Top 25 CMS to Watch in 2016

By Kaya Ismail March 3, 2016 Articles and Editorials

With 2015 well and truly behind us, it's time to look forward to another year of activity from all corners of the vast CMS world.

Content management systems across the world are constantly being born, updated, exchanged and even declared dead.

In the midst of all that drama, it's sometimes hard to look past the biggest players on the market.

Names such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, PrestaShop, Magento, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and a host of other big names make up the glossy outer layer of the CMS industry, each one battling for niche domination. And although those battles are exciting, they are to be expected.

However, beneath that surface, the rest of the CMS world buzzes away. The the budding platforms, the smaller startups and the vendors that have been carving out a name for themselves for years are all making their own moves - and I, for one, don't want to miss a single bit of it.

So, without any further ado, here's a list of twenty-five CMS to watch in 2016.

1. Sitey

Everybody loves a good website builder, mainly because they do the basics so simply. Sitey is one such platform.

It's free, boasts over a hundred responsive templates, and can host blogs as well as online stores. What most impresses me though, are the templates. The quality doesn't seem to fade, no matter how deep you delve into their template library. That's rare to find with a website builder that already offers up a solid feature set.

I'll be keeping tabs, and I hope to get my hands on it for a full review sooner rather than later.

2. Format

It's designed for creative minds, according to the website. Format is built to handle the online presences of photographers, illustrators, designers and artists.

They too have a healthy selection of themes to choose from, each one with a focus on presenting imagery. There's no long-term free plan, but its prices are reasonable.

To find out more about Format, you can check out our Format Review.

3. Siftr

Siftr is another portfolio website builder, but it comes with a twist of "artificial intelligence".

Once you connect up your Facebook, Instagram and Flickr profiles, Siftr sifts through your galleries, curating your best work as it goes. It then automatically creates galleries on your Siftr powered website.

You can then make edits to the way your images and content is displayed, in order to bring the best out of your work.

4. LightCMS

LightCMS is a website builder with a slightly more technical focus - which it seems to be focusing on more and more lately.

Voted as the Best Cloud CMS for SMBs 2014, LightCMS competes in terms of simplicity and approachability with the likes of Weebly and Wix, but it also boasts a Developer Program, which empowers web designers and agencies to white label and re-sell the platform to their customers.

Thanks to this blend of website building and white labeling, LightCMS finds itself in a relatively unique position, making it one to watch out for,

You can find out more about LightCMS by checking out our recent LightCMS featured week.

5. Django CMS

Django CMS was recently voted in as the Best Open Source CMS 2015, which is reason enough to keep tabs on them this year.

Built upon Django, a Python web framework, Django CMS is proven in the enterprise market, although its app-esque interfaces make it brilliantly approachable.

If you'd like to understand the inner-workings of Django CMS a little further, check out my recent Django CMS Review.

6. Strikingly

Strikingly is another website builder that captured my attention on a few occasions in 2015. I found myself recommending it to people who needed small, manageable one-page style websites on more than one occasion. Probably because that"s exactly what its built to produce,

I don"t expect too many new groundbreaking features from Strikingly in 2016 (after all, how functional can a one-pager really get?) but I do expect it to continue being a one-pager specialist, and at a fair price, too.

7. PHPFox

The social network builder market has been stale for the last few years (to say the least), but a handful of products are starting to re-emerge as worthy platforms for small, medium, and large sized online communities. PHPFox is one such product.

PHPFox "Neutron" was initially launched alongside Nebula, PHPFox's original, older platform. Now, though, Neutron has become the sole offering, meaning that the old PHPFox is gone - leaving one core product.

It's not a hosted solution, although in my eyes, that should be the next step for this promising community building solution.

8. PulseCMS

PulseCMS is a flat-file CMS, meaning that it can be quickly downloaded and uploaded to any server with no database setup process to worry about.

Founded in 2009, PulseCMS isn't exactly new to the market. Unfortunately though, it doesn't have the broad feature set to match its age.

However, it's under new management since December 2015, which I learned when PulseCMS responded to my recent review by mentioning that more themes and plugins were in development. They also liked my idea to bring WYSIWYG editing into the fray, so here's hoping 2016 is a big year for PulseCMS.

