How do you go about choosing from the myriad of OpenSource CMS solutions?

In this article we look at 3 of the top OpenSource CMS solutions.

From our experience, you should choose the CMS based on the complexity of your web site, your target audience, the level of customization you anticipate requiring, and the technical sophistication of your support team.


WordPress is at its root, a blogging tool. It has evolved into a full-fledged CMS. It powers many popular web sites, and probably millions of blogs. But in our opinion, it is still a tool for simple web sites, small associations, small business, and blogging.

It has an easy to use interface, with a simple article editing page, and drop and drop menu management. Great for easily adding a few menu items and linking it to a collection of posts or a small collection of static pages.

Plugins are easily installed directly within WordPress, so extending your CMS with additional features is simple. You have one-click access to templates that you can customize yourself. Of course, with simplicity comes limited flexibility — you aren’t going to create a 100% unique template from a simple template builder. But if you have additional skills, you can build your own designs outside the CMS and import them.

While there are many thousands of plugins for WordPress, don’t expect to find too many sophisticated tools. For example, there are only 1 or 2 good File Management tools, and they fall far behind the capabilities of 3rd party solutions for Joomla and Drupal.

If you use WordPress, you get notifications for system updates, and can complete these (of course after a backup) with a few mouse-clicks. WordPress is often updated — it appears this is because WordPress sites are vulnerable to frequent hacks — likely 100s of thousands of WordPress sites are infected with spam and other virus-style problems.


Drupal is a power-house of a CMS. It is a developer’s CMS though. Until recently, Drupal didn’t even include a WYSIWYG editor. That meant that until recently, you had to hand code all your HTML, or create it in an external editor like DreamWeaver.

Fortunately, since Drupal 7, this has changed, making Drupal a lot more friendly than it used to be. That said, it is still a complex platform. Complex means a lot of flexibility — if you are a developer or power-user. Concepts such as Panels, Webforms, and Views give you (or more likely your programmer), a powerful set of tools to present your content in an infinite number of unique ways.

Drupal is not as friendly as WordPress. We like to look at Drupal as a CMS framework — a platform that developers extend in order to create a unique web experience.

If you have a complex web site, a reasonable IT budget, and your own technical resources, then Drupal may be the platform for you.

Drupal is not a tool for a simple blog nor for a small business web site. Arguably, it isn’t really a CMS for small to medium-sized associations. An international association, hospitals, government organizations are more likely to add Drupal to their list of CMS platforms to consider.


If Drupal is a power-house framework for developers, and WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform, then Joomla is the platform that reaches out to developers, end users and designers.

Joomla is flexible, customizable, and easy to use after no more than about 30 minutes to an hour of training.

Previous versions of Joomla have leaned on an early legacy of a blogging tool, making some concepts counter-intuitive for modern web sites. But with Joomla 2.5 and beyond, the CMS has improved in leaps and bounds, and now provides a solid platform for building small, medium, and large web sites.

Multilingual support is available out of the box. Extensions provide alternatives for how to manage multilingual content, but aren’t required.

Over 10,000 extensions exist to provide all sorts of extended functionality.

Powerful extensions exist that encompass features such as permissions-based file repositories capable of handing tens of thousands of files (like DocMan), integration with social networks, contact management (civiCRM — also available for Drupal and WordPress), membership management, and community based social networks (like JomSocial and Community Builder).

A Use Case in Complexity of Each CMS

We’ll use the most common task of all, creating a new “web page” to explore how each CMS performs. We assume a page that is linked to a blog-style list of articles.

WordPress Page Creation

To create a page in WordPress, you choose “Add Page”, and then enter a title, use a GUI editor to format your page content, and categorize, and tag your article and then publish it. Other options are available, but are hidden by default.

Drupal Page Creation

A similar process, but a few more steps. If it’s a new content type, you’ll need to define your content first — what elements make up the content (perhaps an event listing — so you might have date, time, location, contact person). Once you’ve created your reusable content type, you populate it with the details you want to publish. Then then need to set options for Menus, a friendly URL, and then you can save the page. You may also want to create a view or layout for the content type. Now, you can publish your page for viewing.

Joomla Page Creation

From the control panel, you choose the option Add Article. You enter a title, choose a category, and enter your page content, and save the article, then you can click an “Add to Menu” button to assign the article to a menu item.

In Joomla, you can also assign permissions to each article — determining who can see or edit articles.

In WordPress and Drupal this can be accomplished by installing a plugin.

Which CMS do you Choose?

The correct selection of a CMS platform should be based on a thorough assessment of your organization’s specific requirements, technical resources, and your budget for ongoing support and development. That said, here are some basic guidelines:

If you are creating a simple web site, expect only a few photos and mostly content that is accessible to all site visitors, then WordPress is your obvious choice. Plugins exist to almost anything with WordPress, including some great eCommerce solutions for small to medium businesses — wooCommerce being the most well known solution.

If you an association or a business that wants to delegate content management, create communities, provide a permission-based file repository (like DocMan), grant restricted access to content based on a variety of business rules, then Joomla is the perfect platform.

And if you are a large organization that wants a platform that you can extensively customize, then Drupal would be your choice. Keep in mind you’ll need to budget for technical support unless you have internal IT people with Drupal experience.