If you didn’t already know, CMS is short for Content Management System. There are many different types available and they all exist to make creating websites easier for people who didn’t learn to program. Some of these systems are aimed at customers with at least some understanding of code, but the majority are pitched at website owners who just want to get their sites built fast and maintenance to be easy. Since there are so many choices, this article explores a few of the criteria to keeping mind when choosing between the different PHP CMS platforms that are available.
What’s a CMS?
A CMS is an application design to make website building easy, so you can add different features and manage whatever content you want to populate your site with.
Choosing the Right CMS Platform for Your Website
Before you look for a new car it’s good to make a list of the features that are important to you, and shopping for a CMS is no different.
Your ideal CMS should be intuitive, with an interface that does not require you to have a degree in software engineering before you can pick it up. You should be able to understand it quickly so that in no time you’re able to add images, audio clips, and text (along with other things). The interface should allow you to make changes easily, and the tools should be self-explanatory.
One of the strengths of PHP CMS software is the availability of design templates. Some CMSs can offer whole galleries of pre-existing examples which means that you don’t have to build them yourself. But it does help if you can customize them without too much trouble too (which in this case means “not needing to know any code”).
You might not stay with the same host forever so, your ideal platform should come with tools that let you manage your data and move it wherever you need to put it next with relative ease.
Websites come in all shapes and sizes to suit all pockets and purposes. That’s why there isn’t a one size fits all CMS platform that will suit every single website. One way around this is with extensions and add-ons. These are additional apps that can add to the basic set of features that come with the CMS software. If you think of this as a Swiss army knife, then extensions and add-ons are like extra blades that you can add to it to make it do more.
While a good CMS platform will be straightforward to use and easy to pick up in the first place, you’re always going to have questions at some point. Some platforms have very large and loyal fan bases, and you might find that you can pick up all the help you need by consulting with existing users on forums. These good people will usually be only too happy to share their knowledge and experience to benefit others in the community.
Of course, a really good CMS provider will also offer around-the-clock official support too.
Some CMS platforms are totally free, while others charge you by the month. But even with the free ones, you’re probably going to have to part with some cash for the add-ons and templates. If you don’t want to leave your website at the mercy of the provider, then your web hosting services will also cost something too. That shouldn’t worry you though, because thanks to CMS platforms it’s never been cheaper and simpler for non-experts to get their website off the page and onto the web.
So, keep all of these points we’ve mentioned in mind and you should be able to start tracking down the perfect PHP-based content management system for your needs. Please find our TOP 10:
These CMS platforms make traditional development work a lot less of a chore for the developer. Dynamic web sites can swell up to include thousands of pages, and when they do it’s much easier to manage the process with the best PHP CMS platform as it can streamline development work in clever ways.
WordPress has risen to become one of the best known and most widely used open-source PHP CMSs. It can accommodate lots of apps and is flexible enough to handle a wide range of different user scenarios. It’s as good at providing the foundation for a basic blog as it is a large e-commerce store, and you only have to look to the 75 million currently active websites that rely on it for confirmation of how universally popular it is.
Since WordPress is an open-source platform, it’s benefited from the ongoing attention of thousands of developers. This is one of the biggest reasons for its rapid evolution and why it’s turned into the preferred choice of many web app developers. It offers the widest selection of additional widgets, themes, and plug-ins, and it can be readily tailored and turned to almost any end.
It also ships with a suite of integrated SEO tools to optimize search engine visibility, and that’s one of the reasons why developers rate it so very highly.
- WordPress accounts for 76.4% of the CMS market
- It supports over 68 languages
- Plug-ins have been downloaded 1.48 billion times
- WordPress powers many government websites around the world
- Accessible platform
- Largest plugin and theme directories
- Very secure platform
- Integrated SEO features
- Availability of WordPress Toolkit extension for Plesk hosting platform
- Themes and plugins can require annoyingly frequent updates
- Open source can mean ‘more open to hackers’
- Customization requires a deep level of understanding
Joomla is another one of the best PHP CMS platforms and it’s garnered a reputation for being good for portfolio and blogging websites. It may sit somewhat in the shadow of WordPress, but it still comes with enough high-quality features to create effective blogs and dynamic websites. It meshes well with a few versions of SQL, which means database integration should not be a problem.
This PHP CMS can integrate the site with its hosting provider in just one click and makes the creation of responsive websites a breeze. Its multitude of available designs and extensions make it easy to add extra features to any web apps that you may be designing. As one of the best PHP CMS platforms, Joomla has proved to be popular among big names that include eBay, Barnes & Noble, IKEA, and many others.
- 6% of all websites rely on Joomla
- 2 million sites and counting
- One of the top three CMSs which offer free plug-ins and themes
- Supports over 64 languages
- Intuitive UI
- Highly adaptable front-end
- Regular security updates
- Well-suited to blogs and dynamic web apps
- Availability of Joomla extension for Plesk hosting platform
- Not as SEO enabled as some PHP CMSs
- Difficult for non-developers to add custom designs
- Not many modules for sale
- Some plug-ins not completely compatible without modification
Drupal is one of the best PHP CMS platforms on the market. It’s open-source and well-suited to eCommerce stores, beginning its life initially as a message board but then evolving into one of the most popular PHP based content management systems. Drupal makes it easy for developers to build enhanced online stores thanks to its rich feature set. It’s ideal for developing modern apps which is one of the reasons why many developers are drawn to it.
