Most people will never have the need of WordPress alternatives, since WordPress is one of, or rather the most popular content management systems out there. Regardless of who your statistics reference source may be, WordPress is used to power millions of websites- more than 27 million to be precise. (source: Netcraft.com)

However, WordPress isn’t the only Content Management System that is available to host your website – in fact there are many WordPress alternatives.

In this list, we’re going to show a few free CMS alternatives which cater for various needs.

(BTW: Are you a web designer, or someone who creates awesome websites? Besides making use of our website checklist – our complete list of tasks to do when creating a website, you might be interested in checking out Wrike.)

WordPress alternatives

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1. Joomla – the WordPress alternative + largest competitor

Joomla is the 2nd most popular open-source CMS out there. It’s been around for a few years now after having been forked from another open source CMS (Mambo) in 2005 – and like WordPress, it’s developed in PHP and is typically powered by a MySQL database.



There is quite a strong community around it, and there are thousands of free and paid extensions, so it’s a very good WordPress alternative to design a website from scratch with minimal effort – though it might be bit more for techies when compared to WordPress.

As the 2nd most popular system to create websites, Joomla is one of the most popular WordPress alternatives you may opt for.

Try it here and download here.

2. Drupal 

Drupal is another rather popular open-source CMS alternative to WordPress, which once again has been around for a while and has matured quite well over the years. It is also written in PHP and typically powered by MySQL database.

One great thing about using Drupal to develop a site is the availability of what are known as ‘Distributions’. With WordPress and Joomla, if you want to create a website with particular functions such as an eCommerce website, you’ll need to do your homework, find plugins or extensions, install them, configure them and if you get it right, you’ll have an eCommerce site.



Drupal eases this task by having a number of distributions aimed at reaching specific website goals: this means the distro will include the core Drupal CMS, and other extensions to enable the functionality you desire. Popular distributions include Commerce KickStart for setting up an online shop, Open Atrium to set up a company intranet, Drupal Commons – focused towards setting up online communities, and OpenPublish which is aimed at the online news industry.

If you’re looking for popular and highly supported WordPress alternatives, a CMS which has a great community behind and which is very developed oriented, Drupal is a great CMS alternative.

Download it here. 

3. Blogger  – a simple, user-friendly WordPress alternative

If you want to create a blog with the least effort possible – there is a very good option out there. Blogger, acquired by Google in 2003, is essentially a blog-publishing service. Although it’s not as flexible as a fully-fledged CMS, it has enough features to get a blog up and running without any technical know-how at all. Really and truly, rather than a contender for full WordPress alternatives, this is a great way of creating a simple blog, on a CMS which works.

When you register a new blog at Blogger, you simply give it a name, choose a template style, and you’re ready to go. From that moment on, you can start publishing your posts using a simple editor. Customization is possible (up to a certain extent), and there are many widgets and resources available to customize Blogger to suit all your blogging needs.

So how about starting your own?

4. Tumblr 

Another dead-easy option to publish a blog is Tumblr. Tumblr is the 3rd most popular blogging software after WordPress and Blogger.



Similar to these two giants, Tumblr is extremely easy to use, allowing you to start blogging in minutes. Apart from that, since there is a whole community revolving around Tumblr, you will not have to work as hard as some of the other blogging / CMS platforms to get traffic – you’ll enjoy traffic by virtue of being in an already highly populated community.

By following other blogs and getting followed in return, it becomes fairly easy to acquire a good and dedicated “fan” following.

If you’re looking for buzzing WordPress alternatives with a great community, Start your own Tumblr!

5. ExpressionEngine

We’re now in the realm of commercial WordPress alternatives – but this option is still free.

ExpressionEngine is a CMS from a EllisLabs, a software development company, written in PHP and supported by a MySQL database. Although you can download a free version of the software, you can also create a support package to accompany it.

For an organization which needs peace of mind, this is an excellent in-between, where their developers can tweak and edit the code in any way they want to – whilst still having the reassurance that there is a commercial entity behind the CMS, and that there is a fallback in case things go wrong.

