Comparing Top Small Business CMS Platforms
The Foundation of Your Small Business Website
We work with a lot of small businesses, and this question comes up a lot: “What platform should I use for my small business website?” There are literally thousands of website platforms out there, and it can be difficult to select your best option. To help you make that decision we have selected a few options for you.
As a small business, it can be difficult to choose a content management system (CMS) to build your website on. Depending on your budget, design specification and long-term plans for your small business, there will be a CMS out their suited for your type of small business.
WordPress is currently the most widely used CMS with 60.7% of the market share. W3 Techs
But not all small business CMS platforms are created equal. Some may work very well when you first start your small business, but you will soon run into limitations. Other small business CMS platforms are quite advanced and more suited for larger and more established businesses. We used our own experience plus feedback from clients to sort through some of the many small business CMS platforms out there.
For the sake of this post we limited ourselves to the seven most common and popular CMS platforms. The vast majority of small business websites are created on one of these. There are many more options available, and some of them may seem pretty cool. But overall we recommend you stick with one of the following options.
Small Business CMS Platforms
Wix is the first of our small business CMS platforms. It is a free website builder and ideal for small businesses with limited budget and little time to learn and use a more complex content management system such as WordPress. Wix boasts a large choice of well-designed templates and allows you to drag and drop content easily into your website.
Advantages of Wix
The free version gives you 500MB of storage, secure hosting, custom domain name and a wide array of templates and images to choose from when designing your website. For an additional monthly or yearly fee you get unlimited bandwidth and a further 10GB of storage using your own registered domain name. The reasonable prices make Wix a sensible choice for small businesses that require a basic, usable website. Wix is far more affordable than paying for a custom design.
Easy to Use
You can create a basic website within minutes and the platform is simple to use – even for the technologically challenged. Wix is a no-nonsense tool for small businesses who want to manage their website easily on their own.
Changes can be made to your website without having to go into the back-end of the platform and a simple SEO application can be downloaded to allow search engines to find your website for the terms you want to rank for.
Disadvantages of Wix
Restrictions for Business Growth
Wix is ideal for getting your small businesses online. But it won’t be able to offer much more than that. It is the ideal short-term solution for those without a website but for small businesses wanting to invest in a website that will adapt as the business grows, it would be sensible to choose another, more flexible platform.
Squarespace is rapidly becoming one of the more popular small business CMS platforms. It is perfect for businesses that want a website that looks professional, expensive and visually stunning but doesn’t exceed the budget at the same time. Squarespace powers more than 1.8 million websites, which is significantly lower than Wix. Squarespace is used by designers, businesses and for people creating visually appealing portfolios.
Advantages of Squarespace
Beautiful Designer Templates
Squarespace offers clean, minimalistic, sophisticated templates with rich imagery and strong visual appeal. The templates available are finished to a high quality and definitely are in another class when compared to the free templates available on WordPress and Drupal.
All Squarespace templates are responsive meaning they can be resized according to the device someone is using. This is an important factor for search engines when deciding who should rank for certain keywords on differing devices like mobile, tablet and desktop.
Extensive Styling Options
Squarespace makes it very easy to customize your website’s design without editing the code. This CMS is the perfect option for those who aren’t coding experts. You can easily adjust fonts, colors, sidebar width, background images, padding and just about anything else on a Squarespace website.
Disadvantages of Squarespace
Adding, dragging and dropping can be slightly buggy and irritating when trying to place image blocks. If trying to move a block to the bottom of the screen, the page won’t automatically scroll with you. Although it isn’t a major issue, it can be irritating when trying to update several pages at once, especially under a deadline.
Too many Styling Options
Squarespace‘s Style Editor allows you to customize or style pretty much everything in the website without going into codes but this can be overwhelming for those not overly familiar with web design.
Granted, it is a fantastic tool that allows you to design stunning websites without delving into complicated coding, but with so many styling options to choose from and alter, it can almost be a confusing experience for users new to the Squarespace CMS.
