simplify the sales and purchase processes.
Of the big three CMS’s, WordPress is the easiest to learn and use daily. However, there are some downsides worth considering.
For example, the WordPress hosting platform – the core programming – is frequently updated to accept more and more plugins, so you may spend more time than you’d like upgrading to the latest core version of WordPress.
Newer versions of WordPress aren’t always compatible with existing plugins so you may find yourself swapping out opt-in plugins more often than you’d like.
And finally, the biggest drawback to WordPress is a lack of flexibility. Indeed, WordPress does a lot of the heavy lifting in site design but at a cost. You’re limited in your ability to customize. And even with 15K plugins, you may not get the look and list of features your online business requires.
Joomla offers an increased ability to customize web sites to fit particular needs of virtually any kind of online business.
Like WordPress, there’s a core program, templates and thousands of features, called extensions. Joomla extensions are the equivalent of WordPress plugins. They’re pre-programmed features divided into three main groups based on functionality: modules, plugins and components.
If you’re new to site building, the Joomla hosting platform has a very simple, user-friendly, intuitive interface that simplifies site construction. However, Joomla, itself, doesn’t offer themes and templates, though these are available from independent programmers, usually at a small cost.
As a content management system, Joomla handles text using a WYSIWYG editor that makes uploading a breeze so, if you envision a web site with a lot of text, or text that changes frequently, Joomla’s text management system is something you’ll appreciate when there’s other work to be done.
Of the big three, Joomla falls between WordPress and Drupal in ease of use. Again, there’s usually a learning curve associated with any CMS, but in a few days, you’ll be adding mods, plugins and components, building a site that’s customized to your business needs and personal tastes.
However, if you know, from the get-go, that your web site is going to be feature rich, with complex navigation and the latest in features like a live chat module, or a text chat option, Drupal delivers the greatest design flexibility – but at a price: the time it takes to learn Drupal protocols.
Drupal is for serious site builders who want full control over everything from design elements to site visitor features that don’t look like modules.
The upside to Drupal is that it’s designed specifically to accept new modules without updating the core platform. Drupal modules are usually free, though some of the more sophisticated features may cost a few bucks, but these modules won’t break the bank – even for a start-up web business.
This means the Drupal hosting platform is the best choice for complex sites with loads of visitor-friendly features. However, the learning curve for Drupal is longer than that of WordPress or Joomla, and if you’re not very tech-savvy, you may find Drupal’s interface a little more complex than WordPress or Joomla.
If you have some basic programming and site design experience, Drupal won’t be a challenge, any more than Joomla or WordPress, but if this is your first “go” at building a web site, or if you plan to build a basic site with standard features, WordPress and Joomla are better choices.
There are thousands of Drupal modules to customize your site and change its look, layout and features simply. The fact is, Drupal offers increased customization over WordPress and Joomla if you’re willing to take the time to learn how to use the Drupal platform.
If you know your site will be complex and dynamic, changing often with new content and an expanding roster of features, you may want to outsource the development of your basic site as you learn Drupal basics to maintain and grow your site over time in-house.
Of course, hiring a Drupal programmer is an operational expense that may not work for entrepreneurs working on limited budgets, in which case, expect to spend some time reading through the hundreds of free Drupal tutorials available online.
So, Which CMS Is Right For Your Web Site Building Needs?
When choosing a CMS as your web site platform consider three key points:
- How comfortable are you working with digital technology – even with a user-friendly interface
- How complex will your web site be? Will you need a long list of features and customized functionality?
- Will your planned web site change often, and if so, who’s going to make those changes? Paying a programmer to update product pictures daily is expensive, so learning to perform this site maintenance chore in house may require learning time in the beginning, but in the long run, you’ll save money when you DIY.
You have plenty of options when it comes to content management systems to build and maintain an attractive, accessible, engaging web site – one that may even be worthy of a visitor’s bookmark.
Check out the big three CMS’s: WordPress, Joomla and Drupal before you start building your site, or paying a programmer to build a site for you. All the information is available free online.
Finally, choose a web host that provides these CMS’s as part of its service offerings so you’re certain your WordPress, Joomla or Drupal site will be compatible with host server-side protocols and security.