The nice thing about ExpressionEngine as a WordPress alternative, is that the content (aka ‘channel’ in EE speak) is completely independent from the template – no HTML is stored within the actual content items. The look and feel is completely up to the template, therefore the designers and developers can go crazy without ever feeling they have been restricted by the template. The content can then be entered into the template via specific syntax such as: {news_image}, {news_body}, {news_archives} etc.

For sure ExpressionEngine is a strong contender in the world of WordPress alternatives.

6. Typo 3 CMS and Type 3 NEOS

WordPress is great for many small to medium sized businesses. However, for the enterprise, WordPress may start to experience some limitations.

That’s why there is a WordPress alternatives space for the enterprise.

With a tagline “The Enterprise Open Source CMS” you know that there won’t be much messing around. The thing with this alternative CMS, is that it supports quite a lot of features that in other CMSes you might need a plugin / extension for.



Out-of-the-box you get: caching, multi-site management, multi-language, an API-based framework you can extend on, granular access rights, a File Abstraction Layer (to allow you to store files anywhere), and more. That’s not to say that there aren’t any extensions, as at the time of writing there are around 6,000 extensions available.

Check out the Typo 3 CMS Demo and download Typo 3.

NEOS 3 is also the latest CMS released by Typo 3 – with a very specific focus on User Experience. Rather than focus on the developers, the focus of NEOS is on the user actually editing the content – the content creator. The idea is that no training is necessary to start publishing on Typo 3 NEOS. The way the CMS is used is radically different from its competitors. Rather than having an “administrator” part, you can edit all of the content in-place. Each page is accessible via a tree structure, so you can quickly switch from one page to another.

We do believe this is quite a  departure from the rest of the CMSes which we have used, but we’re sure this is very intuitive especially for users who are unfamiliar with using a CMS.

You should definitely check the various flavours of WordPress alternatives offered by Typo 3 out!

How NEOS 3 is different for Content Creators:

Get the demo, and download here!

7. Concrete 5 

This is another of the stronger WordPress alternatives and a CMS which is taking the concept of what-you-see-is-what-you-get to the next level. All of the editing happens in the frontend – there is no administration interface.

If you are an administrator and are logged into the site – then you can edit the content, structure etc on the fly.

Concrete 5 is not just an open-source CMS but also a framework like Symfony or LaRavel, so you can customize the CMS to specifically suit your needs. However, besides having a powerful framework for customization, it can also act as a powerful web builder for those with no technical knowledge – ensuring it’s the right tool across the board.

Of course, WordPress fanboys will tell you that there is an API and framework behind WordPress too.

Fundamentally, Concrete 5 uses blocks as it’s basic concept – a block is something which a website visitor can see and which can also be edited through the CMS. Thirty block types are installed by default in a Concrete5 site, and they expose functionality such as in-page rich text, video and image sliders, and also interactive forms and surveys. Blocks can easily be placed and edited by site editors, and likewise can easily be extended and even built from scratch by a developer.

Although we’ve seen WordPress pagebuilders (such as Divi 3) go the way of Concrete5, making much of the administration happen in the front end, this WordPress alternative is the one which started this revolution. (And we’re very glad they did).

8. PHPBB

If your website is more focused towards discussions, and you would like to have a forum or bulletin board, then perhaps you should seriously consider using an existing social network such as Facebook or Google+ to host your forum. Not only are they free, but people already have a presence in these networks.

However, if you want to go it alone, there are many open source forum softwares which can be used as WordPress alternatives to host your forum.

One of the forums which has been around for a very long time (since the year 2000!), and has a very established community, and powers a very large number of websites, is phpBB – which is essentially PHP Bulletin Board. Of course, with the board being this mature – you can rest assured that there is all kinds of support around it. This is one of the boards you should consider if you want to simply install and go.

9. Discourse



If you feel like phpBB looks and acts somewhat dated, and you’d rather have something fresh both from a visual and a usability perspective, you certainly can’t go wrong with Discourse.

This up and coming WordPress alternative and discussion software (let’s not call it a forum), is quite different from what you’re typically accustomed to.

It features infinite conversations (instead of splitting a conversation over multiple pages) which load on-the-fly as you scroll down the page. Links provide additional content from their source and also show a live click count, also, content is updated in real-time even as you reply so you’ll never miss a beat. In one word, it’s everything you would expect from a piece of software which hasn’t evolved over the years – but which was born out of the way discussion happens in this day and age.

