10 Best Content Management Systems for Designers

By / Oct 19, 2009 / Tools
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There are a lot of content management systems out there, but many of them are overly complicated and require a certain level of technical expertise. However, there are a select few that focus on simplicity and ease-of-use, but still give the designer flexibility in templating features and customization. In this article, we have listed ten of these CMS’s. Some of them are well known, while others you may have never heard of, but deserve a look.

If you have a favorite CMS that we didn’t list here, let us know.

concrete5

content management systems

Concrete5 is a free open source CMS that focuses on ease of use, which makes it great for designers. Some key features include a file manager with bulk upload, drag-n-drop layout editor, and an open marketplace of add-ons.

ExpressionEngine

content management systems

ExpressionEngine is a flexible, feature-rich content management system that empowers thousands of individuals, organizations, and companies around the world to easily manage their website. It’s a favorite of famous web designers such as Veerle Pieters.

Textpattern

content management systems

Textpattern is a flexible, elegant and easy-to-use content management system. It is both free and open source.

Joomla!

content management systems

Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications.

Movable Type

content management systems

Movable Type claims to be an “All-in-One Social Publishing Platform”, and it definitely delivers. It powers some pretty big sites including Barack Obama’s site and Serious Eats.

Cushy CMS

content management systems

CushyCMS is a Content Management Systems (CMS) that is truly simple. There is no software to install and no programming required.

WordPress

content management systems

WordPress is a state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress is probably the most popular CMS and blogging platform out there.

Radiant CMS

content management systems

Radiant is a no-fluff, open source content management system designed for small teams.

Drupal

content management systems

Drupal is a free CMS that allows an individual or a community of users to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website. Tens of thousands of people and organizations are using Drupal to power tons of different web sites.

SilverStripe

content management systems

The SilverStripe CMS is a flexible open source Content Management System that gives everyone involved in a web project the tools they need to do their jobs.

About the Author

Henry Jones is a web developer, designer, and entrepreneur with over 14 years of experience. He is the founder of WDL and ThemeTrust.

121 Comments

  1. Daniel
    October 19, 2009

    The first one I’ve tried is WordPress, and I’ve never looked back.
    It’s easy yet complicated enough to support lots of customisation.

    Reply
  2. Daniel Bardi
    October 19, 2009

    This should be titled “10 Best, in my opinion..” if this were the 10 best for Designers, then Umbraco would be in the list with it’s, standards usage of css and html.

    Daniel Bardi
    http://www.dascoba.com
    http://www.danielbardi.com
    http://www.cmstv.net

    Reply
  3. Tiffany S.
    October 19, 2009

    I have to say you missed great one for front-end designers– MODx!

    Reply
  4. Marvin
    October 19, 2009

    concrete 5 looks very promissing. i think you forgot “frog cms” (php version of radiant cms)! nice list!

    Reply
  5. jan stoltenhoff
    October 19, 2009

    if you want to have a more complex cms like joomla, please give http://www.typolight.org a try! we switched and are very happy with it.

    Reply
  6. the asian girls
    October 19, 2009

    WordPress is my best lover! pls check my site which build by WordPress. :)

    Reply
  7. Sinan Mavi
    October 19, 2009

    This is a very mis-informative post. Why calling something best when you don’t know if it is or not? Before calling something best, you must mention how you rated them.

    These are clearly not the best ones, there are better ones like Alfresco,Sava,Modx…

    And, every 9 from 10 designer would say Joomla must be in the “worst 10″.

    Reply
  8. alan
    October 19, 2009

    You need to add Tank to this list as well:
    http://withtank.com/

    Go check out the showcase to see what designers are doing with the app:
    http://withtank.com/showcase/

    Reply
  9. Sabrina
    October 19, 2009

    “If you have a favorite CMS that we didn’t list here, let us know.”
    OK, here is an easy and fast frontend-editing cms: bk.EDIT (http://www.bkedit.com).

