A web content management system (CMS) is a piece of software that’s built to make creating, managing, and publishing web content a simple and efficient task for non-technical users.
Need to update existing content or even add in new webpages altogether, but don’t want to spend time coding each page and function from scratch? No problem. A CMS can handle it all for you, with an interface that makes uploading a webpage almost as easy as uploading a social media post.
To achieve this, a robust CMS will come with a range of core features, including a user-friendly dashboard, an easy-to-use content editor, publishing support, SEO optimization, and built-in security controls. But an important thing to remember is that not all CMSs are created equally. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in features and functions.
Some CMS providers might tailor their offering according to a specified business size, or some might center their entire product around businesses in a specific industry—like e-commerce, for example. Some might label themselves as “coupled”, while others, “headless”. Some might be based on an open source code, while others offer a proprietary, license-based product. Feeling lost? Let us help you find your way.
If you want to know more about the differences between coupled, decoupled, and headless CMSs, or open source and proprietary CMSs, head to our FAQs section at the end of this article. But if not, let’s jump into our analysis.
Of course, there are a ton of great solutions out there—but which one is best for you? To help you navigate your way through an endless maze of solutions, we’ll take you through the top content management systems for your business.
We’ve hand-picked each solution based on the quality of its offering, the strength of its feature set, and its user reviews. We’ll give some background on each vendor, explore their solution’s key features, and recommend the business size and industry that it would best suit.
The top 10 CMSs for business include:
Adobe Commerce (Magento) |Contentful | Contentstack | Drupal | HubSpot CMS Hub | Joomla! | Kontent by Kentico | Shopify | Sitecore Experience Manager | WordPress
Adobe Commerce (Magento)
Kicking off our list with a well-known e-commerce solution, Magento is an established CMS that powers many of the largest websites on the market. Following its acquisition by Adobe in 2018, Magento Commerce became Adobe Commerce in April 2021. Today, the platform is an advanced, headless e-commerce solution, enabling organizations to easily deliver powerful, multi-channel, digital shopping experiences for website visitors globally—all via one holistic platform. While Adobe still offers Magento Open Source for free, Adobe Commerce includes a plethora of features that its budget alternative lacks—including a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) page builder, content staging and previews, website analytics, marketing tools, built-in security, and more.
Adobe Commerce makes it easy for editors to create, modify, and publish content without needing developer help. From the intuitive interface, users can build webpages using one of the pre-designed, customizable themes on offer in Adobe’s Commerce Marketplace. Users can then edit and structure content using a drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG editor—easily adding in products, product details, and categories—and then preview changes before they go live. Personalizing the shopping experience is also easy using customer segmentation tooling and AI-powered product recommendations, while reporting and analytics capabilities enable organizations to monitor key metrics such as the number of sales, popular products, and more. Adobe is level 1 PCI-certified, and the platform comes with a range of built-in features—including role-based access and permissions, a web application firewall, DDoS Support, and more.
Adobe Commerce is based on a headless CMS infrastructure, meaning content can reach users on any platform, via API-based delivery. The platform is praised by users for its easy-to-use content creation and product listing capabilities, as well as its flexibility, huge range of features, and a high degree of customization. But some users do report a steep learning curve when learning to use the product. We recommend Adobe Commerce for enterprise e-commerce organizations in particular, that deal with large quantities of products and are looking for an advanced, feature-packed CMS to fuel their e-commerce website.
Contentful is a well-established CMS that helps organizations globally to create, manage, and deliver content while providing fast, seamless, and adaptable digital experiences across all channels. A product that’s built for developers, their cloud-based platform leverages a headless CMS infrastructure with structured content, enabling the same content to be published across all digital channels via flexible APIs. The solution comes in three tiers—the most advanced being the Enterprise tier, which comes with additional features such as granular governance, built-in security, and full customer support.
Using the Contentful platform, editors can input and update content using open source field editors—which developers can customize—all from a centralized dashboard. The platform then enables previews and testing before sharing content, and it takes only seconds for updates to go live across all digital channels. Content can also be published in multiple languages and across different time zones, with scheduled publishing and locale settings available. To secure the platform, admins can leverage role-based access and permissions, as well as implement single sign-on (SSO) across all accounts and integrate the platform with their identity and access management providers.