Try it out here and download it here! Quite a few high profile sites have already switched to this software, which makes this quite a good choice as a WordPress alternative.

10. DotnetNuke

As you’ve probably seen from the above list, the most popular, most used CMSes available are nearly all written in PHP. If you’re skilled in (or prefer) .NET, you still have an open-source WordPress alternative.

DotNetNuke (or DNN) is actively developed and maintained by DNNSoftware who develop DNN on the premise of having a community where if smart people are provided with the right resources and environment, then great things will happen.

Multiple options are available, either for those who just want to run a CMS powered by .NET, or else several downloads for those who want to extend and develop the CMS. As with other popular extensions, there are also multiple extensions provided either as Free Downloads via DNN Forge, or as commercial extensions via the DNN Store.

Why not download it from here?

11. Mod X

Mod X is another quite fresh Content Management System, which can be considered as a WordPress alternative.

The difference with Mod X that we have seen is that Mod X is a CMS, but it really is about having a CMS framework. It has templates, content items, code snippets, plugins and other CMS essentials but then leaves the rest of the awesome up to you – the web developer/designers.



If you want to set up a template, then you’ll need to develop a template and work around the template variables available. This, of course, is a sword which cuts from both edges.

From the one hand, you have absolutely no restrictions where you can go with your design, and that is really really powerful for those who want to get their hands dirty and NOT be restricted by the actual CMS – on the other hand, if you are looking to get up and running quickly, you’ll need to do some basics before you get up and running.

Download it and give it a spin here or checkout the online DEMO here (signup required – but free for 21 days).

12. Pico CMS – our last on the list of WordPress alternatives

If you are one of those people who really really want to use text for absolutely everything, but STILL have a CMS, then Pico is the CMS for you.

Pico is a very different concept from the rest of CMSes listed here.

First of all, Pico does not have a database – everything is stored in simple text files, in a specific folder structure which represents the actual structure of the website. This, of course, makes it really really simple to start using, and also makes the CMS really really fast (database queries create significant overhead), whilst still providing you with the structure of a CMS. Of course given that there are very few queries, is much much less prone to get hacked into.

Intrigued? So were we – try it here.

Website Review checklist: 70 things to check before your website goes live

Click here to download the step-by-step website review checklist to make sure your website goes live in tip-top shape.

We’ve already reviewed a good number of free and mostly open-source CMS alternatives to WordPress. Of course, although most free and open-source CMSes do have a very good community built with time, providing very good support,. However many times this is best-effort support, rather than having a defined response time. In reality, some support questions may go unanswered forever, and lots of time and effort is spent trying to get a decent reply (obviously whilst your problem persists).

Besides that, there are many other CMSes who have focused on specific niches, features and functions and have built a thriving business around this. Here’s a list of what we believe are the most popular paid CMS alternatives to WordPress.

Paid CMS alternatives to WordPress

Incidentally, if you’re interested in CMS, you might be interested in our huge list of tasks required to create a site from scratch. We call it our Ultimate website task checklist, which can be used really nicely with Wrike – a tool for people who create awesome websites.

1. GHOST



Strictly speaking, GHOST can be classified as free and open-source, because you have the option to download the source and install it on your own or hosting server. However, there’s also the option of Ghost PRO which offers a number of packages. Also, given that Ghost is written with Node.js, and you’ll need a specialized hosting package – our strong opinion would be that if you want to go for Ghost you’d simply be better off going for Ghost PRO
ghost

Getting up and running with Ghost is really quick due to it being a cloud service, we were done in minutes, probably less than 2.

Our first shock came when we came to edit our first blog – if you are used to blogging in HTML, you’ll probably get our same reaction. GHOST does not have a WYSIWIYG editor although it does support HTML to blog. It uses it’s own concept called Markdown. So if you want a header, you type

# # A cool header title here, whilst a sub header is: # # # my cool subheading

if you want italics you surround your words in an asterisk *like so*, and if you want bold, you double asterisk them **like this**. It feels a little bit like we’re back on IRC in the 90s 🙂 Links, and Images all have their own markdown.