Shopify is another of the more popular small business CMS platforms, especially for e-commerce. It has it all in terms of an easy setup, with a handy dashboard area for quickly adding products, customizing the look of your site and more.Shopify even asks you if you plan on moving from another platform during the sign-up process. The system then provides a link for importing products from your previous store.
Advantages of Shopify
Easy to Use
Whether you’re launching your first business or you have a brick-and-mortar store and want to sell online, Shopify can help. Shopify is one of the most liked e-commerce software among the e-commerce small business owners.
Lots of Features
It’s packed with tons of features to help you launch and manage your online store, and it’s super easy to use because it doesn’t require any tech skills to get started. The platform also offers both basic and advanced capabilities, so it grows as your business grows.
Of the e-commerce software we reviewed, Shopify offers the best and most affordable packages for small businesses. If you’re just starting out and only have a few products to sell, Shopify has a “starter plan” that costs $14 per month and, allows you to list up to 25 products, and provides 1GB of hosting and unlimited bandwidth. To sell unlimited products and take advantage of more advanced features, you can sign up for one of Shopify’s regular plans, which start at just $29 per month.
No Hidden Fees
With Shopify there are no hidden fees. There are no transaction fees if you use Shopify’s payment gateway. Note that this is separate from credit card processing fees, which range anywhere from 2.25 percent plus 30 cents per transaction to 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction, depending on your plan.
Integrates with WordPress
For the best of both worlds you can now integrate Shopify e-commerce capabilities on your WordPress website, for free. This gives you the ability to utilize Shopify functionality without having a Shopify site.
Disadvantages of Shopify
Shopify is a hosted solution, meaning it only works on the Shopify server. While this may be only a minor concern for most small business owners it is something to think about.
Shopify templates are more expensive than the average WordPress theme, and a lot more expensive than Squarespace or Wix. This may be a concern for cost-sensitive small business owners just starting out.
WordPress is a platform widely adopted by approximately 75 Million sites worldwide. Around 50% of this figure is hosted on free WordPress.com according to ManageWP Blog. WordPress also accounts for 18.9% of all self-hosted websites. And that makes it the overall most popular of all small business CMS platforms.
Advantages of WordPress
Easy to Operate
You can easily make changes to your website without knowing web coding. It is easy to add pages, blog posts, media, products and change current content on WordPress. WordPress has helpful guides and support for each area of their platform if you do happen to find yourself stuck.
WordPress has a variety of themes to choose from and using a ready-made template can cut costs and time taken to manually build a website for your small business.
Almost Limitless Customization Options
WordPress offers more paid and unpaid themes and plugins than any other content management system. This means that if you want to add more features to your website, there’s a good chance that there’s a plugin available to do this for you.
Suitable for Small Business of all Types
Some other website platforms have left clients with a website that offers limited ability to make changes and a system that isn’t able to adapt to changes in the business. WordPress is so widely used that it actually inherently moves with changes and trends in the web design industry.
Regardless of who you use to manage your website, the chances are they’re familiar with WordPress.
WordPress has many reliable SEO plugins available to download for help with website optimization. SEO can be a main driver in traffic for many websites but can be difficult for small businesses will little time or to understand or implement the principles.
WordPress makes it easy for all users to optimize their website for search. Yoast is by far the most popular tool for SEO but there are alternatives including All In One SEO.
Disadvantages of WordPress
In order to keep your website up to date for current browsers and virus attacks, WordPress requires you to update the software frequently. The frequent updates make it difficult for some plugins to adapt to the changes made to the WordPress software and they don’t tend to operate the way they should after updates.
It is advisable to take a backup copy of your website before updating your WordPress version in the event of any problems with the update that could affect your website. And if your web designer offers website maintenance plans you should take advantage of that.
There is a Learning Curve
When making changes in the back-end of WordPress, they don’t always appear that way when looking in the actual web browser. This can be frustrating for those that aren’t overly familiar with web design or coding when trying to get text and images to appear the way they want it to.
Changes can be Costly and Time Consuming
If your website was built upon a theme and you decide you want to make major changes to it, it could be time-consuming and costly to get a developer to makes changes to the layout for you. Every theme is programmed differently so it would take time for a developer to understand how the individual theme was made.