    Reply
  10. Torben Rick
    October 19, 2009

    Great post – THX :-)

    Reply
  11. You forgot to mention…
    October 19, 2009

    ModX http://modxcms.com/

    Reply
  12. Nokadota
    October 19, 2009

    It’s because of Veerle that I looked into Expression Engine and now it’s my favorite CMS as well [I use it for my main blog].

    I recently got into WordPress as well [for my portfolio] because you should definitely be familiar in more than one CMS.

    Reply
  13. Matthew Evans
    October 19, 2009

    I’m surprised to see Joomla and Drupal in the list for best CMS’s for designers. I know they both use predetermined templates which you need to customise to your design rather than being able to take custom XHTML and add in tags to pull back the content like Cookie Jar CMS and many other modern CMS’s.

    Reply
  14. Chris
    October 19, 2009

    Drupal is a simple CMS?

    I’ll be giving ExpressionEngine a test drive in a couple weeks, so I’ll see how that one pans out.

    Reply
  15. Glenn Gillen
    October 19, 2009

    There’s also NestaCMS (http://effectif.com/nesta) which is pretty lightweight and easy to use.

    Reply
  16. Paul Pennel
    October 19, 2009

    I’m a big fan of modx as well. Ratings to go with these would have been great. Ease of use for customer, ease of customization, community, things like that should have been rated.

    Reply
  17. vampaz
    October 19, 2009

    Modx is supreme…

    Reply
  18. Nacho
    October 19, 2009

    I find Expression Engine complicated. WordPress is the Jquery of CMS’s. Really meant for designers :)

    Reply
  19. Stephanie
    October 19, 2009

    What about Business Catalyst? It was just bought by Adobe. I’ve only been using it at work for 6 months but I’m starting to love it.

    Reply
  20. Paul
    October 19, 2009

    Not sure I agree with the premise that simpler/less techy equals better for designers. Shouldn’t the measurement be whether the CMS is flexible enough to allow the specific UX and interaction design required by the project in hand?

    Reply
  21. mike
    October 19, 2009

    I just think modx has been forgotten. ;-)

    Reply
  22. Jesse
    October 19, 2009

    Just want to say that light cms is amazing for designers and amazing for your clients. Most if my designs are built on their system. Also easy to setup for hosting and recurring revenue. http://www.speaklight.com

    Reply
  23. Peter Pearson
    October 19, 2009

    Cushy CMS is great for really small projects or adding some CMS functionality to existing static sites.

    Reply
  24. Cynthia Maddox
    October 19, 2009

    I’ve been using PageLime for a while now. Seems like a much better alternative to Cushy.

    Reply
  25. Bryan Chalker
    October 19, 2009

    modX (www.modxcms.com), needs to be on the list. It is IDEAL for designers!

    Reply
  26. Qoska
    October 19, 2009

    In which world Joomla and Drupal are “for” designers?
    Glad to see Textpattern on the list however you forgot ModX.

    Reply
  27. mupet
    October 19, 2009

    Great list, most of designer favorit

    Reply
  28. Corey Haggard
    October 19, 2009

    WordPress gets my vote!

    Reply
  29. Rain
    October 19, 2009

    WordPress is always my best friend when it comes to CMS but lately Joomla is really attracting me. But I still prefer wordpress’ usability. well.. both of them. ;p

    Reply
  30. Jesse
    October 19, 2009

    CMS’s like Umbraco are not listed for a reason because they use the simply aweful ASP.net. Yuck.

    I love the client use of Concrete5, and have used WordPress for a fair number of projects.

    Reply
  31. Nicholas
    October 19, 2009

    Man, why the snapshot of the oooollllldddddd 1.0, super-outdated version of Joomla?

    And by the way, Joomla! is an awesome CMS with a powerful templating engine. Most people give up on it before they clear that first hump in the initial learning curve. Once you ‘get it,’ it’s an amazing CMS.