To learn more about how PulseCMS works, check out my PulseCMS Review.

9. MotoCMS

Another website builder trying to reinvent the wheel, some might quip. But MotoCMS is a genuinely good product with a lot to offer.

In 2015, MotoCMS 3.0 was launched, and it came with a bunch of features to complement its impressive themes. The hosted platform can be set up in two minutes, and is super easy to edit with, even from a mobile device.

The word I used to describe it in my MotoCMS Review was "crisp". Take a read of it to find out why.

10. Concrete5

Concrete5 has long been a trusted content management system. The open source platform is available for download, although it also offers a hosted solution, catering to personal projects, enterprises and everybody in between.

Japan's biggest website hosting provider, Sakura, recently started offering Concrete5 as an auto-install option - a bit of a coup considering that they valued it before the likes of Drupal and Joomla.

Plus, they recently revamped their website, bringing in a more modern look, and I'm sure they will continue to improve internally as the year goes on.

11. SocialEngine

2015 was a positive year for SocialEngine. Updates came regularly, and they seem to have emerged from a period of uncertainty.

As previously mentioned, only a handful of community building products are worth talking about at the moment, and I think SocialEngine is a product with a bright future.

With SocialEngine PHP and SocialEngine Cloud, I consider SocialEngine to be an online community builder with real potential. It has a good range of features, although I've never been too convinced by its theme library. Hopefully 2016 will have some better themes in store for us.

12. Mobirise

A website builder should be all about accessibility. Mobirise is a fairly new solution that allows you to build a relatively well-rounded website, offline.

So, you can roll into your client's office, fire up Mobirise, and thrash out some website design ideas without ever having to ask for their WIFI password.

Features are few and far between at the moment, but since my Mobirise Review, updates have already started to trickle in. I expect that to continue into 2016.

To learn more about how Mobirise can help you put a website together offline, check out my recently published Mobirise Review.

13. PageCloud

Before launch, they claimed that their product would be "the world's most advanced website editor".

Today, PageCloud is looking very promising indeed. Despite being cloud-based, PageCloud integrates with popular desktop apps like PhotoShop and Illustrator, while also playing nice with online platforms like MailChimp and Shopify. In-line editing is a big part of its identity, although it also offers up functionality like copy and pasting across apps.

CMS Critic Founder Mike Johnston recently interviewed PageCloud CEO Craig Fitzpatrick, so be sure to check that out for a deeper understanding of the platform.

14. Trident

Boonex has been proudly pushing Dolphin.Pro as its flagship community website builder. Trident, though, is the company's latest downloadable venture.

Officially launched right at the very end of 2015, Trident has been in development for over 5 years. But it's now operating as a fully fledged SCMS (Social Content Management System).

It boasts a full set of CMS features, such as; custom page builders, navigation builders, a database builder, multiple-languages, content publishing modules, a media uploader, permissions control and more. Plus, it offers "unprecedented core tools" for social networking projects.

15. SilverStripe

I sat down with SilverStripe CeO Sam Minnée and discussed SilverStripe's future over coffee in London a few months back. He was preparing for StripeCon Europe 2015, but he had time to show plenty of enthusiasm for the next big step - SilverStripe 4.

He mentioned that, "[With SilverStripe 4, we want to] allow for more flexible authoring via intuitive interfaces for block-based designs, without locking [the user] into that. Instead, we want to say that this is just one of the tools you can use."

He told me the first beta would be released in "early 2016", so I'm hoping to see that any day now.

16. Subbly

The subscription box niche has been hotting up for a while, and I summarised the battle going on between two dedicated subscription box eCommerce solutions a few months back; one of which was Subbly.

Subbly was launched half-way through 2014 by Stefan Pretty and his small, passionate team. Their platform is healthily stocked with features, and their pricing relates to how many subscribers you have, rather than actual transaction fees.

Stefan Pretty personally informed me that 2016 would be a year with, "more features and themes", so I'll be keeping a look out for those.

17. CrateJoy

CrateJoy is the other combatant in the fight for subscription box eCommerce solution battle. CrateJoy boasts a larger presence, a larger team, and more funding, although with Subbly putting up a valiant fight, both of these products are worth keeping up with during 2016.

