I guess you are planning to start a new online business, perhaps a blog or trying to launch a business website for your employer. Whatever your reason for starting a website is it’s more likely that you are aware of the fact that the days to hand-coded HTML and CSS pages are long gone. Now all you have to do is choose hosting service and install a CMS and you’re good to go.
Well, there is no doubt that WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS with almost 60% of the total market share. It’s a powerful, yet easy-to-use piece of software that allows users to build and manage sites exactly the way they want. Then there are thousands and thousands of readily available third-party plugins that users can deploy to enhance their WordPress websites.
However, WordPress might not be the right fit for you, at least under certain circumstances where other options may appear as a far better choice. Then there are security concerns, which by the way are increasing year-by-year. So after keeping all those factors in mind, we have compiled a list of 13 of the best WordPress alternatives that you can give a try.
Pros: Open-source, free
Ghost is a free, open-source content management system which is ideal for those who want to have full control over their website. It is known for its minimalistic and content-first nature. The project was initially started by John O’Nolan, a former deputy of the UI team at WordPress, back in 2012 after getting annoyed by WordPress’ growing identity as a blog rather than a CMS.
The platform is free for anyone to use, but there is an option for a fully managed Pro version, in case you don’t want to configure servers and install software package manually. Other features of the Pro version include enhanced security, automatic updates/backups, and email support.
Cons: Less support, no GUI, not quite extensible
Jekyll is a powerful, yet lightweight WordPress alternative which is quickly gaining popularity among developers. Instead of running databases, a Jekyll powered website renders Markdown or Textile templates on your content and generates a completely static website.
Since Jekyll is more of a command line tool, non-technical users almost always found it intimidating. But as a programmer, you may find this piece of software pretty useful which comes with speed, stability, and enhanced security. It is also source controlled, means all your site files can be stored in a repository.
One popular example of Jekyll’s use is on GitHub pages, a web hosting service that allows users to host static web pages, documentation for projects, etc.
Image courtesy: talkroute
Pros: User-friendly, fast
Cons: Expensive, lack of third-party plugins
Squarespace is one of the fastest growing website builders and hosting provider service today. Over the years, the platform has made its name for decent functionality and flexibility. With Squarespace, you can build websites using ready-made templates and all sorts of drag and drop widgets for customization.
You can also add text and images according to your need. If you’re a skilled developer then you can also create customized templates which are sold to other users.
To be honest, Squarespace is not as powerful as WordPress but it focuses its energy on making site building process much easier. Here you don’t have to sign up or purchase a domain to start building a site. However, it doesn’t provide the much needed control over your content.
Umbraco is another open source CMS that you can use to build site(s) and manage them. It offers a high level of freedom in terms of website building; you can either make your site design from scratch or use one of the many available templates. The application was initially developed by Niels Hartvig in 2000 and was released under open source license in 2004.
Umbraco is a truly flexible application without much fuss or limitation, which is ideal for heavy customization. It also provides an intuitive editing experience with multi-device editing and other built-in features. That’s not all, Umbraco also offers a feature-rich cloud hosting service.
Pros: Easy-to-use, flexible
Cons: Limited control over your work
Medium is currently the fastest-growing online content publishing platform that allows anyone to write and publish their stories on their personal web space. It first started as a pure blogging website in 2012, but soon it morphed into a publishing platform. Medium basically takes the best out of popular platforms including Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and blend them into one proper publishing platform.
It is simple, easy-to-use with an elegant design structure. Medium currently reached 60 million monthly visitors mark which makes it much easier for you to get wide exposure for your hard work. But working on something that you don’t own has its own drawbacks.
The first and most critical of all is that you don’t have enough control over your work. Then there is design and layout, with which you’re stuck with even if you don’t like it.
Pros: Open source, clean interface
RefineryCMS is a content management system based on Ruby on Rails web application. It is well documented which will not only guide you through the installation process but also help you to get the best out of it. In comparison to other applications, Refinery’s look is pale, but there is a possible fix for that too.
Since RefineryCMS strictly follows the Rails framework, you can easily customize page layouts given that you have basic Ruby on Rails skills. Now the real question is it worth using? Well, that depends. Do you have any Ruby-based project on your mind or currently working with one? If yes, then Refinery could help you enhance it.
Pros: Lightweight, flexible
If you’re looking to replace WordPress as your content management system with something that’s lightweight, flexible and designed specifically for blogging purposes then you should give Textpattern a try. Though Textpattern was launched for public use in 2003, it was initially used to publish Textism, a personal blog ran by Dean Allen, Textpattern’s original author.
