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 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 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 is a flexible, elegant and easy-to-use content management system. It is both free and open source.
Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications.
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.
CushyCMS is a Content Management Systems (CMS) that is truly simple. There is no software to install and no programming required.
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 is a no-fluff, open source content management system designed for small teams.
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.
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.
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.
I have to say you missed great one for front-end designers– MODx!
concrete 5 looks very promissing. i think you forgot “frog cms” (php version of radiant cms)! nice list!
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.
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”.
You need to add Tank to this list as well:
Go check out the showcase to see what designers are doing with the app:
“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).
Great post – THX 🙂
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.
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.
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.
WordPress is my best lover! pls check my site which build by WordPress. 🙂
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.
There’s also NestaCMS (http://effectif.com/nesta) which is pretty lightweight and easy to use.
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.
Modx is supreme…
I find Expression Engine complicated. WordPress is the Jquery of CMS’s. Really meant for designers 🙂
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.
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?
I just think modx has been forgotten. 😉
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
Cushy CMS is great for really small projects or adding some CMS functionality to existing static sites.
I’ve been using PageLime for a while now. Seems like a much better alternative to Cushy.
modX (www.modxcms.com), needs to be on the list. It is IDEAL for designers!
In which world Joomla and Drupal are “for” designers?
Glad to see Textpattern on the list however you forgot ModX.
Great list, most of designer favorit
WordPress gets my vote!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
SurrealCMS.. Free Account
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.
I use CMS MADE SIMPLE since many years and I have no problem with!
It’d be nice if these posts were more than just lists. Some actual information would be nice.
CMS made simple is not so bad either
Just adding to the list.
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.
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….
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 …
…and one more to add
A really nice looking project.
I would like to add GetSimple to this list – since it’s launch a couple months ago, the community is steadily growing.
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”.
Don’t overlook sNews either which is a neat little script.
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.
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
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.
+1 for ModX http://modxcms.com
AWESOME extensive list.. Have always used wordpress as cms and blog but think i will experiment with some of the others and this list makes it easier for me, thank you for your time!
Dugg for wordpress there!
Can’t believe MODx is not featured here – surely one of the very best out there! – http://modxcms.com/
MODx is definitely a CMS that makes designing a website a real pleasure. I say this as a designer and not a developer. I’m constantly blown away by its flexibility.
Admittedly there is a slight learning curve but the MODx forum is great and there’s an extremely helpful community out there on Twitter.
Looking over the above mentioned CMS’es, I noticed that a great deal of them are to be found on the following web site:
This site offers great in depth views and user opinions on the subject of ‘which cms to choose’ ?
Hope this is of any help ? 🙂
Two Words… You Rock! thank you for this
As others have said, a great CMS for designers should easily marry standard, CSS-based design with the content managed by the system! Wolf CMS does exactly this (PHP system, lineal descent from Radiant).
Well I use Joomla and WordPress.. but I learned 3 more CMS from this list, thanks…
Wonder why MODx (http://modxcms.com) is missing?…
I’m pretty sure that Barack Obama’s website (http://www.barackobama.com/) is powered by ExpressioneEngine, not Moveable Type, as stated.
NovusCMS uses Umbraco almost exclusively. After an enormous amount of research we found that this CMS is perfect for public sector. We’ve had to customize a tiny bit, like adding Active Directory itegration, etc. It is much easier to learn and more intuitive for the end user. Also, the majority of our customers use Win Server instead of Linux.
Great article and good info. We are a custom website design and development firm and we have built our own simple cms. It’s a light cms that we use for our own projects, but we are contemplating releasing it to the design community if there is interest. We built it and we support it, our clients love it and I would be interested in your thoughts. If your interested you can take .cms for a test drive.
email. dennis (at) dotcommediainc.com
We use Joomla and Viart CMS
If you’re talking from a designers perspective, you can’t go passed CMSMS. Best and most powerful templating. How you can even mention Joomla is beyond me – its a good CMS, but not for designers.
We used Infomaxim to build http://www.gadgetguy.com.au. It’s very flexible, handles ecommerce, has built-in analytics and reporting, customer management and a bunch more and not once did it limit anything we wanted to do from a design point of view. Oh, and it uses xStandard so call content mark-up is xHTML strict compliant.
Where was MODx?
Here’s how the templating system works for the designer:
Step 1/ Knock up your sparkly design on your shiny white iMac. No holds barred.
Step 2/ Convert said design to (X)HTML/CSS.
Step 3/ Add the (X)HTML to MODx (or keep it external), drop in the required tags, snippets, etc.
Step 4/ Job done
Have to agree with MODx – am designing two sites a we speak with it, doing exactly what @John describes (even on a shiny white imac ! lol) – client controlled lightbox galleries, blog, editable chunks, all valid – oh joy.