The Contentful platform is a popular choice for organizations seeking an advanced headless CMS infrastructure with flexible APIs that can provide engaging omnichannel digital experiences for users. The platform also integrates with in-house and third-party applications and tools, as well as multiple backends and systems, and enables endless extensions. Users note a steep learning curve when learning to use the product, but praise it for its flexibility, scalability, intuitive interface, customizable content modeling, and great user experience for both developers and editors. We recommend the Contentful platform for mid-sized organizations across all industries, that have a strong team of developers on side to support the product, and that are looking for powerful omnichannel content delivery.
Contentstack is relatively new to the CMS market, but has been making waves in the industry since its founding in 2018. The platform is built to enable both editors and developers to work in harmony to create engaging web content and deliver powerful digital experiences for website visitors globally. As a headless, framework-agnostic CMS, Contentstack retrieves content via APIs, enabling multisite, omnichannel delivery for visitors. The platform comes in three pricing tiers—Start, Grow, and Scale. Scale is the most feature-packed, and includes workflow management, third-party widgets, and website analytics in addition to the features included in other tiers.
Contentstack is designed to enable editors to create, edit, and publish content without needing help from developers. In the content editor, page elements are broken down into blocks—so that editors can add and rearrange sections and content types as necessary. Content teams can easily collaborate using in-line comments and annotations, while tasks can be assigned to individuals via workflows. Editors can also easily preview pages before they go live, and publish content across all channels with one click. The platform is rich in security features, with role-based access and granular permissions, audit logs, SSO, two-factor authentication, a 256-bit content store, and more.
The platform integrates seamlessly with a plethora of third-party applications, meaning developers can work with any tool they want. Users rate Contentstack highly for its flexibility, intuitive interface, responsive customer service, and advanced security features, but report that some non-technical users might initially find the platform difficult to master. We recommend the platform for mid-size to large organizations—particularly in e-commerce, hospitality, and finance—that are looking for a cloud-based, headless CMS that’s highly customizable for developers in terms of design, and that empowers editors to easily publish the same content across all channels.
Drupal is a well-established CMS on the market, offering a license-free, open source, and PHP-based platform to help organizations globally to manage and publish powerful web content. Using Drupal, users can create and manage feature-packed webpages, as well as publish a range of content types across all channels—thanks to its decoupled architecture and sophisticated APIs. The cloud-based platform offers a wealth of useful features, including easy content editing, multilingual support, automated marketing capabilities, and robust security features. And for developers, Drupal offers more than 40,000 optional “modules”, which are collections of code that add additional webpage functionality and enable them to customize webpages in any way they want.
Using the Drupal platform, editors can easily create and manage webpage content using a WYSIWYG editor, as well as leverage Drupal’s library of more than 2,500 website themes to ensure a consistent and professional look and feel. What’s also great about the platform is that it not only facilitates omnichannel publishing, but also supports multilingual delivery by offering automatic language translation and localized content, while tailoring and personalizing each visitor’s experience based on their behavioral profiles. In terms of security features, Drupal comes with role-based access and permissions, user access control, database encryption, automatic updates, and more.
While users find Drupal a highly flexible, customizable, and reliable platform, we should note that it isn’t easy to modify if you’re a non-developer. In fact, we’d recommend keeping a developer or a more technical user on hand if you’re looking for a higher level of customization and additional functionality for your webpage content. Drupal is well-suited for larger businesses across all industries—including e-commerce, finance, travel, higher education, and more—that are looking for a highly flexible and customizable decoupled CMS.
HubSpot CMS Hub
HubSpot is an industry-leading CRM platform that integrates content management capabilities with a range of tools to help organizations optimize and streamline the customer buying journey. The HubSpot CRM platform is a suite of products—including offerings for marketing, sales, customer service, content management, and operations—that can be combined or used as a standalone solution. Their content management product, CMS Hub, is a powerful coupled CMS that’s not only easy to use for editors, but also flexible for developers and secure for IT teams—making it a great product across various teams and user roles.