It might not be a eye candy but sure has persuaded developers and designers all over the world with its speed and minimalist nature. It features a plain writing tab without options for choosing italics, bold, etc. But, as mentioned earlier, Textpattern is also about flexibility so in case you wish to use Wysiwyg (what you see is what you get), you can simply use a plugin to do so. This simplicity, however, can be a problem for some users.
Pros: Open source, carries plenty of tools to power professional websites
SilverStripe is another powerful open source CMS and Framework that you can possibly use to create and manage your websites. The platform gives you access to a web-based admin panel (including a WYSIWYG editor) where you can carry site modification and customization jobs. It also provides many necessary tools to power professional website. A Quick fact: Nearly 0.1% websites in the world are powered by SilverStripe.
Cons: Feels outdated, only for advanced users
MODX is a powerful CMS and web application framework which in many ways similar to WordPress and yet delivers a completely different experience. Like other popular frameworks, MODX is written in PHP and runs on web servers like nginx, Apache and IIS. It provides a high level of freedom (for design) with enhanced security, something that only a few CMS’ allows.
As a popular open source project, MODX is bound to have a large and active developer community and it does. It is also well documented and has a number of videos and books readily available to assist you.
While MODX is an excellent CMS overall, it’s not free of issues and limitations. Perhaps the biggest of them all is that the framework is intended only for technical users with good knowledge of coding.
Cons: Steep learning curve
ExpressionEngine is a flexible content management system with which you can create powerful and detailed websites specific to your needs. It carries all the important features that an ideal CMS should have; effective spam prevention measures, robust templates, and mobile compatibility, etc. It also takes care of your site’s security and privacy quite well.
Although the platform can be used by almost anyone, it’s recommended that you hire a professional help in case you are new to the field. That’s due to its multi-layered setting options which can often be confusing.
ExpressionEngine keeps pushing its limits by providing users with important architecture add-ons and third-party developer library so that you can keep your online business up-to-date. Unlike other content management software on this list, ExpressionEngine comes with both paid version for corporate use and free, “core” version for personal use but with a restricted amount of features.
3. Google Sites
Pros: Easy-to-use, user-friendly
Cons: Limited capabilities, less to none customization
Currently, the service is available in two different flavors; New Google Sites and Classic Google Sites. The former supports a trendy responsive design, but have limited features. Furthermore, you can publish sites only with sites.google.com domain.
On the other hand, Classic Google Sites carries more features including multiple template choices but it’s outdated and will eventually become obsolete once the ongoing New Google Sites’ expansion is over.
Sure it doesn’t have powerful features and customization options like other popular CMS, but if you are looking for a free and easy way to build a website, then Google Sites is an ideal place to start.
Some of the world’s most popular sites are based on Drupal
Pros: Best for advanced sites,
Cons: Not for beginners, not ideal for blogging
Drupal is a powerful CMS which is in every way capable of replacing WordPress as your content management software. Although Drupal is suitable for almost everyone, it is not as user-friendly as one would like and only recommended to programmers and experienced users. Like Joomla and WordPress, Drupal can also be extended as well as customized but it’s sure difficult especially for a novice.
Although Drupal is quite complex, it can handle substantial amounts of data with ease, which makes it an ideal piece of software for big corporations. This is also one of the key reasons why programmers all over the world love Drupal.
Its standard release model is known as Drupal Core. It is basically a stock codebase which is built collaboratively and carries all the basic features of the entire platform from account registration, management and system admin to menu, RSS feeds, page layout and customization options. Anything that’s not in the core can be identified as a part Drupal modules.
As of September 2018, nearly 1.1 million sites are powered by Drupal.
Pros: Community driven, highly customizable
Cons: Not easy to master
Joomla is without a doubt one of the most popular CMS available today. It isn’t anyway less powerful than WordPress. With Joomla, you get access to thousands of third-party extensions and templates for free. The paid option is also available in case you want greater customization options and superior support.
It also carries many essential tools for pro bloggers including keywords search, Mod_rewrite, sitemaps, and clean URLs builder support. Like other popular CMS, especially WordPress, Joomla can also be stretched in order to satisfy your needs with additional extensions.
These extensions can be classified into eight types: modules, templates, languages, libraries, components, files, languages and packages. Joomla is currently the second most popular CMS (both in total market share and absolute usage) after WordPress.