The good thing is that both coders and non-coders can feel at ease. If you’re not comfortable with HTML in a matter of minutes you should be able to understand and start blogging with markdown.

Ghost

So yes, if you get over that Markdown thing – you’ll probably find Ghost quite nice.

2. Magento

Magento is pretty much an enterprise e-commerce focused content management system. So rather than a CMS, it is in reality an e-commerce platform, so don’t go looking for specific CMS features only. Instead, if you want to compare apples-to-apples, you’ll need to compare Magento with e-commerce plugins or platforms.

However, with Magento being a very popular paid platform, we do believe it has its right place in this list 🙂 And yes, since most enterprise e-commerce shops will require extensive informational pages and landing pages, there are still built-in CMS features.

The CMS

As a CMS, Magento has the basics – you can create and edit pages in a specific hierarchy, with pages also being under version control (given that it is highly likely there’s going to be multiple editors).

Pages can be made up of Content, entered via a WYSIWYG editor (or not), together with the insertion of a number of widgets. The widgets available vary in their functionality, including banners, pages links, category links and other CMS like features. Of course, with Magento being an ecommerce platform mostly, you’re going to find such widgets as Order by SKU, Recently Compared or Recently Viewed Products, Wishlist Search, Orders and Returns and others.

Magneto

 

In each page you can of course add images, and use what is known as variables. Variables include things such as General Contact names and numbers, Sales Representative names and numbers, store name and address, and other similar details. Of course, as expected all of these are mostly relevant to the e-commerce feature of Magento.

Pages also support various layouts, which you can choose when you are in the Design part of creating a new page. You can either choose from a variety of layouts or create a custom layout of your own.

There are then of course the various features associated with the e-commerce per se.

Catalog

The Catalog essentially speaks for itself and allows you to administer the catalog of products which are for sale. You are of course able to administer products across various categories, with all the relevant fields. Besides the obvious fields such as description and price you’ll find fields such as Gift message and gift wrapping, inventory and stock management, related products, up sells and cross sells, product reviews, and many many others.

Catalog

Sales

Of course, if you’re selling stuff, one of the most important things is going to be Sales. With Magento you once again have the whole hog when it comes to the sales function of the e-commerce website.

This includes Orders and their current status which you can completely manage through the below:

sales

A full review of the functions here would both take too long and is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, the Sales function is served quite well.

Customers

Of course, Sales is nothing without good Customer management, and Magento has extensive customer management functions. Once again, the customer management part of Magento goes above and beyond the call of duty and is able to address such issues as RMA, Store Credit, Customer Shopping Cart, subscription to Newsletter, Customer Segments, Rewards, and many others.

Magneto Customers

Magento also features other specific advanced functionality such as Promotions using specific Shopping Cart rules to address cart abandonment issues, and Automated Email Reminder rules. The newsletter functionality ensures that your customers keep coming back for more, whilst the various reports available ensure that you and your team are on the ball when it comes to what’s going on in your online shop.

3. SiteFinity

If you’ve been around web development for any significant length of time, then you’ve probably heard of Telerik. Telerik are renown developers of various libraries which are very effective and useful for web developers

SiteFinity is Telerik’s take on creating a Content Management System.



When you login to the backend and start fumbling around creating a new page or post, you’ll see that SiteFinity uses a concept of content blocks and layouts, which are two fairly intuitive concepts to understand. A layout is a pre-defined layout such as a 100% column, two columns (e.g. 33% 67%) etc. which can be dragged onto a page to create the page layout (or layouts) as necessary.

Telerek Sitefinity

Once you’ve chosen and dragged the layouts you need, you can start dropping content blocks into those layouts to start creating content for the page.

There are of course various content blocks such as text, images, image galleries, blogs, videos, lists, forms, menus, comments etc. etc. Anything you think you’ll need for your website, you can drag and drop as content into your page.

Telerek Sitefinity

Telerek Sitefinity

In other words, you’ll build all of your site by dragging blocks into layouts and then simply defining those blocks. You can then obviously set each page up as a specific structure.

In terms of content, there’s anything from the simple to the significantly complex such as full e-commerce capabilities. In other words, you are unlikely to have to look at anything beyond SiteFinity to complete all of your website’s needs.

