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By Lauren Mackenzie |

Choose a Web CMS (WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla!)


Can’t decide which content management system (CMS) suits your needs? It’s not an easy task. But by clearly defining what you want it to do—and being aware of your technical skill limits—you can identify the best CMS for your purpose.

Let’s start with the basics. A CMS is a software program that makes it easy for you to create and publish digital content on a digital device. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are the most popular and used worldwide. They’re in open-source format—which means they’re regularly updated by a massive global community to ensure they can support developing online technology. You can download them immediately for free but you have the option to pay for additional premium features.

There’s a diverse range of themes to choose from and many of them work well for particular types of businesses, such as a restaurant or photographer’s gallery. Themes create the page design that visitors see when they land on your site; you give your theme personality by adding photographs, color, and copy. Want to change the look of your site? Simply choose a different theme.

You can personalize your site further by installing a few of the thousands of plugins, extensions, and modules available. These are small programs that add functions to your site. One of the most popular for WordPress is Sociable, which makes it easy for you to share your content with multiple social networking sites like Google+ or Twitter.

WordPress (easy) Wordpress was launched in 2003 as an easy-to-use blogging platform. You can install it on your computer within a few minutes and create a simple blog or website within half an hour. Yes, even if you lack technical expertise! Yet it can also be used to build powerful websites or online stores. WordPress is currently the most popular CMS worldwide but one weak area is its security level. You can get around this by installing a WordPress security plugin on your site, to protect your content and block malicious attacks.

If you’re a beginner or nervous about getting started, lynda.com’s WordPress Essential Training course will help you with the need-to-know basics.

Joomla! (intermediate) Joomla! arrived in 2005 and if you have intermediate technical skills, you’ll enjoy the challenge of learning how to use this CMS. It takes about 10 minutes to download to your computer. This is a good choice for ecommerce sites or social networking communities, such as forums. Depending on your skill level, you can create and launch a small business store in a weekend using the Joomla! ecommerce shopping cart and payment facility extensions. Learn more in the course Joomla! 3 Essential Training.

Drupal (advanced) Drupal was launched in 2001 and is for the serious technophile. To use it successfully, you need a basic knowledge of web programming languages; otherwise you could find the steep learning curve very frustrating. You’ll find valuable advice and tips in the Drupal 7 Essential Training course.

This is a powerful CMS with excellent security features and is ideal for creating complex websites. If you’re building a site that could grow rapidly or needs lots of functionality, then this is the best CMS for your web project.

All three of the above options offer responsive themes. This means your site will work across most digital platforms and will look good whether it’s accessed from computers, tablets, or smartphones. This Joomla! responsive design course demonstrates how this type of theme works.

No matter which CMS you choose, they all have lively online communities offering lots of free support. A quick Google search will find a forum that can answer your questions. Or browse our CMS courses for help at every skill level.

So be clear on your goals when choosing your CMS. Let’s recap:

WordPress • Good for beginners and nontechnical users • Easy to use and install • Ideal for simple websites and blogs but can be used to build powerful sites

Joomla • Good for intermediate-level users • Offers more advanced site options than WordPress • Ideal for social networking and ecommerce sites

Drupal • Needs technical expertise • Ideal for building large enterprise sites requiring advanced content control features and multiple user permissions

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