With its wide range of useful features, CMS Hub enables editors to easily make changes to content without needing to engage developers, while providing flexible tools for developers to implement more advanced features. To build optimized and engaging webpages, users can start pages from scratch or leverage HubSpot’s library of 3,500 paid and free templates and themes, which they can edit using a simple drag-and-drop editor. The platform also supports multi-language content, personalization, SEO recommendations, and custom reporting—so users can drill down into which content types and strategies work best. Additionally, the platform comes with a high level of built-in security, including role-based access and user permissions, 24/7 monitoring and threat detection, SSO, a global content delivery network (CDN), and a web application firewall (WAF).
CMS Hub is a popular choice with organizations looking for an easy-to-use, flexible, and scalable coupled CMS to run their website and integrate with CRM functions. The platform supports easy integrations with hundreds of third-party apps and tools and provides 24/7 phone support for customers. Some users note that it can take a while to fully understand how to use its functions, but most find the platform intuitive, feature-rich, and effective. We recommend Hubspot CMS Hub for larger organizations in particular—though pricing does start from free, and the platform can scale to support organizations of any size.
Joomla! is a well-known, open source, coupled CMS that empowers users globally to create, manage, and publish digital content via one, easy-to-use platform. What’s great about Joomla! is that, although it already comes packed with a range of useful features—such as easy content editing, SEO optimization, multilingual support, and built-in security—it’s endlessly extendable and customizable, with more than 8,000 extensions available in its library. Joomla! is also built on a model-view-controller web application framework, which can be separated from the CMS.
To create and modify content, users can choose from a variety of WYSIWYG editors—though Joomla! comes with TinyMCE as the default editor. Adding in media such as images is easy with the platform’s drag-and-drop functionality, and editors are allowed control over page layout—but this is also somewhat determined by the template used. When it comes to design, editors can choose from an extensive library of both free and paid templates, or alternatively, create their own. The platform also comes with a variety of SEO features—including keywords, metadata, and sitemaps—and supports multilingual content management and delivery, offering translation across more than 70 languages. The platform also comes with role-based access control and two-factor authentication, as well as speedy patches to ensure a consistently high level of security.
Joomla! is a cloud-based, coupled CMS, which is not only easy for non-developers to get to grips with, but also packed with useful tools. The platform is praised by users for its ease of use, customizability, and wealth of out-of-the-box features, though some users note that templates could be more engaging. We recommend Joomla! for SMBs and enterprises across all industries—including governments, non-profits, publications, e-commerce, and corporate websites—that are looking for an easy-to-use, coupled CMS to manage more basic websites.
Kontent by Kentico
Kentico is a well-established content management vendor that enables organizations globally to deliver optimized and engaging content across all digital channels, from one central hub. Kontent by Kentico is a cloud-based, headless CMS, designed not only to make creating, modifying, and publishing content a simple task for editors, but also to provide high levels of flexibility for developers, while deliveringan engaging, omnichannel digital experience for website visitors. The platform comes in three pricing tiers—Business, Premium, and Enterprise—with the more advanced tiers enabling higher levels of access across key features, as well as including built-in security.
Kontent is a feature-packed platform, designed to facilitate content creation and delivery from end to end. Editors can easily build powerful pages using modular content, which means that the same content can be delivered seamlessly across all channels via API. What’s great about Kontent is that, although it’s based on a headless infrastructure, WYSIWYG editing and live previews are still possible via their optional, paid plugin—Web Spotlight. The platform also comes with content scheduling, editorial calendars, asset management, and personalization capabilities built-in, as well as a range of security features, including role-based access and granular permissions, SSO, MFA, and more.
Kontent by Kentico is an advanced CMS delivered as-a-Service, which can deliver the same content across all digital channels via RESTful API. This means that developers can use the software of their choice when creating websites and apps, and content will still seamlessly deliver to them. Overall, users find the platform intuitive and easy to master, and report that it comes with a great level of customer support—but some note that it can be limited in the number of tools that are available to integrate with the platform. Kontent by Kentico is a great option for larger organizations across all industries that are looking for an advanced, headless CMS that can easily facilitate omnichannel content delivery.
Shopify is a market-leading commerce company that offers a range of advanced e-commerce and point of sale (POS) tools, together on one comprehensive platform. Featuring a built-in headless CMS, Shopify is designed to enable users to set up and manage content without needing deep technical knowledge. The platform not only manages e-commerce content—such as product listings, descriptions, and categories—but also includes a full blog publishing platform, where organizations can create and post articles and other types of digital marketing content. Shopify offers three tiers to their solution—Basic Shopify, Shopify, and Advanced Shopify—one of the key differences between them being that the higher tiers offer more advanced reporting capabilities and support a higher number of user accounts.