If you know that major changes will be made to the theme in the future, it may be best to consider building from scratch to meet your specific requirements. We recommend that you discuss your current and future vision for your website with your designer before getting started.
Drupal is almost beyond what we could call small business CMS platforms. It has developed into one of the most popular and complex open-source content management systems on the market. While no programming experience is required for basic use, it is mostly used by more advanced developers because of its very sophisticated programming interface.
Drupal is a tough learning curve and is known more for a developing platform than as a simple CMS tool. For this reason we consider Drupal to be more of an enterprise level solution than a small business CMS.
Advantages of Drupal
Functionality and Flexibility
Drupal makes it possible to create simple or advanced websites, blogs, discussion boards, social networking pages and much more, using tools including advanced menu management, polls management, graphics modification tool and users management. Drupal is flexible and can manage many content types such a videos, polls, user management, podcasts, statistics, texts.
Customization and Plugins
Drupal has thousands of plugins available and since it’s an open source platform, you can also create your own plugins to use on your own website. The script includes graphics management, allowing you to make simple as well as more complex page configurations.
The Drupal homepage is filled with discussions boards, documentation and mailing lists for added support when you need it. There’s lots of information concerning modification and management of the script.
Disadvantages of Drupal
Installation and modification
Drupal requires advanced knowledge of installation and modification, and the user interface isn’t as simple to use as WordPress or Joomla!.
Drupal falls behind other platforms like WordPress when it comes to scalability and efficiency. Large websites will generate a bigger server load but this can be decreased using plugins that load a website to the server’s cache.
Magento is another of the small business CMS platforms focused on e-commerce; it is best known and widely used as an e-commerce content management system. According to a recent study from builtwith.com, over 12% of all e-commerce sites use Magento as their chosen CMS. There are hundreds of extensions and the ability to add your own functionality plus it is more SEO-friendly than other e-commerce platforms.
Advantages of Magento
Large User Community
Magento is powered by the community using the platform and has the ability to be edited by developers to tailor it to their own store. The platform is a popular choice for e-commerce businesses and help is easily available online from forums and support blogs when required.
Magento is built to manage online stores of any size, whether you’re selling 1 product or 1 million, it is far more scalable than other e-commerce platforms such as WooCommerce that would struggle to hold more than 1,000 products.
Magento comes with simple, configurable, bundled, grouped, digital and virtual products so businesses can sell anything from home appliances to digital downloads at the same time without any extensions.
If you find that you want to add a feature to your website but not sure how to do it manually, there is a 90% chance that someone has already made a plugin for it on Magento. Most plugins are affordable and available for use on any type of e-commerce store.
Disadvantages of Magento
Developed using PHP
Magento websites are developed using PHP, which results in a slower performance. You would need a powerful server and caching implemented to keep your website running efficiently. PHP is a popular scripting language but isn’t suitable for the complexity of the solution for most small businesses.
Complex to Learn
CMS platforms such as Wix or WordPress are easy to use even for those with basic knowledge of content management systems. However, Magento is far more complex, even for the best developers and it takes time to understand how the platform works.
It isn’t user-friendly and can be complex to manage and edit existing content. Due to its complexity, it is far more expensive to hire an advanced developer to make changes for you compared to other platforms that are easily manageable without additional support.
Joomla! was one of the first small business CMS platforms. It is an easy-to-use, powerful content management system. It’s almost a combination of WordPress and Drupal and therefore boasts some incredible benefits for small businesses who need a CMS they can rely on as their business grows. However, like any other platform, it still has it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Joomla!
Developed in PHP
PHP is the most common scripting language used and Joomla!’s framework is written completely in this script. Therefore your pages should display well and compatibility issues will be minimal. There is also a preview mode to check the display of your website.
Joomla! is ready to use right ‘out-of-the-box’ and only takes minutes to install. Anyone who is able to download from the Internet can install and use Joomla!. However, the installation process is significantly more difficult than WordPress.