Of course – all of these capabilities come at a price. The cheapest version of SiteFinity starts at $2,999, whilst the Professional Edition is priced at just shy of $10,000. Although at first glance this might look expensive, you need to consider that this includes services to host the site, though we were unable to figure out for how long the site was supported, whether this price is a one-off price or some sort of subscription.

You can also design a custom quote for yourself picking and mixing the capabilities available to your site as necessary.

Exclusive bonus: The Ultimate Web Design Checklist – 128 things to do to create an amazing website

Click here to download the 128 steps your need to do to complete a new website project.

 

4. Kentico

Kentico

Kentico is another very well featured Content Management System powered by ASP.NET. According to their website, Kentico is able to do Content Management, ecommerce, online marketing, build online communities, and used to power intranets and collaboration systems. If you think those terms are broad – you’re not alone. Let’s try to delve a bit deeper and see what Kentico actually does.



Kentico works with the concept of Master Pages. These are similar to what you would find as templates in other places on the web. Master pages are made up of “zones” within which you can insert web parts, which if we had to try to find similar terminology for web parts, we’d say web parts are equivalent to widgets, (though Widgets also exist in Kentico).

Of course, those familiar with .NET development should be very familiar with both the concept of the Master page(s), and web parts. Let’s just say, that the templating system of Kentico inherits from .NET, which is a tried and tested system, though it will have a bit of a learning curve if you’re still starting out on .NET

Once you’ve defined the master pages and layouts, you can start laying out the pages – there are various page types including Page (which will result in a menu item), articles (of which there are various styles), list of articles with a teaser, a blog, and a few others. Page types are actually customisable, so you can create your own if you plan to reuse them, though Kentico has literally hundreds, so you will probably already be able to find a template which suits your needs.

Kentico

We chose a blog as our first page – and we were pleasantly surprised to find that comments are enabled by default. They also feature a significant amount of features such as users having to be registered, Captcha, anonymous commenting, and other features one would expect from your run of the mill commenting system.

Let’s just say, that you’re going to need quite some time to explore all of the features offered by Kentico.

There are also various “applications” available for Kentico – which essentially allow you to expand the functionality of Kentico. Applications are categorised into various sections which we mentioned at the beginning of this article

Content Management with some of the “features” being

  • Forms
  • Polls
  • Translations
  • My pages
  • and a connector to Sharepoint

Online marketing with some of the features here

  • Banners and campaigns
  • Conversions
  • Marketing automation and scoring
  • A/B and MVT tests

E-commerce which is a fully featured e-commerce platform

Social and Community which includes

  • Avatars
  • Badges
  • Chats and messages
  • Friends
  • Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter integration (including scheduling of posts and updates)

In terms of Development, Kentico is absolutely customizable, including a full API which allows you to do any of the Kentico functions programatically.

5. LightCMS

Another paid CMS you can opt for is LightCMS. It has very attractive subscription based pricing – starting from just $29/month. Getting started is a breeze, 1 simple form, and you’re immediately in – just a quick slideshow for noobs. Even from the slideshow, you already know you’re going to enjoy using LightCMS.

Light CMS

As soon as you’re in – of course there’s already a bit of a structure to your page. Looks like the pages are made out of a number of placeholders within which you can drop content items such as text, images, blog, calendar, event, files and links, products etc. Content items can be moved up or down to set the structure – and in the settings you can edit the actual content depending on what the content item is. Definitely LightCMS is very intuitive and simple to use.

LightCMS

 

Light CMS

Light CMS

You can have various users accessing the website under a number of different roles which give different types of functionality such as Administrator, Developers, File Manager, Image Manager, and Store Manager. As you can see, the roles are segmented mostly in terms of realistic business needs, rather than switching certain functions on and off.

LightCMS also has e-commerce features, however we were unable to test these out during our trial period – since they are part of a higher plan which was unavailable on the trial plan.

There is what looks like the following available options

  • Orders
  • Customers
  • Products
  • Product Listings

LightCMSOverall, I’d say that LightCMS is a good CMS for those who are looking for a simple to use CMS.

6. vBullettin – Forum

VBullettin has a long history behind it – it’s been around since the year 2000, so it is of little wonder that it is one of the most popular forum websites around.



