As popular in name as these three open source CMS are, the fact of the matter is they are simply NOT the best CMS on the market. I realize that this statement may upset people in their camps but it is a statement of fact.
For years, people's honest intentions have been doing these content management systems a disservice by blindly recommending them for everything under the sun just to help them gain more popularity and a larger user base. What they don't realize, however, is this type of action does more to hurt the projects name than to help it (in most cases). Today, I'm going to explain to you why these three popular CMS simply are not the best ones on the market.
I've been waiting to write this post for some time but I think it's very important and may help people understand how to properly choose a CMS without making blind assumptions that hearing a brand name over and over means it's automatically right for them.
When lurking around Quora and other popular QA websites, I often come across people asking questions about which CMS they should consider for their project. The exchange normally looks something like this:
The question: What CMS should I use?
Reply 1: Definitely Joomla, it's the best!
Reply 2: WordPress all the way!
Reply 3: Drupal is way better, I'd suggest taking a look at it!
This type of blind recommendation, as I mentioned above, not only adds no value to a conversation but also does nothing but further confuse the person who is asking the question in the first place. In this single question, without any qualification of what this user needs or wants from a CMS, three completely different systems with three completely different skill levels have been recommended and the fact is, as much as this may upset those who are in either of these camps, none are the best.
Let's discuss something very important for a moment. This may come as a shock to you but...
There is no BEST CMS.
There, I said it.
I'm sorry to all of you in the Joomla, Drupal and WordPress camps but the fact of the matter is, but your CMS is simply not the best. Of the thousands of content management systems on the market has its own strengths. There are some that are suited better to blogging, some that are great for complicated projects requiring more of a framework and some that are better for multilingual websites, and that's just describing a few use cases.
Some of you may be wondering why then, do we have a number of "Best CMS" related categories in our CMS awards . The reason is simple, people want to be able to vote and nominate on their favorite projects and I wanted to make sure that some of the lesser known projects get their moment in the spotlight. I think it's worth helping projects of all kinds get exposure. While the terminology "Best CMS for Enterprise " may not seem like the best idea, I've tried to break them into specific categories to help align them with a purpose so that rather than a simple Best CMS award, which wouldn't be very valid given what I've just told you above.. a Best CMS for Enterprise for instance is easier to identify because you are identifying its purpose. I don't like using the term Best CMS in any wording which is why I've split them into more specific categories this year.
Now, let me tell you why these products are not the best CMS on the market. I'm sure this is likely going to upset some people but I think these things are important to identify.
WordPress is NOT the Best CMS
WordPress is, first and foremost, a blogging platform. Yes, I know, there are those who say it's the best for everything under the sun including corporate websites and more but the fact of the matter is that when the developers are working on features for WordPress, writing blog posts is their #1 focus, not whether or not it can run a realty website or law firm.
Furthermore, WordPress suffers from something a lot of content management systems suffer from.. too much dependence on plugins. On top of this, plugins are not tested by any WordPress core developer to ensure they pass some form of QA before entering the plugin repository. As a result, issue such as this one can occur: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2458080/thousands-of-sites-compromised-through-wordpress-plugin-vulnerability.html
More Plugins = More Bloat
Again, there will be those who argue with me on this but it's a common issue across content management systems everywhere and with WordPress specifically, it is virtually impossible (note that I said virtually) to run WordPress without installing at minimum 5 plugins from the plugin directory.
Why is this an issue?
Simply put, the more plugins you install, the more your website performance suffers. Sadly, even plugins developed by Automattic (the mother company of WordPress) can cause massive slowdowns in load time and performance (I'm talking to you Jetpack). While the intentions of the developers who are releasing the plugins are good, this often leaves those running WordPress with the task of updating plugins constantly.
Old Plugins and No Warnings
On top of this, a HUGE percentage of the plugins in the WordPress repository are old and out of date yet still available to install on your system. This is a huge issue as these older plugins still exist and are not removed. There really needs to be an automated system that removes plugins older than say, one year, automatically if they are not updated otherwise someone can unknowingly install something that can expose their website to vulnerabilities.
To test out this, I was able install (without any warning whatsoever) a plugin from 2008 on my system unknowingly. How does something like this happen? The plugin search capability within WordPress does not show the date the plugin was developed or warn you that it might not be compatible unless you hit the details button. If you search and read the excerpt of a plugin and think it's what you are looking for, you can hit install and not have any idea that the plugin is 4 years old and likely to cause massive problems with your system.