Lots of Features
Joomla! can support more than two-level hierarchies using a more complex navigation pattern, available in recent versions of the platform. This feature provides more in-depth sites with additional pages and the ability to grow further as opposed to WordPress, which is simply not designed with hierarchies in mind.
Although Joomla! doesn’t have as many modules and templates as Drupal, it has significantly more plugins to allow you to modify your website in your own way. WordPress is the CMS with the most plugins, however, there’s far more functionality built straight into Joomla!, meaning fewer plugins are required.
Joomla!’s URLs are SEO crawler friendly. This is important when search engines use bots to crawl your website and will easily be able to identify what the page is about when they read the URL. Duplicate content is also avoided as a result of query strings not being used.
Disadvantages of Joomla!
Beginner to Intermediate Usability
Joomla! was designed for simple websites and blogs, for people with little knowledge of website building. This means that it isn’t the best option for those looking to build a truly custom website with complex infrastructures.
Use of Server Resources
Joomla! relies on a large amount of server resources comparable to other content management solutions, meaning that Joomla! can run a couple of sites successfully. However, you may experience slow loading times because of its use of server resources.
Joomla! utilizes SEO-friendly URLs compared to other CMS platforms. Joomla! is less effective than WordPress and Magento when it comes to optimizing your site for search engines. Out-of-the-box Joomla! isn’t very SEO friendly, but using the JoomSEF plugin can change that.
Choosing Your Small Business CMS Platform
Before deciding what CMS your small business should opt for, it is important to note whether you’ll be selling products online, frequently blogging, creating a forum for visitors to use, or creating a custom design for your business.
This is because each CMS specializes in different areas. For example, while Squarespace is more for the design-conscious, WordPress is an all-rounder for most small businesses and Magento is an advanced platform for e-commerce businesses.
Before you decide what CMS to choose, it is important to consider the following:
- What is the purpose of your website? Is it to encourage sign-ups, make online sales or increase blog views?
- Are you happy with a pre-made theme and if not, do you have the budget for a custom design?
- Who will be using the CMS? If users with basic knowledge of HTML will be using the CMS, it may not be best to go with something as complex as Magento.
- What are your future growth plans for the business website? If your business is purely e-commerce, how many products do you have to sell and does your chosen CMS accommodate for this amount of products?
Don’t Try This On Your Own
We know that a lot of small business owners have limited funds. Therefore the temptation to try selecting small business CMS platforms and building your own small business websites is very tempting. And we applaud your sense of daring and adventure. But we definitely recommend against it!
Choosing your CMS and building your small business website is a key step in creating a successful online presence. If you miss steps along the way, or if you don’t know what you are doing you can end up in serious trouble. Trust us on this one; we have seen the results when things go wrong too many times.
If you think hiring a professional is expensive, just wait until you hire an amateur or try to do it yourself!
Almost any small business owner can figure out the essentials to have on their business website. And many of you could definitely start building your own site. But there are a lot of moving parts, and some of them you don’t see until something breaks.
The big difference between the average small business owner and professionals like us is that we know what to do when things go (terribly) wrong! It comes from many years of breaking things and having to learn how to fix them! It is OK if you really want to go through this yourself. But don’t you have better things to do?
Regardless of which of these small business CMS platforms you choose there are things you need to do before you start to develop your website. And it helps to avoid common website design problems as well. Maybe the best way to do that is to get professional help.
We Can Help You Select Your Small Business CMS Platform
Here at ESPRESSO.digital, we offer a full range of business website consulting and design services, including brand strategy and design, content strategy and creation, website design and development, commercial photography services, search engine optimization, social media integration and business website hosting.
Feel free reach out to us to learn more about our small business website design services, and how our team can help you select from these and other small business CMS platforms. The highly caffeinated team is always happy to help!
Do you have anything to add to our list of small business CMS platforms? Maybe you have your own favorite you can share? Please leave your comments below so our audience can benefit as well, and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And help other small business owners get an awesome small business website by sharing this post with them! Thanks, we appreciate your help!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Schmidt
Co-Founder / Digital Barista