Over the years web design has evolved, as have the tools used to produce websites. Dreamweaver is an incredible tool, and revolutionised the way that we built websites. Nowadays though, more of us are turning to content management systems (CMS) in order to develop dynamic, interactive, scalable platforms online.

When we come to choose which platform to use most of us will go for one of the big 3; Joomla!, WordPress or Drupal. However, there are other options out there either hosted on your server or the server of the company offering the service.

Let’s take a look at the big 3, and a couple of the best of the other options available in the market today.

WordPress

WordPress is the most used content management system in the world. It has around 30,000 plug-ins to increase functionality. This means that you have an abundance of opportunity to make your website more functional and more appealing to visitors. The system is driven off themes. These are essentially templates that you can either build for yourself, purchase or get free through WordPress.org. Most developers choose to take a template and then build upon it to derive a website that is suited to their needs. Steve at Kudos Web Design, Manchester based specialists in web development sate that “Wordpress provides the best of both worlds. Developers can build complex, feature rich sites, while clients can later self-management through the easy to use posts and pages system”

WordPress is certainly the easiest of the main platforms to interact with. It is possible to build a website without any PHP or programming knowledge. However, to really get the most of developing with it you still need to be able to understand CSS and PHP.

WordPress started off as a blogging system, and therefore to some developers it is more restrictive than Drupal and Joomla!. However, it is now used for just about any type of website you could care to mention.

Drupal

Drupal is much loved by developers. It is the most flexible of the big 3 in terms of development opportunity. There is however a fairly steep learning curve. It can be quite difficult to get going, and you do need to have some PHP knowledge in order to create a decent website. Drupal has somewhere in the region of 25,000 applications. Therefore, you can extend your website to do just about anything you could want it to do.

Joomla!

Joomla! falls somewhere in between WordPress and Drupal. It is a flexible system, but perhaps not as flexible as Drupal. It is easy to use but not as easy as WordPress. It is essentially the middle house where you get functionality, flexibility and ease of use comparable with the other 2 big players.

Joomla! has around 7600 additional applications that you can install, and therefore falls short of  WordPress and Drupal in this regard.  Joomla! uses a system called templates in order to build websites. These are similar to the themes used in Drupal and WordPress.

As with the other 2 you can download templates and build upon them in order to create what you need.

 

Support and communities

The advantage of the 3 CMS platforms above is that you have access to massive communities of developers, who provide ideas, videos, tutorials and guidance on everything to do with the platforms. Therefore, when you are building a website with one of them you are never alone. A simple Google search, or jump onto a forum, will help you to navigate your way through the minefield of code. Additionally, there are always developers available with knowledge of these platforms, and therefore you should never have a problem developing what you need within the frameworks.

The new breed

There are other platforms that provide the opportunity to build a good website in a slightly different way. Most of these are not open source, and don’t benefit from the availability of informational and development resources that WordPress, Drupal and Joomla! enjoy. However, one of these may be right for you.

ExpressionEngine

This is a proprietary CMS which is capable of much the same as the big 3 in the marketplace. You certainly won’t get the community support that you get with the other 3, but it is a well-regarded solution in terms of performance, flexibility, scalability and features available straight out of the box.

With ExpressionEngine you can build dynamic or static websites and it uses a template system, where template are created through the CMS system interface. It works a little differently in this regard to its open source cousins.

There is a limited free edition for non-commercial and personal use, and for commercial sites there is a minimum fee of $299 per website. There is also a cost associated with technical support which, can be quite prohibitive.

Light CMS

Light CMS is one of the easiest CSM website development platforms to use. It is designed to be used for websites that are quick to build and simple in functionality. You can use a built-in template from the system to get a website up in very little time at all. Alternatively, you can build your own templates.

Light CMS doesn’t benefit from the thousands of plug-ins and applications available on the open source platforms. However, it does come with traffic analysis, SEO and user management tools built in. Being an online interface Light CMS takes care of hosting for you.

Websites cost between $19 and  $99 per month. This certainly isn’t an option if you want a heavy websites with massive interactivity, and functionality, but if you want a simple gallery, blog or online store then it might suit your purpose.

There is a reason that the majority developers choose one of the big 3 content management systems. If you’re looking for a system where you can build lots of functionality, while scaling the website to your needs, WordPress, Drupal or Joomla! are certainly the way forward. However, if you want a fast and affordable self-development solution, and you have limited knowledge, then you could look at one of the online CMS  web development platforms.