free CMS platform

What’s The Best Free CMS Platform?

Find the Free CMS Platform to Best Suit Your Website Design Skill Level And Online Needs

Free Content Management System (CMS) web design platforms are a plentiful. You might feel like the easier web design is made for the average person, the more overwhelming it is to choose the “right” CMS. While your website content is crucial to a successful online reputation, a professional looking website engages consumers too.

What’s The Best Free CMS Platform?

Finding the “best” free CMS platform only happens when your website needs are met. If you’re doing it on your own, don’t work with a CMS platform you’re not comfortable with; find one that meets your business needs within your technical skill level.

If you’re not a developer you‘re probably happy with quick and easy CMS options that are free (or well priced) that don’t require too much time investment in website design or pose an insurmountable learning curve.

However, if your site is complex and you can afford to work with a website developer, I recommend it. It can save you many technology-based headaches.

Here’s Where We Enter The World Of Free CMS Platforms

The 3 free CMS platforms described in this section are not the only ones available, they are just more widely used and rank well on comparison’s I’ve looked at. Plus they all have 3 things in common:

  1. Drag and drop design,
  2. Provide domain names, and
  3. Offer mobile-ready options.

Wix is great if you like/need to have lots of images on your website (you’re a photographer or an artist). Their templates are pretty to look (and they have more than 500 free) and easy to create using your own media. The free version—which can be used indefinitely—gives you a website domain that looks like this www.wix.com/your site name (however, you can use your own domain name if you upgrade). Wix Notables:

  • You have to keep the template you choose (but you can try them out before you publish).
  • User-friendly drag and drop icons means no coding required, (great if you don’t want to code).
  • No access to CSS or HTML to tweak styles (you have to live with their options).

Weebly offers a free option and it’s easy to get started because you can choose right away the focus of your site full, blog or store. You can use any template you want this just gives you the best options for your needs first. You can choose to use a Weebly sub-domain http://www.weebly.com, register your own or connect your existing domain with an easy check box option.

Weebly Notables:

  • Some drag and drop options are only available with upgrade (though you can try them for free but you’ll lose its functionality when you go live without upgrade).
  • You can maximize your SEO because Weebly themes are predominantly HTML5-based (as opposed to Flash). Search engines look at code to rank your site; they can’t do that with Flash sites.

SquareSpace only offers a 14 day free trial and you can’t enable your site until you upgrade, but it has reasonably priced packages to suit your needs and it is user friendly.  Plus, you don’t have to put your credit card information in until you decide to buy.

SquareSpace Notables:

  • You can choose sector specific templates (like restaurants with menu, drink and reservation forms already set up for you).
  • Each theme has built-in mobile option and view (so you can easily see how both designs will look to your clients).
  • You can add custom CSS.

All three of these free CMS offer some e-commerce options, so depending on how much you use your website to process sales you’ll want to look at ease of use—for the customer to purchase and you to manage the transactions. Each provides lots of help—from developers who actually work for them—and take care of technical details and security to make sure your site is safe for your users.

While free is good, sometimes functionality is limited which may or may not be enough for you.

Website Builder Expert does a nice comparison chart of these and others addressing more features.

Open Source Free CMS Platforms You’ve Probably Heard Of: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal

The following CMS platforms require some technical knowledge (or at least time to learn). And, you may have to install their software which could potentially stop you up before you get started. However, content can be exported between them if you decide you want to try another.

WordPress is huge, in both its number of users and its contributing developers designing plug-ins and providing help. Plus, you can spend hours learning about WordPress and there’s lots of forums to answer design and technical questions.

WordPress Notables:

  • You can choose to have WordPress host your site or manage it on your own; this is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
  • Keep the software and plug-ins updated (and don’t install poorly designed plug-ins that aren’t kept up to date as this leaves you vulnerable to hackers and spammers).

You can find WordPress themes with widgets included to help you create a site that is functional (like incorporating e-commerce, mobile and social options). This means all updates are integrated making the site more secure.

Joomla has been around since 2000, it’s one of the original CMS providers. Its content management is based on components and extensions to add functionality. The interface is more complex than the simple drag and drop options. But again, with a little self education you can get yourself up and running. You can choose from templates—though not hundreds—and organize and categorize your content based on the components.

Joomla Notable:

  • Joomla has been referred to as the compromise between WordPress and Drupal for its functionality and accessibility.

Drupal is known for its ability to handle large websites, yet it may be too complex for the non-techie user to get started on their own. It’s recommended that a basic knowledge of html, php or other source codes are needed to use it effectively.

Drupal notable:

  • You can access dedicated support from loyal users and supporters of the platform.

WordPress seems to be the popular choice for beginners with smaller sites. If your site gets too big you might want to move to Drupal. Quite frankly if you’re site is that big and you’re not a developer you should rethink how much web development and design you want to take on yourself. Developers know the language and can get what you want done much easier than you working through trial and error and watching endless tutorials. Plus, you’ll want to make sure your website content is well planned to help your users navigate a complex website.

Check out this comparison of WordPress, Joomla and Drupal by Website Setup

Regardless what route you take to design and host your website, remember your website content is the most important part to reach your target audience. If you have ineffective content no matter how pretty your website looks, people will move on to get what they want easier.

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