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Nick Schäferhoff
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popular cms

If you’re new to the world of content management systems (CMS), here’s a super-simple definition:

Content management systems allow the non-techies of the world to create full-scale, working, professional-looking websites without having to touch a bit of code.

When using a CMS, you don’t have to understand how websites work. And the cool thing is that nearly half of all of the 1,271,920,923 websites online use a CMS, so you’re in good company.

We’ll walk you through the top 10 most popular CMS platforms by market share. We’ll also dig into each CMS platform’s features, user skill level requirements, the types of businesses that are best suited to the platform, and more.

Quick statistics and content overview:

  1. WordPress (27+ Million Live Websites)
  2. Wix (3.8+ Million Live Websites)
  3. Squarespace (1.9+ Million Live Websites)
  4. Joomla! (1.8+ Million Live Websites)
  5. Shopify (1.1+ Million Live Websites)
  6. Drupal (630+ Thousand Live Websites)
  7. Blogger (430+ Thousand Live Websites)
  8. Prestashop (285+ Thousand Live Websites)
  9. Magento (265+ Thousand Live Websites)
  10. Bitrix (223+ Thousand Live Websites)

The 10 Most Popular CMS Platforms

All of the data included in this article hails from this resource: BuiltWith.

1. WordPress (27+ Million Live Websites)


WordPress

Considered the behemoth of popular CMS’s, WordPress continues to lead the market by a wide margin.

WordPress is open-source software, meaning it’s free to download and use. However, creating and uploading your WordPress website requires the purchase of a custom domain and hosting.

Another benefit of WordPress is that the platform offers thousands of professional themes and you can install virtually any feature via thousands of plugins. Most plugins are free (premium plugins are available for specialized uses) and WordPress themes generally range from $15 to $60+.

Here’s Avada, one of the best-selling WordPress themes in the ThemeForest marketplace:

Avada
Image source: Avada.

Skill level: 1-2

Most people will tell you that WordPress is easy to use. It is, but this comes with a caveat. There will be a bit of a learning curve, and maneuvering around the admin backend can be tricky for newcomers. WordPress is also a hacker’s dream, so keeping up with version updates is important.

Since WordPress is open-source, you will need to download and install it yourself on your hosting server. Thankfully, most hosts have a one-click install which saves time (manual installation is also somewhat technical). If you need assistance, a quick Google search will return information on just about any technical WordPress issue.

Business types:

WordPress websites are a fit for any type of business. From eCommerce to bloggers to service-based businesses and tech-focused startups, WordPress offers plenty of features and capabilities to allow just about every business to get up and running quickly. However, eCommerce websites will require specialized plugins like WooCommerce.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly
  • 👍 Blogging functionality (WordPress software was created for blogging)
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

  • 👎 WordPress is user-friendly, but it can be difficult to learn and manage if you’re new to the platform.

NOTE: We are referring to WordPress.org here. This is not to be confused with WordPress.com, a less robust version of WordPress which does not require you to acquire hosting. Here’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

2. Wix (Paid)


Wix

Wix is another all-in-one website builder designed for the complete newbie. It’s also fully hosted and Wix manages all the technical details.

Wix Pricing
Wix pricing.

Wix offers a free, limited plan. Premium upgrades are included in paid packages, which start at $13 – $39 a month for basic websites and $23 – $500+ a month for business and eCommerce websites.

Business types:

Wix is best suited for solo-entrepreneurs or small businesses of any type; however, its eCommerce and blogging capabilities are lacking compared with those of Shopify and WordPress, respectively. Similar to Squarespace, it’s limited if you want to heavily customize your website. Customizing may require the assistance of a developer.

Wix’s SEO features have been lacking in recent years, but the popular CMS platform has been making improvements. For small businesses, this is not a problem, but medium-to-large businesses will find better results on a more robust platform.

Skill level: 1

Wix is user-friendly and easy to operate. It will require a small learning curve to familiarize yourself with the platform, but it’s generally simple to use.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features (better in recent years)
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly
  • 👍 Blogging functionality (not as robust as WordPress)
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality (not as robust as Shopify)

Cons:

  • 👎 Cost – there’s a monthly fee to use the platform; however, Wix offers a free, limited plan
  • 👎 Features and customization are somewhat limited for more established businesses

Here’s our tutorial on how to use Wix.

3. Squarespace (Paid)


Squarespace

Squarespace is a drag-and-drop website-building platform that doesn’t require installation on your hosting server since it’s not open source. Similar to Shopify, Squarespace has hosting, SSL certificates, support, and other features built into the platform. All of these are included in the fee pricing, which ranges from $12 to $40 a month.