Drupal for programmers and WordPress for designers
CMS are the new OS. Everyone has their favorites and will defend them to the end. Personally, I have tried most on the list, and with most you can tell that they are made by developers.
By that, I mean that they all try to install their own lingo, typical universal terms are flipped on their collective heads, and the designing of them is extremely difficult unless you know PHP.
The one I have yet to try, yet am extremely intrigued by because it is always left off the list, yet people clamor for it to be mentioned is Modx. I just can’t tell how well the extensions work because of the unintelligent UI on it’s home site (although it is better than most CMS homes out there).
Another great CMS is eSuiteOne – a hosted(Software-As-A-Service)all-in-one system with integrated blog, ecommerce, email marketing, customer database (CRM) and lots of other stuff, http://www.esuiteone.com/
I’ve got to second (or third, fourth or fifth!) the comments about Drupal and Joomla, as a designer they’re among my LEAST favourite CMS’s.
I’ve had good success with Unify for single-user sites – http://unify.unitinteractive.com/
And MiniCMS isn’t bad if you need something a bit more powerful – http://www.minicms.eu/home.html
I’m off to check out Modx now after reading the comments!
I agree that Drupal is a truly complicated CMS for Webdesigners. Plus the Backend is not really logically structured.
My favourites at the moment are:
Concrete5 and Unify (for small projects)
If you are looking for a CMS that focus on simplicity and ease-of-use, but still give the designer flexibility in templating features and customization then I would recommend you the FREE EDITION of Kentico CMS:
I’m seconding the vote for Textpattern. Designing for Textpattern is as simple as coding the page like you normally would, dropping the code into Textpattern, and popping the Textpattern tags anywhere you’d want dynamic (or static, if that’s the type of site you’re working with) content to go. Done.
The TXP resource center website has a ton of plugins you can choose from to accomplish just about anything you can think of to throw at it. If you know PHP, you can also whip up your own plugin to do whatever it is you want TXP to do. Even if you do get stuck, the community forums are great, and very helpful.
The only time I ever got stuck using TXP was in the very beginning, when I was trying to wrap my head around the Sections and Categories concept that textpattern uses to store information. (It’s actually a lot simpler than it seems– Sections are basically the templates that hold the content, IE categories) Once you figure that out, the rest is a breeze.
I settled on TXP after looking at several other CMS and finding them too heavy or convoluted for what I wanted to do. TXP is quick to learn, did almost everything I wanted it to right out of the box, and all in all works just right. 🙂
Surreal CMS is by far the best hosted CMS. Period. http://surrealcms.com.
They are well established, have a free account, are in multiple languages, and even have an affilliate program. You can’t get that from any of these other hosted CMS products.
I’ll go ahead and start by saying, I’m very biased, probably alot like most of the commenters here are.
Drupal rocks! It has the flexibility to provide you the simplest of blogs, or the most complex of sites… IE whitehouse.gov and theonion.com.
I have just found Website Publisher from a Interspire. I’ve only tried a demo but am REALLY excited about the potential it seems to offers. It’s not cheap, around $365 per license but has awesome modular drag & drop functionality.
Also, PageLime, as a simple content editor is excellent and the support provided has been second to none in my experience.
I recommend Pixie CMS
i used joomla and wordpress.
wordpress got my vote.
while i’ve never tested others before, but i remember the reviews are mostly good.
You might be interested in zena. One of its main goals is to plain nice with designers and let them be in total control of the content display:
There is also a video illustrating the process:
Gaspard (I’m biased, I created the damn thing).
I am using silver stripe, i think it is best one.. Nice post.
What about Liferay?? anyone heard of it?
good to see concrete5 at the top of the list!
What no modX?! http://modxcms.com
I like how Drupal screencap is hiding behind someones capture not the typical ugly interface….hahaha
Silver stripe looks nice.
We use SilverStripe- lovely to design for and customise, and a simple backend for non-techy users.
We also use WordPress and Joomla. WordPress is great for blogs, we don’t feel it’s the best as a full CMS. The Joomla backend is overcomplicated for non-techy users, and gives us the most support requests.
I’ve been using http://pulsecms.com and love it!
It’s also super easy to build websites with, requiring 4 standard HTML templates, and 2 CSS per theme only. It ships with Jquery as well. Thanks to content front-end / inline editing, you can edit everything right onto the page, like for instance text inserted in a Jquery slider (try to do this with WordPress..).
On the SEO CMS side of things, we’ve compiled a list of the plug-ins you would need to install, patch, configure and troubleshoot to match only part (some stuff simply don’t exist on WordPress) what’s available with a basic seotoaster install out of the box:
– WordPress Duplicate Content Plugin
– WordPress Sitemaps Plugin
– WordPress Meta tags Plugin
– All in one seo pack wordpress plugin
– WordPress nofollow plugin
– Meta robots wordpress plugin
– Free seo wordpress theme
– seo wordpress template
On the Content Management & Design side of things:
– WordPress php plugin
– WordPress multiple content areas
– Super Transition Slideshow
– Fast and Secure Contact Form
Anyway check it out, you’ll be glad you did. There’s an online demo at http://www.seotoaster.com/demo-seotoaster-cms-free-seo-software.html
I have created page http://www.baldomero.eu, but I would like to implement
a good CMS. I would easily upgrade offer ready made companies.
http://www.cmsmadesimple.com is a great open source solution that I use every day. I can take a static site and turn it into a database driven site in less than an hour with this product. Works great!