Once you power up your forum, the Quick Config makes sure you’ve set up the basics so that you can easily get started by including the name and description of the forum, setting up a logo, inviting a few members and choosing the template style of the forum which you would like. Once, you’ve set that up you are then diverted to the actual forum, with a small control panel toolbar at the very top

vBullettin - Forum

Adding pages to the forum is the most CMS like feature of vBulletin. Once again, it allows users to drag and drop “modules” from the toolbar to the page to design the final page which you would like to have. You can, of course, choose the layout from a number of predefined layouts, and define colors based on the template or any custom colors you need. Below we’re creating our first page for the forum

vBullettin - Forum

You can eventually go on to edit the Header, the Navigation Bar, and the Footer with the elements you would like in the various positions.

The Admin CP allows you to also control all of the aspects of the forum per se. Once again, there are too many functions for us to be able to review all the features in depth, suffice to say, the forum’s functionality is absolutely advanced.

vBullettin - Forum

There are many normal as well as advanced features including but not limited to, Notices and Announcements, Moderation, Attachments, User Infractions, Ranks and Reputations, Paid Subscriptions, XML Sitemaps, and the vBulletin API.

Of course as with most CMSs and forums, there are two options for hosting a vBulletin forum, a DIY hosting where you download the code and install it and support it on your own infrastructure or else vBulletin cloud where the forum is hosted for you – allowing them to do the heavy lifting – whilst you work on actually administering the forum itself.

Prices are very reasonable with generous bandwidth allocations.

vBullettin - Forum

vBullettin - Forum

7. XenForo

Xenforo is another forum which is getting quite popular in the recent years. It was founded by the former lead developers of vBulletin who stepped away from vBullettin after disagreement with Internet Brands, the company who acquired the forum software.

Of course with so many years of experience, you can expect XenForo to be a very good solid product, despite it only being about 4 years old.

Firing up a demo, we can access a few of the main functions of the forum

XenForo

Browsing through the functions, it’s quite a well-rounded forum software. The user’s function – as expected is very rich and offers all kinds of functionality necessary for running a forum.

XenForo

In terms of add-ons, by default, you’ll get the XenForo Media Gallery and Resource Manager, though you are able to install others as necessary. You can find additional 3rd party addons here.

The boards and sub-boards can be defined via the Node Tree

XenForo

Specific pages which perform specific functions can also be defined

XenForo

Whilst the tools perform a number of vertical functions such as Importing External data from a number of other forums, creating Cron entries, defining questions for the forum Captcha, and others.

XenForo

And of course, the scourge of every forum software is SPAM, and XenForo has a multitude of tools for fighting SPAM.

Xenforo is also nicely affordable with prices very much within reach.

XenForo

8. WordPress VIP

Of course whilst we’re discussing paid WordPress alternatives, we shouldn’t forget that WordPress can be “bought”. WordPress VIP is essentially for those who want fast, stable reliable hosting and support of your WordPress, suitable for larger sites which need guaranteed uptime. The WordPress VIP grid serves billions of pages every month – you can find a few amazing statistics of WordPress VIP here.

WordPress VIP is targeted mostly for the Enterprise or very heavy sites, so you can expect prices which are not easily accessible by small businesses, in fact prices start from $5000/month. You can also go for VIP Support for WordPress which comes at $1250/month.



Other Paid CMS alternatives

We haven’t been able to look at a demo of the below, but the following are other paid CMSes available which you may want to look at

Adobe Experience Manager

iApps Website Content Manager

SiteCore

Website Review checklist: 70 things to check before your website goes live

Click here to download the step-by-step website review checklist to make sure your website goes live in tip-top shape.

 

Wrapping up

When paying for a CMS, you know that you have somebody to fall back on for support or help with concerns, so there is always more peace of mind especially for websites which are mission-critical. Do you still prefer WordPress as your CMS of choice, or would you go for a paid alternative if you had the choice? What other paid CMS have you had experience with and loved? Speak to us – we’d love to hear your opinions!



If you liked this list of WordPress alternatives, why not check out our others? Like this great one on 101 Awesome Tools for Web Designers and Developers!