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Choosing the best content management system (CMS)

November 23rd, 2023

11 min read

A CMS is constructed with Wordpress references, images, and types that make up the CMS model of content

Written by

Joe Robinson

Category

Product-Led Growth

If you ask your developer or designer what the “best” content management system (CMS) is, you’ll get a range of responses – so it's easy to get lost and sidetracked. Many of them will list their favorite CMSs to work with. But what is it that really makes something the “best” CMS software or CMS service?

If you’re looking for a single answer to the “best CMS solution”, unfortunately, there’s no single right answer. Especially if you’re looking for a CMS solution for mobile. The correct question to ask is, “what CMS best fits my project needs?” 

Put simply, there’s no such thing as a single best CMS solution for every project that needs to work on a mobile device.

This guide aims to help you identify what CMS fits your project needs. It provides a content management system comparison, with a focus on some of the most popular CMS solutions available. The guide also contains sections that look specifically at CMS mobile solutions, with information on: 

  • Responsiveness
  • Automatic mobile layouts
  • Other useful features for mobile devices.

Table of contents

Content management system comparison
      CMS market share
Mobile content management system comparison
Paid CMS solution comparison
      1. WordPress
      2. Shopify
      3. Wix
      4. Squarespace
      5. Joomla
Choosing the best CMS solution for mobile

Content management system comparison

CMS market share

The CMSs selected for this guide are based on the current market share. It’s important to know that there are ongoing trends that continually shape and reshape the CMS marketplace on a daily basis.

The following market share statistics are a snapshot from the time of publishing:

CMS solution

Market share*

WordPress

63.7%

Shopify

5.7%

Wix

3.6%

Squarespace

3.0%

Joomla

2.7%

*Market share at time of publishing, November 2023.

Mobile content management system comparison 

The following key points of comparison are used throughout this guide:

  • Installation speed:

How quickly you can get started with the CMS

  • Cost

The pricing plans available, if applicable, or an idea of the cost in development time to configure the CMS

  • Customizability

An idea of how customizable the CMS is based on the number of plugins, modules, or add-ons available

  • Ease of use:

How easy the CMS interface is for content builders to work with.

For a quick overview, here’s how each CMS solution compares based on the comparison points:

CMS solution

Installation Speed

Cost

Customizability

Ease of use

Mobile solution

WordPress

Fast

Free tier, and paid tiers

Plugins, Themes, and the ability to create custom themes – customizable.

Intuitive

Themes and plugins for mobile available

Shopify

Fast

Paid

Limited customization

Easier

Some themes and guidelines to follow to better support mobile

Wix

Fast

Paid

Drag-and-drop interface, but limited customization

Easier

Wix mobile editor available

Squarespace

Faster

Paid

Limited, with some CSS obstacles

Easier

Some themes and guidelines to follow to better support mobile

Joomla

Average

Open source

A variety of Joomla extensions  – customizable

Intuitive

A variety of free and paid extensions for mobile

Paid mobile CMS solution comparison

Three of the CMSs in this guide are paid solutions (with a short-term free trial available). The following table compares the monthly costs. Higher prices provide more features:

CMS solution

Lowest price*

Middle Tier #1

Middle Tier #2

Highest price (Large-scale business)

Shopify

$5

$29

$79

$2000

Wix

$15

$30

$44

$179

Squarespace

$16

$26

$30

$46

*All values in USD, prices recorded at time of publishing, November 2023

1. WordPress

With a market share far ahead of the other options, WordPress is clearly the go-to CMS solution for a lot of projects. The sheer size of the plugin market also means WordPress can adapt itself into a reliable CMS system. More than 58,000 extensions are available, which means there’s a lot of flexibility.

If you’re looking to build your own website, or are on a very tight budget, WordPress may be the best CMS for you.

With its ease of setup (via many low-cost web hosts), through to its huge range of templates and plugins, WordPress is a great choice if you want to do it yourself.

Software requirements:

The set of software needed to set up WordPress includes:

  • Apache or NGINX, latest versions ideally
  • MySQL 5.6 or MariaDB 10.1 or higher for a database
  • PHP 7.4 or higher

While the large user base makes finding the answers to questions and technical puzzles easier, the dominance of WordPress does make it a target for information theft.