    Reply
  32. Nathan Ford
    October 19, 2009

    Gonna throw another one out there:

    Unify – http://unify.unitinteractive.com

    You do not need to develop for it, and like Cushy, you do not need to know any programming.

    Plus, you can edit your content in context.

    Reply
  33. Mhaddy
    October 19, 2009

    I don’t think Drupal should have made the list for simplicity or ease of use. @Matthew Evans – You can create your own XHTML designs in Joomla and drop content in, you are not limited to templates at all.

    Reply
  34. Jackson
    October 19, 2009

    SurrealCMS.. Free Account
    http://surrealcms.com/aff-1045

    Reply
  35. mr. tunes
    October 19, 2009

    my vote is for textpattern, love it! will look into some of these other ones too. i agree that drupal and joomla should not have made this list. wordpress isn’t the best for designers either to some degree. you’d understand what i mean once you try textpattern.

    Reply
  36. Andrez
    October 19, 2009

    I use CMS MADE SIMPLE since many years and I have no problem with!

    http://www.cmsmadesimple.org

    Reply
  37. Darrel
    October 19, 2009

    It’d be nice if these posts were more than just lists. Some actual information would be nice.

    Reply
  38. B
    October 19, 2009

    CMS made simple is not so bad either

    Reply
  39. Jason
    October 19, 2009

    Just adding to the list.

    Cargo
    Square Space
    Core

    Reply
  40. Justin
    October 19, 2009

    Very glad to see that Concrete5 made this list! I had been looking for a CMS that was as simple, yet as extendible as C5 for quite a while. I have not used another CMS since I came across it about a year ago.

    Reply
  41. Adrian
    October 19, 2009

    What is with the image for Joomla!?

    Why a screenshot of Joomla! 1.0? 1.5 has been out for a realy really long time….

    Reply
  42. Carolina
    October 19, 2009

    Placing Jommla on this list must be a joke – it’s one of the most troublemaking things I’ve ever seen. One *can* manage building a site with Joomla, but even as a technican it’s hard. As a designer? No chance …

    Reply
  43. Jason
    October 19, 2009

    …and one more to add

    Symphony
    A really nice looking project.

    Reply
  44. Chris
    October 19, 2009

    I would like to add GetSimple to this list – since it’s launch a couple months ago, the community is steadily growing.

    http://get-simple.info/

    Reply
  45. Jung
    October 19, 2009

    I’m a designer, and not a programmer. I found myself Drupal is perfect solution for designer. I don’t know why many people are saying that Drupal is not “easy”.

    Reply
  46. brian
    October 19, 2009

    Don’t overlook sNews either which is a neat little script.

    Reply
  47. Mark Mitchell
    October 19, 2009

    I have to admit this list is a little strange. The “ideal” CMS for a front-end designer in theory should allow you to design your HTML/CSS as you want then put the CMS around that. Only about half of the ones listed here allow you to do that. Several listed above are notorious for not allowing that. My vote is for MODx we use it exclusively at Design Delux and our clients love using it also.

    Reply
  48. Caz
    October 19, 2009

    I use a commercial CMS called Pegboard because it is 100% customisable (if you can design it, you can build it) and is designed for designers not programmers. Adding extra functionality is dead easy (via modules) – you don’t have to hunt around for plug-ins or commission custom development and cross your fingers. http://www.pegboard.com.au

    Reply
  49. Andrea
    October 19, 2009

    If you don’t know php – don’t try Drupal. And if you don’t want to produce a standard Design with one/two sidebars and tabs above the content, then expect a lot of work to search the corresponding methods – the documentation doesn’t really help and so you spend your days searching for two lines of code, which you need to overwrite to generate the desired output. After one knows the structure of the whole thing, it’s easy – but I really damned that thing at the beginning :-D.

    Reply
  50. Scelza
    October 19, 2009

    +1 for ModX http://modxcms.com

    Reply

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