13 Lucky Free Web Content Management Systems for a WordPress Hater

by Robb Sutton

I honestly see no reason for hating WordPress. Millions of people simply can’t be wrong. Just look at the numbers. 13,800,000 blogs running as self-hosted installations, and 13,900,000 active blogs on wordpress.com (2010 data). Many of them use wordpress hosting. Of the top 1 million websites (according to Alexa) 12.4% use WordPress. That’s a whopping 124,000 of them.

But still, you don’t have to be preaching WordPress if you don’t want to. So if you’re about to launch a new website you might as well use a different web content management system (CMS). Or don’t use any CMS at all, and build the site from the ground up with pure PHP and HTML. Although this is probably not the best possible idea since there are tons of great systems out there.

Here’s a list of 13 top web content management systems you should consider if you’re not really into this WordPress thing.

1. Joomla!


I had been a Joomla! (don’t forget about the exclamation mark) programmer for a couple of years before I switched to WordPress. Joomla! is an advanced, full-blown open source content management system that powers 2.7% of the entire web (as it’s claimed on joomla.org). Joomla! provides many functions you would expect from a CMS, plus has an impressive directory of extensions (8,065 of them at the time of writing). This CMS is great for all sorts of corporate websites or portals, online magazines, e-commerce stores, small business websites, and other.

If you want a social proof here’re some websites that use Joomla!: http://gsas.harvard.edu, http://www.outdoorphotographer.com, http://www.quizilla.com.

2. Drupal


An open source platform as well. Drupal is close to the top of this list not without a reason. It’s a great CMS for building corporate websites, information portals, enterprise applications and even blogs. Plus, you can choose from more than 8,000 modules (extensions).

Some websites that use Drupal: http://www.fastcompany.com/, http://www.popsugar.com/, http://www.symantec.com/connect/, http://www.observer.com/.

3. CMS Made Simple


The name itself is pretty self-explanatory. CMS Made Simple is the winner of the “overall best open source CMS award 2010” by Packt Publishing. It’s a scalable platform (suited both for small businesses and large corporations) and provides a really big list of features. Some of them are: SEO friendly URLs, user and group management, multiple language support, multiple themes per website, forms, polls, newsletters, guestbookÖ there’s no point to mention every single feature here, just go to cmsmadesimple.org and find out for yourself.

4. Plone


First non-PHP CMS on this list. Plone runs on Python. But what it runs on is not important to the end user. What is important though is its simple and easy to use interface. “Elegant minimalism” they call it. The new version of Plone is claimed to be 50% faster than the previous one and to be one of the fastest open source CMS platforms on the market. Its many features and constantly growing community makes it the top non-PHP choice.



Back to PHP systems. Easy to use, feature-rich, and fully modularized ñ this pretty much sums it up. Some interesting features are: expanded users management and theme-based GUI (with over 1,000 currently available themes).

6. PHP-Nuke


This one is old-school. It was one of the most popular systems when I was starting out as a PHP programmer. Fortunately, it hasn’t been forgotten and it’s still developed by a devoted community. The counter on phpnuke.org indicates more than 8,450,000 downloads, which is impressive to say the least.

7. e107


“e107, it’s pimp, init?” ñ one of the random sentences you see when you visit e107.org. This is a great, developer-friendly CMS with many interesting features, and if you think there’s something missing you can suggest a new feature. There’s a special section on the site for that. If you happen to be a product owner yourself then here’s a hint ñ there’s no better way of showing your community that you care than by letting them suggest new ideas for improvement.

8. Magnolia CMS


It’s targeted mainly towards business users, so it’s no surprise it’s the CMS of choice for many government and large corporate websites. Among its many features there’s a possibility to preview content exactly as it would be seen by the website visitor. If you’ve been working with other CMS platforms you know that it’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to explain to your client why in the end the content looks differently from what they see in the editor. No such problem here.

9. dotCMS


This one is a Java-based content management system. You can choose from two available versions (free ñ Community version, and paid ñ Enterprise version). Similar to every CMS on this list this one provides a wide range of features as well. You can use it to manage small, micro-sites as well as large online magazines. If you’d like something built around Java this is basically the route to go.

10. b2evolution


This is a blog content management system (similar to WordPress). Free and open source. It provides some classic, blog features but also many additional ones. It lets you manage files and photos, launch multiple blogs, use detailed user permissions and more. Of course, there’s a lot of available plugins too.

11. CuteNews


If you need something really simple you should consider this CMS. It’s basically just a news management system that uses some standard files instead of a normal database (like MySQL for example). Somehow it still manages to support things like commenting, archives, search function, file uploads, and even backup and restore.

12. CushyCMS


This CMS is probably one of the easiest to use platforms on this list. A “truly simple CMS” as the authors say. And it’s hard to disagree. I was really surprised when I learned how the CMS works because it uses none of the industry-standard ideas. The first surprising thing is that there’s no software to installÖ yea, how about that? I encourage you to find out for yourself. The video on cushycms.com is just 5 minutes.

13. Nucleus CMS


Basically a blog content management system running on PHP and MySQL (same as WordPress). What’s interesting about it is the fact that you can use it to launch multiple sites with a single installation. If you like to you can extend it with a number of plugins (which is kind of a standard for top-shelf CMS platforms these days). One of the more interesting features is the possibility to backup and restore the whole database with just a single click.

Which one is the best?