To be blunt, this is a complete joke and I'm floored that the repository hasn't been purged of this old garbage by now or at the very least, a warning hasn't even been implemented that checks the date and compatibility against your system and alerts you (or better yet prevents you) from installing a plugin that isn't current.
Don't believe there are a ton of old plugins? Check this link. This is just a small sampling of a huge problem. Do you really think installing something developed for the release of WordPress from 2008 would be a good idea?
**Update as of 12/1/2015 - WordPress has made some changes to their plugin directory to attempt to identify compatibility and updated dates but there are still major issues. While they have begun to rank more updated plugins and ones that are tested with the most current release first and older ones far back in the directory, you are still able to install old plugins with absolutely no warning. Today, as a test, I attempted to install a plugin that was 6 years old on my wordpress install and it worked perfectly with no warning. This is a major security issue and a huge concern that needs to be addressed as far as I'm concerned.**
You see, as a new person who is using WordPress for the first time seeing an update notice, you assume it's a good thing to do it for security reasons. The problem with this is that more often than not, a simple plugin update has the potential to bring your site down hard and leave you scrambling to find a developer to help you figure out what just happened.
To be fair, this isn't a WordPress specific issue (although it is very common with WP) but rather an issue with a significant number of CMS that rely on plugins (and believe me, the list is long).
A simple solution to this would be to have a fail safe in place that copies your website, performs the update in a sandbox and, if everything goes well, then executes it on the main site. However, this type of system isn't very common unless you are using a WordPress managed hosting solution like WPEngine that allows you to have a dev copy to test updates on.
WordPress isn't a bad CMS and I'm not attempting to claim that it is. What I am saying is that, like all CMS out there, it has its faults and specific use cases when it's best recommended.
The fact of the matter is, there are many other CMS that could do a better job in situations where WordPress ends up getting recommended and these system simply don't have the same word of mouth or marketing prowess that WordPress does, therefore they never get explored.
The problem with plugins is that they cause bloat and bloat means your website slows down. Sure, you can use a caching plugin but that in itself is also a plugin developed by a third party and if you want support, you have to purchase that separately. Why caching is not built into WordPress as of yet still eludes me.
Can WordPress be a good option for a realty website, a law firm or something similar? Absolutely but rather than making a recommendation based on no information adds no value to a conversation. It's important to ask qualifying questions and find out what the individual needs and wants from a project, how it will be used, who will be using it and so on before attempting to help trim down the list of content management systems.
Joomla is NOT the Best CMS
There are lots of people that love Joomla and that's great. The Joomla community has really helped shine the light on open source products on the market. It is, however, simply not the best CMS out there.
The Plugin Game
Joomla suffers from the exact same issue that WordPress suffers from when it comes to plugins. Plugins are not tested against the system by Joomla core developers before being added to the repository (this same issue is persistent across a ton of CMS and isn't Joomla specific)and there are also a significant number of outdated plugins from 2010 - 2012 throughout the Joomla extensions directory.
I haven't had an opportunity to test out if Joomla will let you install an outdated plugin or not as their Joomla demo was not functioning correctly for me in order to test this so I cannot speak to that capability on the latest version. Hopefully, it blocks outdated ones or at least gives a warning.
Joomla websites, for some reason, also seem to have a high rate of hacking attempts against them. I don't blame this on Joomla specifically but I think it's more due to the fact that Joomla is popular and therefore, hackers focus on it and target websites using it specifically. This happens just as often with WordPress to be sure but I tend to hear more often from people who have attempted to use Joomla, been hacked and are looking for new solutions.
No, I am not making this up. It's the #1 thing I am contacted about. To those Joomla fans out there that are ready to freak out that I mentioned this, I am not saying Joomla is the most hacked CMS by any stretch. I am simply pointing out that in my case, I am contacted about it more often than any others.
In Joomla's defense, I personally think this is largely due to the core issue in this post.. Joomla being recommended for projects it isn't best suited for. What I mean by this is the more people that attempt to set up Joomla with no knowledge of the CMS and that are using it for a purpose that differs from it's core strengths, the more likely they are to make mistakes and end up with a hacked site.
Poor recommendations = Poor Experience
I say this because products such as Joomla and Drupal tend to be geared more towards those familiar with content management systems more than say, WordPress would be. They are slightly more advanced products. In my mind, I see the top three in order of difficulty: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal (Beginner user, Intermediate user, Advanced user). Improperly using a CMS for a situation it's not best suited for can result in problems and a poorly configured system which in turn, can lead to issues down the road.