From one comprehensive dashboard, users can not only create and manage content—such as webpages, blog posts, and product listings—but also customize themes, track orders, view customer information and analytics, and more. The platform offers more than 70 free and paid e-commerce templates, and users can customize pages using the user-friendly Template Editor, as well as preview webpages before changes go live. The Shopify platform also comes with built-in SEO features, such as meta tags and site maps, and supports international content—translating pages into more than 50 languages and supporting local currencies and tax rates. Shopify is also level 1 PCI-compliant, supports role-based access and permissions, and leverages 128-bit SSL encryption.
What’s great about Shopify is that users can easily add additional functionality via their library of more than 6,000 third-party applications, or via the Shopify API. Additionally, as a headless CMS, the platform can easily handle omnichannel delivery. Users praise the platform as a feature-rich and easy-to-use CMS that comes with great customer support, but some experience difficulty when dealing with large product catalogs. We recommend Shopify for SMBs that are looking for a professional, easy-to-use, full-scale e-commerce solution.
Sitecore Experience Manager (XM)
Sitecore is a leading digital experience provider, helping organizations globally to create and manage personalized, omnichannel experiences for users—without the need for developers or technical knowledge. Their Experience Cloud comprises four advanced products—Experience Manager (XM), Experience Platform (XP), Experience Commerce (XC), and Content Hub—and each can be used standalone or in combination. Sitecore XM features their headless web CMS, which enables editors to not only easily create and manage content, but also deliver a fast and seamless digital experience across all channels.
From a centralized dashboard, users can create new websites, pages, and more using the Experience Editor and Experience Accelerator tools that come with XM. The former is a WYSIWYG editor, which enables users to edit text and graphics, while the latter offers drag-and-drop functionality and a library of more than 100 pre-built, customizable components, as well as templates and layouts. What’s great about Sitecore’s product is that, despite using a headless infrastructure, organizations can still deliver personalized content for users via a RESTful API and editors can preview content before it goes live. XM also supports multisite, multilingual publishing, and includes security features such as role-based access, granular permissions, and SSO capabilities across all accounts.
Sitecore offers a powerful headless CMS that delivers content across all channels via API. XM can be deployed via the cloud or on-premises and integrates seamlessly with hundreds of business-critical third-party tools, applications, and plugins. It should be noted that users report a learning curve on initial use, with many finding the platform complex and difficult to implement. But despite this, users also praise XM as a powerful, flexible, and scalable platform with granular editing capabilities for non-developers. We recommend Sitecore XM for mid-sized and larger organizations with more time to dedicate to learning how to use the platform—particularly in the commercial, financial, travel, healthcare, and manufacturing industries—that are looking for a CMS that offers capabilities that go beyond what headless can typically offer.
WordPress is a well-known web publishing platform that dominates the CMS market with its open source, free-to-install software. In fact, 42.7% of all websites use WordPress to power their web content, which makes it the most popular and widely used CMS on the market. With an easy-to-use interface for editors and a high degree of flexibility for developers, millions of businesses globally depend on WordPress to power content across their entire website—including webpages, images, and videos. The platform is written in PHP and based on MySQL or MariaDB database, and functions as a coupled CMS.
WordPress comes with a plethora of useful features that are designed to make creating content an easy and efficient task for non-technical users. From a user-intuitive dashboard, users can add and schedule new posts, install or modify plugins, view website statistics and comments at a glance, and more. Users can easily add new posts and edit existing content via the platform’s drag-and-drop editor and live preview functionality. Users can also leverage WordPress’ extensive library of 31,000 free and paid themes, as well as more than 57,000 plugins to customize their webpages and add additional functionality to their sites. In terms of security, the platform comes with role-based access permissions and rolls out hassle-free updates.
WordPress continues to be the most popular CMS on the market because of its flexibility, customizability, and ease of use. As an open source platform, users are free to use, modify, and distribute the software and code in any way that they want, free of charge. Overall, users praise WordPress as a customizable, feature-rich platform that provides a high level of freedom when it comes to website design and functionality. But we should note, many users find that some coding knowledge is often required to make changes. We recommend WordPress for SMBs and enterprises across all industries—though it’s proven popular with blogs and publishing websites—that are looking for a highly customizable and open source coupled CMS.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do I need a CMS?