While WordPress functionality can be extended further with plugins, Drupal refers to its add-ons as modules, although it already comes with many features and options. Top companies like NBC, Harvard University, Tesla, Princess Cruises, and MTV UK rely on Drupal for their web operations. It also benefits from active community support.
- Drupal has around a million users
- It’s available in over 90 languages
- Many American government websites are Drupal-powered
- Acquia spent half a million dollars to accelerate the migration of Drupal 7 modules to Drupal 8
- Drupal powers around 1 million websites
- The platform can be greatly expanded upon
- Frequent patches and updates enhance platform security
- Drupal is well-suited to eCommerce
- Best PHP CMS for websites with lots of traffic
- Hard to understand for non-developers
- Not well suited to blogs or other publications
- Installing custom modules is not easy
OctoberCMS is a free, open-source PHP CMS that a great many company websites have been built on. The CMS is flexible, simple, and ready to deliver retina-ready websites and apps.
OctoberCMS is a self-hosted open-source PHP CMS and you can install it on your hosting service if you want to. It integrates well with third-party apps and features more than 700+ plugins and themes. It has a large and supportive community.
- Own community
- Ecosystem of plugins & themes
- Based on Laravel framework
- Open source and free
- Versatile and extendable
- Many and varied themes and plugins
- Requires developer input to customize
- Fewer users than WordPress
Opencart is another of the PHP based content management systems that are ideally suited to the creation of eCommerce websites. It’s open-source so PHP developers can easily add their own updates, and for users, it’s not hard to get to grips with thanks to its intuitive UI. The platform caters to a great many languages and offers unlimited product categories for the biggest inventories out there. Opencart is a well-featured PHP CMS that gives plenty of scope to developers while keen to create comprehensively featured online stores.
- Opencart allows more than 20 ways to pay
- 12k+ extensions on offer
- Powers 790k+ websites
- 95k+ forum members
- Easy to set up and get started
- Free themes in abundance
- Thousands of available modules and extensions
- Makes it easy to set up sites in different managers
- Some technical knowledge needed for customization
- Not very SEO-friendly
- Bogs down when web traffic spikes
- No event system so users can’t set up tasks from within modules
ExpressionEngine is one of the best PHP based content management systems for sites that need to handle large amounts of content. It is an excellent PHP based CMS with an architecture that can be modified with custom scripts to introduce additional functions.
Any newly added content becomes visible to the customer straight away. ExpressionEngine is versatile enough that when it creates pages, it does so by pulling content from the database and then formatting it so that every user gets the best available view for their device. This dynamic approach to content generation makes it very flexible.
- Custom edit forms are available. You can navigate and fill them out easily
- HTML agnostic template system
- Preview window the cheque work before saving changes
- Integrated SEO for content
- Excellent security
- Some content boxes in certain templates don’t expand, making navigation and editing difficult
- Poor developer network support
- Fewer 3rd party add-ons and plugins
PyroCMS is one of the best PHP CMSs and it’s powered by the Laravel framework. Popularity has been growing thanks to its intuitive backend design and lightweight modular architecture. Was designed to be simple, flexible, easy to learn, and easy to understand. PyroCMS’s modular design gives developers plenty of scope to bring together the right components to suit any given project.
- Versatile PHP CMS can be adapted to any project
- Readily accommodates third-party APIs and apps
- Easy to install and learn
Magento was designed with eCommerce applications in mind, and it’s now the preferred platform for building innovative online stores. Brands such as Ford, Nike, Foxconnect, and many others rely on Magento’s extremely capable eCommerce features to power their sites. The major advantage of using Magento is that it’s tailor-made for designing rich and varied online shopping experiences for customers.
Another part of Magento’s appeal is its great emphasis on security. It uses hashing algorithms for maximum security password management and has additional defenses to defend apps from attackers. Also, Magento benefits from an active developer community which frequently contributes with numerous updates and patches. With Magento 2 the platform has benefited from a variety of enhancements to further strengthen its position as one of the best PHP-based content management systems for online retail.
- The platform is feature-rich enough to power modern eCommerce stores
- Magento is very accessible
- The community regularly develops plug-ins and extensions
- The platform is very scalable and can accommodate big apps
- The premium and enterprise versions are pricey
- Slightly slower to load than other platforms
- Only works with dedicated hosting
- Product support is quite pricey
Craft is one of the more recent PHP-based content management systems but its low user account shouldn’t put you off though because it’s tailored towards pleasing developers. If you’re a user that may be a point against it, but from a developer’s point of view it’s easy to work with.
Craft gives users the scope to create their own front ends, or at least it does in principle because doing so requires a knowledge of HTML and CSS. Despite that, it offers a clean backend, so it’s relatively easy for content editors to easily find their desired features and publish content frequently.
- Commercial features
- Highly functional
- Performs well
- Effective security
- More for advanced users
- Not so many plugins
- Not open source
TYPO3 is one of the best PHP CMS platforms available. It works on various operating systems including Windows, Linux, macOS, FreeBSD, and OS/2. It’s best suited to powering the portals and eCommerce platforms of large companies and it’s supported by a sizeable community for ongoing support and discussion.
Content and code are handled separately which makes TYPO3 a very flexible proposition for users. With support for over 50 languages and integrated localization built-in, it will fit in with users no matter where they may be in the world. Installation can be completed in just a few steps.
- Sizeable community
- Flexible with lots of functions
- Hard to configure
- Entry-level training is hard to find