I use business catalyst for run my online business.
I also use MODx as my CMS for everything!
I’m a designer coming from Dreamweaver. My site is in Joomla, and I find it unintuitive and programmer-centric. I would really like to know what the definition of a “simple” vs. “complex” site is. That would be really helpful in deciding whether to go to one of these other CMSs! My site isn’t exactly a family reunion site, but it isn’t adobe.com either.
Nowdays I am hearing about Jhoomla.. I need to try that out myself
Better try out concrete5 🙂
Definitely a system to make your clients happy!
good to see concrete5 at the top of that list!
What about Plone?
Good post, I only miss Kentico CMS. I’m using its free edition since its 4.0 version, still with no issues.
Can’t believe there is no mention of CMS Made Simple here.
Got it installed and configured for a client and they’re loving it!
One of the easiest CMS we’ve encountered so far.
I love using Drupal and joomla. They are awesome but no idea of other CMS mentioned here. Are they better than Drupal & Joomla.
Also interesting that Umbraco is not in this list.
Umbraco is a .NET based CMS which has great facilities for designers construct their designs.
The separation between content and templates makes this possible.
Very happy to see SilverStripe here, I use it at work for most of my clients. Very powerful CMS if your good with the code.
Great to see WordPress included in a designer list – it really has come a long way over the years.
For more complex sites I also quite like the Elcom CMS – a little bit more of a learning curve that WordPress, but very efficient in how it manages all the CSS and other styling tools.
I’m Using Joomla, WordPress, Concrete5… my vote will go to WordPress… easiest to develop plus to get plugin, support, sources. It’s not bad and damn good… 🙂
Been playing with swiftycms and it surprised me.
Very easy and quick
How on earth can you put Joomla on a list for designers, this is only for developers and is very restrictive. Where is modx, this is by far the best for designers – no limitations.
Nice Post. We use Joomla, Drupal & WordPress…
No one mentioned what Weebly for Designers is doing?
Silverstripe best solution for wordpress
Great list … I’m actually considering using Joomla for a web site at the moment.
Good list, though as a designer I would really suggest avoiding Joomla more than any other. It may be good for some things, but this is not a CMS for designers by any means.
ExpressionEngine certainly belongs here, but it’s a commercial product and a little hard to compare that alongside all the others which are open source.
We currently use http://processwire.com which is a newer entry but should be at the top of any list of CMSs for designers.
I’m using Textpattern CMS from the beginning, and guess what I love it, as do my clients. What I really like about it, is that you don’t get a full bloat of stuff you never need (like in the “BIG” systems joomla, wordpress, typo3 or drupal), and if you need something there is always a plugin for it. In those many years security has never been an issue, and I have some clients switching from wordpress and joomla, because they got hacked.
On new projects I use HTML5/CSS3 with Textpattern CMS and it works like a charm.
Regarding speed of pages, it also is a winner compared to others.
wahhh nice collection of cms. i think textpattern and silver stripe is easy and safe comparing with every one .
Great list, thanks for sharing. We currently use WordPress and Joomla.
I use WordPress mostly, Like to know more about Joomla 🙂
Great list. I love WordPress the most, but I am also somehow crazy for Joomla too! Building sites with Drupal also seems interesting.
Love WordPress. But I’ve also used other WYSIWYG website builders such as Weebly and Squarespace. Not as flexible as WordPress, but I still use them for some other projects.
I recommend Veolay CMS, http://veolay.com, its great for html website and easy to use, can get started within a few minutes. Comes with a white labelable admin so we can add client’s branding in there too.
CMS website starts from – INR-4000 , If you want to know more contact – 8506885966
Nice list. There content management systems mentioned here are feature rich platforms with a few difference among them. From the listed CMSs, SilverStrip CMS and Concrete are particularly suited best for small to medium businesses, while Joomla, Drupal and WordPress are powerful enterprise web content management solutions that allow business to have websites ranging from personal site to complicated web applications and ecommerce sites. Here CMSs like WordPress and Concrete5 are better suited for web designers, however, I feel that content management and other features like SEO functionalities, security, flexibility and responsiveness are other important factors that makes a CMS popular. Considering flexibility and security, Drupal is the best platform for enterprise level applications while WordPress can suit any business requirements. Selecting from these options will be a tricky task however considering business needs and comparing it with features of CMS will ensure great results.