July 17, 2024

10 Best Content Management Systems for Designers

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.


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.


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.


content management systems

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


  1. Sinan Mavi Reply

    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”.

  2. Nokadota Reply

    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.

  3. Matthew Evans Reply

    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.

  4. Paul Pennel Reply

    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.

  5. Stephanie Reply

    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.

  6. Paul Reply

    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?

  7. Rain Reply

    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

  8. Jesse Reply

    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.

  9. Nicholas Reply

    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.

  10. Mhaddy Reply

    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.

  11. mr. tunes Reply

    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.

  12. Justin Reply

    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.

  13. Carolina Reply

    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 …

  14. Jung Reply

    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”.

  15. Mark Mitchell Reply

    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.

  16. Caz Reply

    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

  17. Andrea Reply

    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.

  18. sufers Reply

    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!

  19. Danny Reply

    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.

  20. Edwin Reply

    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 ? 🙂

  21. David Reply

    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).

  22. brinella Reply

    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.

  23. Dennis Powers Reply

    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
    skype. dennis_powers

  24. Luke Reply

    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.

  25. John Reply

    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

  26. Alistair Reply

    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.

  27. Glen German Reply

    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).

  28. Paddy Reply

    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)

  29. Ashlee Reply

    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. 🙂

  30. Jeremy Reply

    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.

  31. Dave Reply

    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.

  32. robb Reply

    i used joomla and wordpress.
    wordpress got my vote.
    while i’ve never tested others before, but i remember the reviews are mostly good.
    especially drupal.

  33. Pragmatic Design Reply

    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.

  34. Michel Leconte Reply

    I’m bias too but I *truly* believe that you should check out http://www.seotoaster.com ; open source & free like most on the list but also most advanced SEO wise out of the box, including automated deep-links, automated 301, automated JavaScript link sculpting and point and click SEO silo’s.

    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

  35. Erica Reply

    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.

  36. Chris Lopez Reply

    Good post, I only miss Kentico CMS. I’m using its free edition since its 4.0 version, still with no issues.

  37. KiS Reply

    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.

  38. Clive Reply

    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.

  39. Deyon Reply

    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.

  40. Craig Bailey Reply

    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.

    1. Adi Reply

      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… 🙂

  41. Glen Reply

    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.

  42. WillyC Reply

    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.

  43. [Axel] Reply

    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.

  44. Jeremy W Reply

    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.

  45. Hemang Rindani Reply

    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.

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