Joomla also tends to be a bit more advanced than WordPress and those who recommend it to new users who don't have experience with content management systems or have never used one before are doing them and the product a disservice. There are far easier CMS out there but Joomla is definitely on the right track lately with its releases and is getting much better (the interface is light years above what it was in the 2.5 series).
In some ways, Joomla is halfway between WordPress and Drupal.
As previously stated, it's in the middle when it comes to usage difficulty, but this is also true for Joomla's general flexibility and functionality. WordPress can be stretched - in theory at least - to create a very wide range of website types, from blogs to directories. Drupal, which will soon be discussed, can be used to create almost any kind of website thanks to its building block nature.
Joomla doesn't stretch quite as far as WordPress, and on the occasions that it does, you can be sure the developers had an uncomfortable time making it happen. Likewise, Joomla cannot be used as a framework to piece together website elements the same way Drupal does. Joomla is the piggy in the middle. It works for some, but for others, it only serves to frustrate.
As you can see, like WordPress, Joomla has plenty of issues too and while it is a good product, it's not the best CMS on the market nor is it suitable to just recommend it for anything without thinking things through carefully and planning out a use case to see if it's a good fit.
Drupal is NOT the Best CMS
Here's where things get interesting. In my opinion, Drupal isn't a CMS. It's a CMF. This stands for content management framework and basically means that you can think of Drupal like Lego, you can build anything you want with it with virtually no limitations. It truly is an amazing product BUT (and here's the big problem) people still tend to recommend it for projects that require way less complex and easy solutions.
As I've mentioned numerous times already, this is not helping your favorite CMS succeed. This does a disservice and causes someone to attempt to use it for a purpose it isn't intended for (or that it isn't best suited for) and end up frustrated. We all know what frustrated people do right? They spread the word about how frustrated they are.
So, rather than just saying something unhelpful like "Use Drupal, it's the best!!!" perhaps you should consider what Drupal was designed to do and what projects it is best suited for before making a recommendation.
The Module (or plugin?) Conundrum
To Drupal's credit, they've done something right with their module directory (same as plugins for those of you who don't get the lingo). They have a drop down so you can ensure you only see modules that are under active development and are actively maintained.
Why do you not do this Joomla and WordPress? Yes, I'm talking to you.
Personally, I see no reason in maintaining these downloads but perhaps I am missing something here. I will say that in my opinion, Drupal has the best modules directory of the lot so they get bonus points there.
It just ain't easy
Let me apologize in advance to all Drupal fans for this next statement. Drupal simply isn't easy to use. In fact, it's one of the more complex content management frameworks out there and people who think setting up Drupal properly is a quick and easy process are definitely going to be in for a shock.
Drupal can be massively overwhelming to a new user but, in the right hands, just like Joomla and WordPress, it can also be great when used properly.
Of the top three, I think Drupal has the most potential for a wider variety of projects considering how versatile it is and the fact that it is, first and foremost, a framework for building complex projects and web applications.
So What is the Best CMS?
This may come as a complete shock to everyone but..
Put simply, there isn't one and there never will be.
People who ask the question "What is the Best CMS" are just like the people who ask the guy playing Everquest "What is the Best Class". It's a question that, no matter the context, simply cannot be answered accurately because there are way too many variables to consider.
A gentleman I admire, Adriaan Bloem, I think said it best in his post titled " What's the Best CMS? " on his personal blog. To quote him:
Not only is there no “best CMS” in general; there isn’t even a best CMS for you.
All of these tools have drawbacks and shortcomings. Getting the right one means getting one that is the best fit to your scenarios and constraints. But it’s equally important to know the drawbacks. You’re not just committing to the awesome advantages — you’ll always get annoying problems in return. If you know about these in advance instead of ignoring them, you can live with them — and mitigate the problem. Go in eyes wide open.
- Adriaan Bloem, OffandOnline.net
Well said Adriaan. I couldn't have said it better myself.
So, to all of you out there who think your CMS is the best, I hate to break your heart but it isn't. Nobody has the best CMS because there is not best CMS nor will there ever be.
So, what content management systems should you consider trying instead of these three? Here are some alternatives. Note that if your CMS is not listed, it's not a slight, I have chosen a few example solutions off the top of my head to mention. The position in this list is based on my opinion based on experience. Hopefully you find them helpful.
For Bloggers: I list 15 great alternatives here: Simple Blogging Platforms
Advanced CMS: ProcessWire
Publishing CMS: Agility CMS
Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Know of an alternative that you think should warrant mention? Let me know.