UX, Apps & Web Design Blog

By: Agne Lund | 23 May 2016

There are hundreds of content management systems developed now, listing which ones are the most usable is a Pandora’s box itself. Whether you are setting up an exquisite business website, a standard blog or just want to announce your presence on the web, getting the right content management system (CMS) is imperative. The brand image you are presenting to your customers needs to be polished, clean, intuitive yet functional.

The web development team at Opus compiled a list of the top 7 most usable content management systems should you wish to implement alone without a web developer.

The team based this list from their experience using the following factors:

● Ease of installation; ● Ability to extend functionality; ● Capacity to manage your gallery of images; ● Advertising your products and services.

The content management systems our developers suggested are as follows.

1. WordPress

WordPress is the CMS that can be used for creating an exquisite business website as well as a simple blog, and probably the most popular CMS overall. It’s a great platform for beginners, thanks in part to its excellent guidance in the way of documentation and installation. Another user-friendly aspect of WordPress is that newer versions auto-update without having to download a single file, the same for the plethora of available WordPress plugins.

For those users not familiar with HTML or other mark-up language, the backend layout is streamlined and intuitive, and a new user should be able to easily find their way around the dashboard and menus. WordPress also comes with a inbuilt image (multimedia) gallery.

For web developers, the theming language is fairly simple and straightforward, including the plugin API. In fact, WordPress probably has the widest base of plugins and themes to choose from – many actually developed by hard-core WordPress users. WordPress has several templates you can use to get you started, but the team found that for advanced customisation and functionality, it was better to develop their own custom CSS. WordPress development is Opus’ main request to create sophisticated and exquisite websites.

However if you still want to proceed on your own, a great part about WordPress is its loyal community. They are always eager to help on the WordPress forum regarding nearly every aspect of customising WordPress. If you have an idea, chances are it’s already been done with WordPress and written somewhere online.

2. Drupal

Drupal is another CMS that has a very large, active community providing awesome support for general questions and those surrounding the use of plugins. Instead of prioritising blogging as a platform, like WordPress does, Drupal is more of a pure CMS. Standard installation includes several optional modules adding features including forums, user blogs, OpenID, profiles and more. With a few third party modules you can create some interesting site clones with little effort.

One of Drupal’s more popular features is the Taxonomy module that allows for multiple levels and types of categories for various content types. There are plenty of Drupal themes and plugins that are ready to be customised if needed.

3. Joomla!

On functionality Joomla is a very advanced, it was this advanced functionality that rated high amongst the team’s experienced web developers. However, they did allude that to get started with Joomla was fairly easy and quite straightforward considering how configurable the software is.

Joomla is very similar to Drupal in that it’s a complete CMS, and might be a bit much for a simple portfolio site. It comes with an attractive administration interface, complete with intuitive drop-down menus and other features.

Joomla hosts an impressive 3,200 extensions, showcasing the engaged developer community behind it. Like WordPress, you can add just about any needed functionality with an extension. However, Joomla’s themes and extensions are not always free, so if you are looking for that advanced functionality mentioned earlier you will need to pay.

4. Squarespace

Squarespace is a good match for you if your website or business is very design oriented and you want to take a more hands on role in crafting the look and feel of your website. After WordPress the team’s developers loved this as Squarespace gave them the ability to make a lot of design tweaks without touching codes. If you are not familiar with coding yourself, then Squarespace is for you. Squarespace is ideal if you want your website to have a minimalistic, clean, and lots of images or graphics. Its rich imagery designer templates grab your attention when you first begin.

Squarespace includes cover pages, single scrolling page layouts that can be used as a standalone website, or combined with one of their templates. Cover pages raise your web design to a new level of sophistication (again without you having to be a coder). The same with the extensive styling option, they can be added without needing to code, unlike other website builders. For example, you can adjust the fonts, colours, image opacity, sidebar width, background images, sizes, spacing / padding and much more, its possibilities are endless. Furthermore, all Squarespace templates are responsive, meaning that you can resize your browser and the content (including the images, slideshows) and they will automatically resize. In today’s age of increased smartphone usage, this is imperative for mobile viewing.

5. TextPattern

Due to its elegance, Textpattern is a popular choice for designers. It’s slender code base is quite minimal, aiming to provide an excellent CMS that creates well-structured, standards-compliant pages. Textpattern uses textile mark-up in the text areas to create HTML elements within the pages. The pages that are generated are extremely lightweight and fast-loading.

Even though Textpattern is simple in design, this does not mean that its backend is difficult to use, surprisingly rather the opposite. Beginners should be able to find their way around the administration section easily. As with most CMS there are plenty of third party extensions and plugins that you can use to increase its functionality. If you run into trouble using it, there is an active developer community who are willing to help and more resources on the Textpattern website.

6. ExpressionEngine

The team at Opus found ExpressionEngine (EE) to be an elegant, flexible CMS solution for most types of projects. Designed to be extensible and easy to modify, EE sets itself apart in how clean and easy their user administration area is. Very quickly you can understand the layout of the backend and start creating content or modify the look of your site. It’s fantastic for creating websites for less-than-savvy clients that need to use the backend without getting confused.

ExpressionEngine is packed with helpful features like the ability to have multiple sites with one installation of software. For designers, EE has a powerful templating engine that includes custom global variables, custom SQL queries and a built in versioning system. One of the team’s favourite features of EE that is the global search and replace functionality. If you have a lot of content on your site, managing it can be a nightmare. Having the ability to change lots of data without having to manually search and open each page or post to modify it, is a blessing! However, ExpresssionEngine is quite different than other mentioned CMS in this article that it is a paid software. in that it’s paid software. The commercial license itself costs $299.

7. SilverStripe

SilverStripe is a PHP CMS that behaves similar to WordPress, except that it has more configurable options and is tailored towards content management, and not blogging. SilverStripe is unique because because it provides its own templating language to help with the design process.

SilverStripe also has some interesting features built in to the base, like content version control and native SEO support. (Many CMS websites require an additional plugin). What the team particularly likes about SilverStripe is that developers and designers can customise the administration area for their clients, if need be. You can add functionality with additional modules, themes and widgets but it does not provide much in terms of style. Not necessarily a bad thing as this will give your designer more freedom.

Whether you are beginning with a blog or foray into building your business website make sure you thoroughly research which content management system you want to use.

Changing later is always possible, but can be a headache designing and transferring the content elements. Consider each CMS community support as a factor in your decision, especially if you decide to go it alone. Ask yourself whether you want additional functionality in the form of extensive plugins like WordPress has or whether you are not happy to add custom code like those who use Squarespace.

If these content management systems are too challenging for you to navigate, and you are looking for compelling website that will move your business forward, then why not contact Opus and tell us your idea? The team would be happy to partner with you.

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