Squarespace Pricing
Squarespace pricing.

Squarespace is known for its clean, modern templates. Its aesthetic leans toward simple and elegant, and the templates include a lot of white space.

Squarespace Template
Squarespace template.

Business types:

All types of businesses can find a home on Squarespace. If you’re new to website building, Squarespace may be a good place to start. One of the cons of a website builder like Squarespace, however, is that the platform doesn’t offer as much customization flexibility as an open-source platform like WordPress. You will need to hire a developer if you want to customize beyond the parameters of the themes.

Skill level: 1-2

Getting up and running will require some training on how to use the platform. But it’s relatively easy to maneuver once you get the hang of it, and Squarespace offers numerous walkthrough tutorial videos.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly
  • 👍 Blogging functionality (not as robust as WordPress)
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality (not as robust as Shopify)

Cons:

  • 👎 Cost – there’s a monthly fee to use the platform
  • 👎 Features and customization are somewhat limited for more established businesses

4. Joomla! (1,8+ Million Live Sites)


Joomla!

Even though Joomla! takes second place among the most popular CMS platforms, it’s still quite far from the leader, WordPress, which is way out in front in terms of market share.

That said, Joomla! is a viable CMS for many types of websites. It’s free and open source like WordPress, and will also require the purchase of a custom domain and hosting to set up. One-click install is available with most hosting providers.

Similar to WordPress plugins, Joomla! offers extensions that allow you to customize your website’s features.

Skill level 2-3:

We’ve assigned Joomla! a skill level of 2-3 because it can be a bit more challenging than WordPress to set up. Having said that, the web is full of tutorials and advice on how to do virtually anything you want on the platform.

Business types:

Similar to WordPress, Joomla! will accommodate any type of business website, no matter how big or small.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 Blogging functionality
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

  • 👎 Not very user-friendly for newbies

5. Shopify (1+ Million Live Websites)


Shopify

Shopify is an industry leader in the eCommerce space. In contrast to the first three popular CMS platforms, Shopify is SaaS (software as a service). You pay the platform a fee (from $29 to $299 a month) to manage the technical details of your store such as hosting, security, SSL certification, and all of the other functions you need to operate your store.

Shopify Pricing
Shopify pricing.

Shopify has built into the platform all of the features that eCommerce store owners need, such as payment collection, shipping, inventory and discount management, and more. Shopify also offers multiple plugins that allow you to customize your store.

Like WordPress but want to try out Shopify? You can integrate Shopify with your WordPress website as well.

Business types:

Shopify is focused on eCommerce stores only.

Skill level: 1

Shopify is an easy-to-use platform for newbies. Although learning the platform will take some time, Shopify takes care of all the technical details. If you have a problem, Shopify’s support is available for assistance.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly
  • 👍 Blogging functionality
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

  • 👎 Cost – there’s a monthly fee to use the platform

6. Drupal (Open Source)


Drupal

Similar to WordPress and Joomla!, Drupal is free, open-source software that will require a custom domain purchase and installation on your hosting server. The software also offers themes and modules that allow you to customize your website’s features and functionalities.

Why choose Drupal over WordPress? While WordPress is easier to use, Drupal is a powerhouse that focuses on complex social publishing community sites that are content-heavy and house large databases.

Business types:

Any type of business will be a fit for Drupal, but some businesses may require additional Drupal platforms and extensions.

Skill level: 2-3

Drupal can be more challenging to work with than even Joomla!, especially when changing the look of your site. Updating extensions can also be a challenge when they are incompatible, which can happen more often than not. If you run an eCommerce store, Drupal Commerce and Ubercart are options; however, they may require the assistance of a developer to set up.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 Blogging functionality
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

  • 👎 In terms of user-friendliness, Drupal may require a developer’s assistance

WordPress vs. Joomla! vs. Drupal? Check out our comparison guide to help you choose.

7. Blogger (Free)


Blogger

Blogger is a free blogging platform owned by Google. Google hosts these blogs, so your domain name will include the blogspot.com subdomain. You also have the option of setting up hosting and redirecting your Blogger domain to a custom domain of your choosing.

Business types:

Blogger is a platform for casual bloggers who are not looking to build a business. Its simplicity caters to beginners and those who blog for personal enjoyment.