WordPress and security

There are higher costs in terms of time spent on administration such as security updates and setting up the right plugins for effective CMS content creation. Insecure, amateur, or hobby plugins can create performance or security issues. 

Before you install a new plugin, do some research on the developer – there are many reputable WordPress developers out there who have experience providing secure WordPress plugins.

✏️ NOTE: If you have custom requirements, avoid changing vital WordPress files – future updates may break your site. If you can’t do what you need to do without changing vital WordPress files, it is probably a good idea to pick a different CMS for your project.

  • Installation speed: Fast to get started.
  • Cost: Helpful for a budget solution, as you can get started with no added costs, but time spent on administration can cost more later.
  • Customizability: Many plugins available, and the ability to create a custom design (theme) however this can work against your planning as plugins can create security problems.
  • Ease of use: Intuitive interface is one selling point.

WordPress CMS solution for mobile

As a mobile friendly CMS option, the large number of WordPress themes, gives you a lot of options. You can find (or implement your own) responsive design that presents your content effectively for mobile device audiences. 

There are also several WordPress mobile support plugins such as Accelerated Mobile Pages for WordPress, Jetpack, and Touchy. However, some plugins have paid subscriptions, which can add to your costs.

💡NOTE: For a comprehensive rich text editor, integrate TinyMCE as the classic editor in your WordPress CMS to unlock TinyMCE plugins for your content creation.

2. Shopify

Shopify is primarily a solution for ecommerce, optimized to manage product focused content, such as descriptions and prices. Shopify provides Level 1 PCI certification for added security. The trade-off though is customization, which is limited.

Similar to Squarespace and Wix, Shopify is a great solution if you’re short on time and design resources to shape a customized CMS for your ecommerce products. For long term maintenance, Shopify also provides ongoing security support, which can help reduce administration costs.

✏️ NOTE: Unlike other CMS solutions, Shopify does not provide customization, but there are pre-defined designs you can choose. You can also modify the functionality of the CMS – over 5,700 add-on apps (some free, some paid) available.

  • Installation speed: Shopify is designed for fast set up.
    Cost: The cost for Shopify ranges from plans for $29USD, $79USD, and $299USD per month depending on your project needs.
  • Customizability: Shopify has limited customization options available compared to other CMS solutions, in both paid and free versions.
    Ease of use: Shopify has a slightly easier learning curve compared to other CMS solutions.

Shopify CMS solution for mobile

Your best bet is to test that your CMS presents products responsively. Test your Shopify products and CMS with the right tools, and re-test as needed, because a content management system for mobile apps needs to work well in order to satisfy customers and search engine result process.

Choose one of the available themes that provides a responsive interface. Similar to the other paid CMS solutions, you may need to look into adjusting image size, among other strategies, to ensure the CMS mobile solution makes the purchase and checkout process easier for your customers.

3. Wix

Wix is a useful website builder, and provides an interface based on drag-and-drop components. Its main feature is this drag-and-drop, no-code interface for constructing a CMS. While Wix offers a free plan, you cannot include a custom domain for your site, and will remain in the format of username.wix.com/sitename until you activate a paid plan.

Wix is provided primarily as a Cloud service, with hosting of the CMS taking place on AWS servers – thus negating the need for setting up your own hosting or server-side software.

The text editor component Wix uses does not offer rich text editing features. This negatively affects your ability to create content. Compared to WordPress and other CMS options with more flexibility, Wix doesn’t support as many formatting options.

  • Installation speed: Easy to get started overall
  • Cost: Custom domains, ecommerce, and other features require subscription fees
  • Customizability: Useful drag-and-drop interface for content modeling, but not as flexible as WordPress or Joomla
  • Ease of use: Notably a short pathway to get started

Wix CMS solution for mobile

Wix automatically creates a responsive design when you build a CMS website. While the automation is useful, there is also the option to adjust the design of your Wix CMS with the Wix Mobile Editor. These options include the ability to optimize the layout, and add mobile-only elements. These are useful features for a mobile content management system, which is now crucial for every website. 

