Considering WordPress as a Web content management system is something hundreds, and maybe thousands of website owners likely do on a daily basis, and we've got a ready-made short list of alternatives that we think are viable alternatives.
If there is such a thing as a mainstream Web CMS (WCMS) WordPress may be it. If it's not already obvious, there are dozens of other choices available, but we won't go too deep on issues like open source versus proprietary, for example. Instead, we'll lay out the case for a few options that might also fit if you are considering a choice like WordPress.
This brings us to an important point about the underlying technology of these kinds of systems. Because of the great variety of use cases in any Web CMS, WordPress included, it sometimes becomes necessary to build that system out for greater functionality. There are add-ons and APIs that often come prebuilt for just this kind of thing.
Depending on what the CMS is being used for, this can get pretty complicated fast. The most popular systems like WordPress have a dedicated community of developers and other experts that can help with almost any issue. WordPress and many other popular WCMS are built on a technology called PHP.
Without trying to ignite a programming holy war, we have looked at WordPress alternatives that do not fall into this category. That makes our alternatives quite different from WordPress, but as mentioned above, that also means there may be a smaller group of dedicated developers and experts available to help out with things like extendability.
The caveat here is most people who are considering WordPress likely don't want to get into that level of programming anyway, so for many it won't matter. However, for those who are interested, it is one of the main differences overall between WordPress and the alternatives we are offering here.
So let's get started.
1. Adobe Business Catalyst
Adobe Business Catalyst, a SaaS-based Web CMS, starts at about US $6 per month and is an interesting mix of content management -- and as the name implies -- e-commerce tools.
The best thing about Abobe Business Catalyst is it really is designed for the non technical user, with lots of drag and drop functionality. As with any Web CMS, it helps to be at least familiar with some basic HTML or even CSS, and that comes in handy because that is all you need to know to use Business Catalyst.
Adobe Business Catalyst, because it is owned by Adobe, any needed expertise, support wise, would come from them. Although, high level support would have to be paid for in this case, that is partially offset by the low cost of the product.
Business Catalyst includes: (from L to R) Templates & modules, SEO features and WYSIWYG editor, among other things.
Business Catalyst is on par with WordPress when it comes to installation, meaning both are not difficult to install and learn. Both have in-context editors for editing content right in the webpage, and both enjoy rich media support and somewhat intuitive forms and analytics.
Adobe does a better job with integrating some important business elements, however, and that is what separates it. There are modules for CRM integration, marketing and e-commerce, but depending on how robust the functionality needs to be on these fronts, they will also cost more.
For about $60 per month, the webCommerce edition of Adobe Business Catalyst can be installed for up to five users. Storage for such a site is limited to two gigabytes, but it does include social media integration and the ability to build FAQs, Web apps and other custom modules. There are lots of options with Business Catalyst, and that means things like numbers of users can be scaled down, and options thrown out to get the cost down to a very small number.
Conversely, because it is an Adobe product, the prospect of expanding out into other areas would remain possible because it is such a large company. Open an Adobe Creative Cloud membership, for example, and Adobe will throw in five free Business Catalyst webBasics sites.
Plone is a free, downloadable, open source CMS that deserves a look instead of Drupal or Joomla, two other popular open source products. The reason is partially about ease of use but also about the underlying technology. Plone is built on a different programmatic format (Python) and performs well under a wide range of use cases.
Besides that, Plone is a full featured CMS available in 40 languages and has a good track record over the last decade since its founding. The newest version came out last year and added some non-technical user improvements that make it a tad quicker to set up, among other things.
It does internal search very well, and the administration tools and user creation process are better than WordPress, for example.
Typo is a free, open source CMS built on an altogether different technology called Ruby on Rails. There's a handy demo site people can go into and play around with, and that should help answer any questions people might have about how it works and feels. It actually feels a bit like WordPress in both the basic layout and style, so anyone who's used to that environment might find that makes the transition easier.
Keeping in mind what we said above about there being a bit smaller of an expert and developer community available for helping extend Typo, of the Ruby on Rails CMSes out there, Typo has perhaps the largest following. Basically, Typo isn't any more difficult to maintain or build out than WordPress, there just isn't as large of a pool of experts available to help do those things.
The upside is Typo is quite reliable and can be put to use for a wide range of uses. We particularly like it for its customizable SEO interface, individual user dashboards, customizable themes and category support. Additionally, it's actually even easier to set up than WordPress, and that means less time training people how to use it for those working in teams.
Typo CMS demo dashboard.
Umbraco, also a free, open source system, has the newest release of any of our WordPress alternative recommendations. Umbraco Version 6.0 came out in January, and it features a new public API, faster data layer and is backward compatible with Umbraco v4. Like Typo, it is very extendable and good for maintainability, but it is built on Microsoft technologies instead of Ruby.
Development around Umbraco is at an all time high, and it is simply becoming quite popular around the world. In keeping with our theme, we like Umbraco because it is so customizable, but it also supports standard features like HTML5 uploads to the media section and oEmbed tooling for embedding media. Umbraco runs some very large enterprise websites like the UK Wired site, and websites for Heinz, SanDisk and Tesco.
5. eZ Publish
Our last recommendation is a bit of a hedge because, like WordPress, it is built with PHP. eZ Publish has an open source version and is a good fit for publishers and SMBs. It's also a fine enterprise system, and one that has received high praise with each successive release. It may take a bit more work to set up than a WordPress installation, but it is a more robust system with more features and a higher ceiling as far as scalability.
As noted, eZ Publish, like most larger systems, is not as easy to set up initially, but if that is not a problem, then it gets our top alternative to WordPress recommendation.
eZ Publish can build mobile apps with its App Factory tool.
Let us know in the comments if you're considering WordPress and what alternatives you've researched.