Some of the key benefits of using a CMS to manage your web content include:
- Easy content creation without needing to know how to code
- Built-in SEO optimization
- Keeping cost down
- Built-in security features
- Easy collaboration and workflows
- 24/7 access and remote editing
- Content scheduling capabilities
- Easy integrations with existing tools and applications
- Community and developer support
To learn more, take a look at our list of the top five reasons why you should invest in a CMS.
Can anyone use a CMS?
In theory, yes. CMSs are designed to help anyone—whether they have deep technical knowledge, or not—to easily create and publish content. But the type of CMS that you invest in does factor into how easily you’ll be able to manage it.
If you choose a coupled CMS, then non-technical users—such as marketers and content editors—should have no issue with creating, modifying and publishing content without needing to engage developers. But if you go with a decoupled or headless CMS, then you’ll usually find that non-technical users can still easily create and manage content, but you’ll need a developer or two on hand to help with building and connecting to your frontend display.
What’s the difference between coupled, decoupled, and headless CMSs?
To answer this question, we need to get a little more technical—so bear with us.
A website is generally built up of two core components. These are the frontend, which is the forward-facing part of your site that visitors will be able to see and interact with, and the backend, which is hidden from visitors and is where you can edit, store, and arrange content. The backend is also where your databases, APIs, servers, and operating systems live.
A coupled CMS, as the name suggests, is one that couples the frontend and backend together on one system. A decoupled CMS, on the other hand, separates the frontend and backend into two different systems which connect to each other via API. And a headless CMS lacks a frontend altogether, but can connect to any system on any channel via API.
You’ll often see the terms “decoupled” and “headless” used interchangeably—but they aren’t quite the same thing. Headless is actually a subset of decoupled. So, a headless CMS is always decoupled, but a decoupled CMS isn’t necessarily always headless.
Do I need a coupled, decoupled, or headless CMS?
As with all types of software, there are advantages and disadvantages to whichever CMS you end up choosing.
Coupled: Because the frontend and backend are wrapped up into one system, using this type of CMS will enable you to easily modify and manage how content looks on the frontend. But the main disadvantage is that it’s designed to deliver to web browsers, and so will struggle to convert content for omnichannel, multi-device viewing.
This type of CMS is great for more basic websites, or smaller organizations that don’t have a technical team to support the website.
Decoupled: Because the frontend and backend are decoupled, this type of CMS facilitates omnichannel delivery and allows a higher degree of flexibility. A decoupled CMS is also frontend agnostic but does come with a built-in frontend, which is optional to use. A key disadvantage is that this type of CMS is more complex to use and configure.
We recommend this type of CMS for growing websites that need a product that can scale alongside them and that have a developer or two on hand to support the platform.
Headless: Because this type of CMS doesn’t come with a frontend, content will exist in raw form on the backend. But what’s great about that is that it means it can be delivered to any channel or device via API. Key disadvantages of using a headless CMS are that you’ll need developer help as well as another system to act as your frontend. Headless CMS also often won’t allow live previews of content before it goes live, or personalization of the user experience.
Headless CMSs work best for organizations looking to deliver content across a range of channels—including apps and IoT devices—as opposed to creating complex websites. We’d recommend this type of CMS larger organizations that have a team of developers on side to support the project.
What’s the difference between an open source and proprietary CMS?
Every piece of software you come across is based on a source code. This essentially functions as instructions for an application or solution, telling it how to work and act. And, if you want a piece of software to behave differently, then making changes to the source code will do the trick.
An open source CMS is one that’s built on source code that’s not only free for anyone to use, but also free to modify and share. Open source software is popular because it often comes with a community of developers that contribute to the platform, and it’s also a lot more flexible in terms of the control you have over your website.
A proprietary/closed source CMS, on the other hand, means that the source code legally belongs to an organization or individual, can only be used under license, and can’t be modified or shared. Proprietary software is great if you’re looking for a stable, easy-to-use piece of software that’s under the responsibility of the provider to fix if anything goes wrong.