IMPORTANT: Themes for mobile content management systems can also contribute to accessibility. By managing your mobile solution, you’re contributing toward accessibility goals. It’s another reason that a mobile design is so valuable.

4. Squarespace

Advertised as an all-in-one CMS solution, Squarespace provides a solution if you need a professional appearance (an effective and coordinated design across font, whitespace, and color palette). Speed to publishing is also an advantage.

Squarespace developer mode

Squarespace is a paid solution, but does have a developer mode where you can make changes to your Squarespace CMS by adjusting JSON keys and values.

Squarespace hosting and support

Like Wix, and Shopify, Squarespace provides an all-in-one hosting solution, including domain name and ecommerce. No server-side configuration is required with Squarespace.

Squarespace also provides several different pathways to understand how to create a CMS including documentation, webinars, and even designers who can construct your content model and CMS design for you. Additional design support does add to the cost. In fact, to access ecommerce and larger storage space, the Squarespace fees are higher.

  • Installation speed: Faster to get started, compared to other CMS solutions.
  • Cost: The fees of hosting, domain names, designers, and storage space can add up.
  • Customizability: Modifying the CSS once it's complete can be a difficult process. Changing designs once they are set can offer obstacles in the form of CSS errors.
  • Ease of use: Easier to use interface, similar to other paid CMS solutions.

Squarespace CMS solution for mobile

There are specific best practices to follow to make sure Squarespace CMS designs maintain their professional appearance within a mobile content management system.

Compared to Wix, there's less flexibility and editing available for ensuring the CMS design is consistent across devices. For instance, Squarespace recommends that page content be no larger than 5MB. It's a good guideline (faster loading time also helps with Search Engine Result Placement SERP), but optimizing server-side loading to speed up delivery to audiences (with values like MaxClients, MaxRequestsPerChild, and other directives in Apache) gives you more control.

5. Joomla

The main advantage Joomla provides is that it's designed to be a CMS, not a general content builder that you can customize into a CMS. Having said that, Joomla is not stuck in one mode, with over 6,000 extensions available to customize it for your project needs.

Joomla is based on the open source CMS Mambo project. Mambo released its final version on June 2, 2008, but the project developers moved their focus to Joomla, and have been working on it ever since. 

Software requirements

The set of software needed to set up Joomla includes:

  • Apache HTTP Server 2.4, NGINX 1.8, MS IIS 7, and the mod_mysql, mod_xml, and mod_zlib and libraries.
  • MySQl 5.1 with InnoDB 5.5.3 for a database
  • PHP 7.4

You can customize Joomla by making an extension. Or, if you have the time and experience to understand the trigger events and how they are associated with Joomla plugins, that’s another option for customizing Joomla.

  • Installation speed: Simpler installation steps compared to other CMS.
  • Cost: Advanced extensions can increase costs, as can development time invested in creating custom extensions, but it remains free and open source software.
  • Customizability: A broad array of Joomla extensions available for customization.
  • Ease of use: Creating content templates is easier compared to other CMS template interfaces.

Joomla CMS solution for mobile

There are a number of free and paid extensions available for mobile content management systems. Some of the commonly used extensions are Responsivizer, JAmp, and Progressive Web App. Costs involved (when looking at paid solutions) can add to the budget when selecting Joomla for your mobile strategy.

Choosing the best CMS solution for mobile

With every new project, the “best” CMS is the software or service provider that best meets the individual project needs. To judge this ‘best-fit’ requirement, it's’ important to not neglect the need to make a clear requirements list before your search commences.

There's no single CMS that can provide the best CMS solution for you – no matter whether it's social publishing micro content and images, or providing an ecommerce site. By searching for the holy grail of a one-size-fits-all answer, you may instead miss seeing the right service for your needs. 

While it’s human nature to always gravitate to the familiarity of a particular CMS, the guide in the previous sections helps you navigate through the decision-making process to ensure your chosen CMS is the best fit for what you need.

CMSWYSIWYGMobileDesign
byJoe Robinson

Technical and creative writer, editor, and a TinyMCE advocate. An enthusiast for teamwork, open source software projects, and baking. Can often be found puzzling over obscure history, cryptic words, and lucid writing.

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