Unlike Subbly, though, CrateJoy opts to charge transaction fees along with its monthly bill. This is one of the core differences between the two platforms, as I mentioned in my coverage of the "Battle for the Subscription Box Niche".

CrateJoy is the biggest player in the growing subscription box market, so you'd be missing out if you didn't keep tabs.

18. Adobe Portfolio

It's in the name, but Adobe Portfolio helps you build an online portfolio. And it does it with a snazzy style that only Adobe can pull off.

You simply choose a layout, upload your images, and get editing. The entire layout is editable, with a simple interface which ensures anybody can make their work look great. Oh, and it also syncs with Behance, allowing you to publish once across the two mediums. That's an integration that will grab the attention of many designers.

I'm a fan of the platform already, but with only five layouts on offer, I'm hoping 2016 will bring a few more.

19. Ghost

Ghost has excited me ever since it burst on to the blogging scene in late 2013.

For a while, it was hailed as the blogging solution that might best WordPress. Although it's nowhere near doing that in terms of sheer numbers (with WordPress accounting for over 20% of websites with known content management systems),, Ghost does offer up a refreshingly crisp blogging platform, with features that many prefer over WordPress.

It's still a relatively young platform, and I'm hoping 2016 will be a big year for this little gem.

20. Boonex Dolphin.Pro

I mentioned Boonex Dolphin.Pro when I discussed Trident (number 14 on the list). so, Boonex is behind two of the products I'll be keeping a close eye on this year.

Dolphin.Pro is their flagship product, powering over 300,000 online communities world wide. It's already jam packed with features, but with other social network softwares upping their game, I expect to see Boonex follow up on their recent Dolphin.Pro 7.2 release with more goodies for their community throughout the year.

I got my hands dirty with the platform not too long ago, so be sure to read my Boonex Dolphin.Pro review to find out more about how it works.

21. The Grid

The Grid is a website builder that"s aiming to change the way we experience website building. It brings artificial intelligence into the fray, making each of its websites smart enough to adapt to content changes, automatically apply design tweaks, and so forth.

Despite its potential, I personally have my reservations about Grid, but that's only more of a reason to watch out for any progress.

22. nopCommerce

nopCommerce surprised a few people when it pipped industry leaders to the award for Best eCommerce Solution for SMB 2015.

The free and open source ASP.NET solution is trusted by over 25,000 stores, boasting themes, plugins and a user friendly admin panel.

With their first award win here at CM Critic, there's no doubtng the strength of their community (which thrives within the nopCommerce communiy forums). But i'm confident that their product will go from strength to strength this year, too.

23. Pligg

Pligg drifted into dark waters throughout 2015, with updates drying up completely. Why, you ask? Well, the owner's decision to sell the online community builder may have had something to do with it.

And in December 2015, that sale went through on Flippa, for $56,000. In other words, Pligg is under new management - and I'm hoping that those in charge will revitalise the platform this year. It's already gone through a website re-design, so Pligg's future is once again looking bright.

24. LemonStand

LemonStand is another eCommerce solution worth keeping tabs on this year. The snazzily designed platform is geared towards medium and large scale businesses, rather than to one-man-bands.

It has everything a standard eCommerce solution should have, plus powerful extras like; A/B testing, subscriptions, wholesale products, email marketing and advanced analytics, all built into the platform.

Why watch them in 2016? Well, their roadmap looks very interesting, with features like blogging and "advanced CMS" functionality already in the works.

25. BlackMonk CMS

Last but not least, is BlackMonk CMS. I first got my hands on this product back in 2014, and their Banglore-based team has steadily improved the product ever since.

BlackMonk CMS took heed of some of the advice within my review, by introducing rich formatting and multimedia support when creating pages. I highlighted how the product lacked such features, and pointed out that it was an issue. To BlackMonk's credit, they saw to it very quickly indeed.

They have been updating the platform regularly, and even rolled out a small business edition a few months back.

Who Are You Watching?

That's my list of content management systems to watch in 2016. I'm looking forward to seeing how they all develop, alongside the bigger players, of course.

Think I missed out a platform worth watching? Let me know what CMS you'll be keeping your eye on this year in the comments below.

Kaya Ismail

Kaya Ismail Author

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