There’s no best or worst here. If you need a good, feature-rich, and safe content management system you can go with either one from this list. It’s best to check them all out and see which one appeals to you the most. And when you do, don’t forget to come back and let me know in the comments which one is it.

P.S. My favorite one is still WordPress sorry.

About the author: Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland who hates to work but loves to train capoeira. But anyway, tune in to get his blogging tips and tutorials.

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Puneet August 3, 2011 - 1:26 pm


Karol K. August 3, 2011 - 1:35 pm

If I were to choose I’d go with Joomla! as well 🙂

Puneet August 3, 2011 - 1:36 pm

I have been using it for more than 3 years 🙂

Robb Sutton August 3, 2011 - 1:58 pm

I used that on the Rider Reviews section of Bike198 because the tool I needed was only made for Joomla. Powerful CMS.

Puneet August 3, 2011 - 2:04 pm

🙂 If you just want to blog nothing beats wordpress but if you want to explore, if you want more power, Joomla is for you.

Karol K. August 3, 2011 - 7:58 pm

I agree. However, Joomla can be a bit overwhelming … but in a good way. I mean, this is a really serious CMS.

John Saddington August 3, 2011 - 1:30 pm

just got done using cushycms… not too bad for what i needed.

Karol K. August 3, 2011 - 7:59 pm

Was there anything you didn’t like about cushycms?

Grant Griffiths August 3, 2011 - 1:36 pm

There has to be a reason for over 30,000,000 downloads.  I agree.  WordPress is still the one.

Karol K. August 3, 2011 - 8:04 pm

As I said, it’s my “number one” as well. There are many great CMSs, but what’s interesting is that there seems to be none that could pick a fight with WP in its main field – blogging.

Eugen Oprea August 3, 2011 - 3:02 pm

I will stick with WordPress for the moment. It rocks!

Have been using Joomla in the past and it’s a good choice, too.

Karol K. August 3, 2011 - 8:01 pm

What was your main reason for switching from Joomla to WP? Mine was simplicity.

Eugen Oprea August 4, 2011 - 11:28 am

Mine too. I got tired with the work I had to do each time when I setup a new website.

Pretush August 4, 2011 - 7:37 am

I stick with wordpress, before wordpress i have tried Joomla and Durpal , but found WP more easy to use so i switched permanetly to WP.

Karol K. August 4, 2011 - 9:45 pm

Agree. Ease of use is where WP really nails it.

Olivia August 4, 2011 - 3:59 pm

WP usage is actually up to 14.7% in the meantime: http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management/all

WP rocks!

Karol K. August 4, 2011 - 9:44 pm

They are growing fast 🙂

Anonymous August 6, 2011 - 1:46 pm

You’re right, CMS is the way to go. I have 4 websites run on the original CMS… me. And when I need to update them or change something around, it’s always a pain. Especially the site that has over 70,000 pages. That takes days. 🙁

Since then, in the last 2 years, I have started up 4 new sites with Wordpress and am loving the way they look, feel and update. Plus I love the mobility of being able to work on them anywhere. I wish I would have started with CMS earlier, it would have saved me a lot of time and effort. 🙂

My main money maker is still pure html. I’d love to switch over, but it’s just too much work. So for now, I leave it and set my sights on new projects. 🙂

Justin Shattuck August 16, 2011 - 5:51 pm

You forgot the best of all, RefineryCMS.

MOvies Downloads August 18, 2011 - 10:55 pm

lol i must say a great article but wordprees has really more facility :S

web design london August 25, 2011 - 11:28 pm

You’re right, CMS is the way to go. I have 4 websites run on the original CMS… me. And when I need to update them or change something around, it’s always a pain. Especially the site that has over 70,000 pages.

Mitch October 7, 2011 - 5:53 pm

Hey Robb, Haven’t been by the site in a while, looks like all is well over here. As you know I started on Wordpress but haven’t been using it for a few years now. I agree with a lot that you say, it’s EASY and it’s great for most people but what I found is that if you didn’t update immediately when they had updates, the hackers were just simply all over it and would take me down. 
I originally switched to Joomla and used it for about a year and a half, what I found is that while it has all of those extensions, most require heavy duty and expensive customization and updating to a new version, not so easy nor cheap.
Towards the end of last year I was having a new site designed for me and a programmer recommended I give Silverstripe a look. I had never heard of it and don’t see it listed in your options here. I have to say moving to Silverstripe was the best move I ever made . I takes the best parts of Wordpress and combines them with the best parts of Joomla but simplifies Joomla so a person who has as little tech knowledge as myself and my 24 writers (I can’t believe that either), can use it to create standardized custom output with 1/10 the custom programming costs associated with wordpress or Joomla. I can only guess Silverstripe will only get better and it will just be a matter of time before the world catches on.
In the meantime, time to ditch Alexa as a reference point as well, I think my agent puts the phone down if I say the word…the only one that matters is Comscore. Alexa caters to people whose audience has the Alexa toolbar, I don’t think 1/100th of my audience knows what the Alexa tool bar is but comscore recognizes them all just fine 🙂
Glad to see all is well and I’ll be reading around to catch up, I can never learn too much..


ALEX September 27, 2012 - 1:30 am

Wordpress is a time wasting time sucking vortex. Ive been on it three months now and am no farther ahead in getting it to do “something” than I was the day I started trying to get it to do something. Unless youre already a WP engineer….stay well clear unless ya gots a lot of time to waste getting nowhere with it.


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