Skill level: 1

Blogger is easy to use and operate.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly
  • 👍 Blogging functionality (not as robust as WordPress)

Cons:

  • 👎 Ecommerce functionality (not intended for eCommerce businesses)

8. Prestashop (Paid)


Prestashop

Similar to Magento, Prestashop is an open-source platform focused on eCommerce businesses. Prestashop is free to use but you will need to purchase a custom domain and set up hosting. If you want a more affordable, user-friendly solution than Magento, Prestashop may be the way to go.

Prestashop also offers Prestashop Ready, an all-inclusive solution that comes fully secured and hosted. This plan costs €24.90 a month.

Business types:

Prestashop is focused on eCommerce only and caters more to small and medium-sized businesses.

Skill level: 2+

Although its features and customization options are somewhat limited, Prestashop is more user-friendly than Magento and less expensive to operate. For these reasons, it caters to small businesses. Newbies may find support limited, however. The Prestashop Ready plan will be much easier to use and maintain than installing the open-source software yourself.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features (Magento offers more SEO features)
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly
  • 👍 Blogging functionality
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

  • 👎 Features and customization are somewhat limited for more established businesses

9. Magento (Paid)


Magento

Magento is a free open-source eCommerce platform. Similar to WordPress, you purchase a custom domain and download and install Magento on your hosting servers.

Magento offers several solutions depending on the size of your business. They start from zero dollars (Magento Open Source), and also include an all-in-one cloud solution (Magento Commerce) and scale to enterprise-level features which can cost thousands of dollars a year.

Business types:

Magento is focused on eCommerce only and can handle larger brands and enterprise-level businesses.

Skill level: 3+

In contrast to other more popular open-source software, hosting providers don’t typically offer a one-click installation option for Magento. It can also be difficult to get online and running, especially for newbies.

Pros:

👍 SEO-friendly features (better in recent years)

👍 Mobile-friendly features

👍 Blogging functionality

👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

👎 In terms of user-friendliness, Magento may require a developer’s assistance

10. Bitrix (Bitrix24)


Bitrix

Bitrix started as a website builder in 1998. It has since developed into a full-scale collaboration tool for businesses and has been renamed Bitrix24.

With packages starting from free to $199 per month, this popular CMS platform offers features such as project, HR, document and time management, collaboration functionality, a website builder, customer relationship management, and more.

The website builder offers hosting, bandwidth, SSL encryption, and features such as forms, email marketing, and unlimited pages.

Business types:

Bitrix24 caters to more established businesses from small to enterprise-level in any vertical. The learning curve is steep but the functionality is comprehensive. If you’re looking solely for a website builder, this tool may not be for you.

Skill level: 2

No need to understand code, but there is a steep learning curve on how to operate the software.

Pros:

  • 👍 SEO-friendly features
  • 👍 Mobile-friendly features
  • 👍 User-friendly (yes, but will take time to learn the system)
  • 👍 Blogging functionality (not as robust as WordPress)
  • 👍 Ecommerce functionality

Cons:

  • 👎 Operating the software requires a steep learning curve

Quick Start Tips on Which CMS Platform to Choose

Here’s a summary of the most popular CMS platforms:

  1. WordPress (free, open-source)
  2. Wix (free to paid all-inclusive solution)
  3. Squarespace (paid all-inclusive solution)
  4. Joomla! (free, open-source)
  5. Drupal (free, open-source)
  6. Shopify (paid all-inclusive eCommerce solution)
  7. Blogger (free blogging platform)
  8. Prestashop (free, open-source eCommerce solution; paid all-inclusive plan)
  9. Magento (free, open-source eCommerce solution; paid options, enterprise-level)
  10. Bitrix24 (paid all-inclusive collaboration platform)

One of the first decisions to make is whether you want an open-source or all-inclusive SaaS solution. Open-source solutions require you to host your website yourself. With a self-hosted website, you maintain complete control over your website (you essentially own it), but this process is more technical and requires ongoing maintenance.

Done-for-you SaaS solutions eliminate the technical challenges but they run your website on their hosting and therefore have full control over it.

TL;DR

WordPress still reigns supreme among all CMS platforms.

If you’re looking for a done-for-you solution, Wix or Squarespace will be a good choice, depending on your business model.

If you run an eCommerce business and you’re interested in an open-source solution, Shopify or Prestashop would be a good choice. Enterprise-level eCommerce stores should consider Magento.

Lastly, if you want a comprehensive collaboration and CMS platform, Bitrix24 will be an option for you.

Ready to build your website? Start here with this step-by-step guide.


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