You may have asked this question before: "What's the best CMS for beginners?" Maybe someone has asked you this question. The question isn't easy to answer, though. We need to understand what the person asking is wanting to do. Keep a blog? Advertise their photography business? Sell widgets? We'd like to help answer this question, and in order to keep the net as broad as possible, we're going to say "everything." Here is the question we will try to answer in this article:
What CMS will enable the complete newbie to do just about anything — except of course write code and do complicated design stuff?
We suggest that there are at least six qualifications that this CMS should fulfill:
- Low Cost. Just in case this is a hobby, we don't want to break the bank on massive startup costs and killer hosting fees.
- Easy to start. Launching the website or blog should be just about as easy as joining Facebook.
- Design-friendly. Just in case our newbie friend doesn't know what "Photoshop" is the CMS must be able to pick up the slack.
- Quick learning curve. What's the user interface like? Does it have the shocking complexity of a jet airline control panel, or does it have the slick intuitiveness of an iPhone?
- Help. When you get stuck, you're going to need help. We wanted to make sure that users had it when they needed it.
- Scalable. Let's say the beginner evolves over time into a power user. Will he be stuck on the training wheels of his baby CMS or will he be able to take the training wheels off?
Those are six rather tough qualifications. We surveyed the playing field to find out who qualified. This post does not discuss our process of elimination. Suffice it to say that a lot of site builders eliminated themselves from the start thanks to fat fees. It's always hard to compete with free. Plus, there were some CMSs that were designed for beginners, but provided approximately zero options and customizability. Then there were some CMSs that had downright frightening user interfaces.
An unnumbered qualification of our CMS selection has to do with longevity. Since longevity is hard to predict, we made our selection based on popularity. Choosing a CMS isn't a popularity contest, of course, but we wanted to make sure that the CMSs we recommended were going to be around for a while. Widespread adoption of a CMS is one indicator of its potential lifespan. Thus, the two CMSs surveyed below have a high likelihood of being around for a few more years at least.
Rather than take you through the laborious process of picking, choosing, and eliminating, we're going to present you with the two winners.
Weebly oozes with awesomeness for a lot of reasons:
- Low Cost. Weebly is free. Can't really beat that. If you want That's going to cost.
- Easy to start. You want Facebook signup? You got it.
- Design-friendly. You've got hundreds of awesome templates to choose from. Now you can fake looking like you're a professional designer.
- Quick learning curve. Anyone can manage the WISYWYG editor. Easy. Plus, the integrated hosting deal really simplifies things.
- Help. Weebly has a nice help center that is simple and easy to navigate. There aren't a whole lot of video tutorials, but there are plenty of screenshots.
- Scalable. On the scalable side of things, Weebly also lets you play around with the source code and fiddle with SEO settings. The system isn't set up to cater to the HTML heads, but there is enough freedom to have some fun. The drawback is that Weebly lacks the rich library of features offered by its bigger brother alternatives. Do note, please, that Weebly is not open source.
Yes, you were expecting that we would feature this as a winner. How could we not? WordPress is the most popular open-source CMS on the market, and there's a good reason for that.
- Low Cost. Free. Obviously, you may drop a few bucks for a template, hosting, and the like, but the price structure is just right for such a powerful CMS.
- Easy to start. Okay, Weebly's got Wordpress taken on this one, but not by a whole lot. If you opt for a self-hosted site, you've got to jump through a few loops that may frighten the complete newbie.
- Design-friendly. The themes available to WordPress users are virtually endless. Design ineptitude is no problem. Just find yourself a pretty theme, install, and go. You're set.
- Quick learning curve. The WordPress interface is clean and simple. We like clean and simple. Even Weebly looks cluttered by comparison. Most newbies that I've tutored on WordPress are able to jump in and start publishing posts within about 2.2 minutes. As the user continues his or her WordPress journey, the knowledge deepens and the experience is more enriched.
- Help. WordPress has a community of devotees that are chattering away on forums all day long. In my experience, the forums are very responsive. Even some themes have their own forums. Even the theme forums that I have tested have been very quick to respond.
- Scalable. Here is where WordPress clearly trumps Weebly. You don't see many professional developers, designers, and programmers extolling the virtues of Weebly. Of course there are many virtues of Weebly, but the pros don't flock there. Instead, they sing the praises of WordPress. In the words of one WordPress guru that I know, "You can do anything you want with WordPress." That's just about true.
You may have a favorite CMS that you recommend. By all means, please recommend it in the comments below. All things considered, however, these are two safe recommendations to give to those who want a DIY website that's easy to make.
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Daniel Threlfall Author
By Daniel Threlfall - Since it's hard to make a living drinking coffee, I instead write about tech. And I drink coffee. I'm concentrated in web design, good CMSs, SEO, bad CMSs, social media. And I drink a lot of coffee. No cream, no sugar. You can find Daniel on Google+, and Twitter.