The 5 Content Management Systems Small-Business Owners Love

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Small businesses need beautiful websites to compete in the twenty-first century. But crafting a stunning plot of internet real estate isn’t easy. At a minimum, knowledge of web hosting, domain registration, and some design skills are required.

While many people outsource these tasks to freelancers, many entrepreneurs use a content management system (CMS) to simplify web development. These pieces of software make website creation a simple and highly-approachable process.

Business.org spoke with business owners and executives about their best CMS advice. Let’s discover what these webpage owners revealed.

WordPress is a timeless classic

Launched in 2003, WordPress is a golden standard that’s hard to beat. That assertion stems from its totally free and easy-to-use functionality that makes building a website a piece of cake. In particular, its point-and-click interface and seemingly endless selection of themes offer value that paid competitors struggle to beat.

While this sounds sweet, there are downsides. First, the platform is open-source, so it heavily depends on the generosity of volunteers worldwide. Also, setting it up for the first time is tricky. You’ll need at least some web development skills to secure WordPress-enabled hosting.

And although the platform is free, many themes (especially no-cost ones) aren’t actively updated. This lack of maintenance means only a fraction of these website foundations is suitable for long-term usage.

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“WordPress is a content management system and an open-source publishing platform popular among bloggers. It is renowned for its simplicity and modifiability. The active community is one of the most important benefits. Thousands of developers have the required skills to maintain the system current by making modifications and enhancements.”

Shopify reigns supreme for ecommerce

Retail businesses rely on superb content marketing efforts to get eyes on their products. This dependence makes Shopify perfect for those wishing to make sales while also publishing great content.

Simply put, the ecommerce platform marries a digital storefront with a blog-like feature capable of hosting influential articles. As a result, small-business owners only need to sign up for one service rather than sourcing a CMS, payment processor, and other solutions separately from multiple vendors.

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We use Shopify for our CMS. Admittedly, it is not the greatest for CMS. They don't have all the bells and whistles that you would get from WordPress. However, this is a worthy trade-off for what Shopify does offer. They are an amazing, out-of-the-box ecommerce setup. There is no need to set up a third-party merchant account, and their shopping cart security means that you don't have to become a security expert for ecommerce. So if you're an ecommerce business, Shopify provides enough CMS services to justify using them for your store.
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Wix
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Squarespace
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Weebly
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GoDaddy
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WordPress
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Webflow balances simplicity and advanced tools

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WordPress gives you a lot of flexibility. However, we moved to Webflow for the following reasons. First, Webflow gives us complete design freedom, whereas WordPress is restricted by templates or having to code from scratch. Second, Webflow has the advantage of clean and good code quality. WordPress, on the other hand, can get cluttered due to needing a number of plugins. Third, Webflow allows you to make edits on a page (saving a lot of time), whereas WordPress wants you to use the dashboard and page editors. Lastly, Webflow has a built-in drag-and-drop page builder, but in WordPress you need a plugin. All in all, Webflow has made sure that we do not depend a lot on a developer.

Let’s say you love the ease of WordPress, but you crave a deeper degree of customization. In that case, Webflow is a natural favorite.

We love Webflow for its perfect combination of beginner-friendly options and advanced, highly-technical perks. For example, the platform offers a traditional, point-and-click CMS that anyone can quickly grasp. However, the website creation company also boasts its Interactions tool that uses Javascript and cascading style sheets (CSS) to make beautiful, media-rich experiences.

This is only one example of Webflow’s multidimensional approach, melding easy-to-use tools with complex features.

Jan-Philipp Peters
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We use Webflow's CMS, as Webflow is our preferred tool for building and running our marketplace. I recommend this CMS to anyone who wants a reliable, easy-to-use content management system. The only drawback is its scalability. CMS collections only allow for 100 items inside, so in case you have a lot of content, it might not be the best fit.

Static site generators (SSG) offer faster load times

WordPress and other traditional CMS titles deliver plenty of bells and whistles, but it comes at the expense of webpage loading times. And while an extra half-second or so seems trivial, research proves that these tiny delays lose sales.1

So, what if you want a simple website that loads lightning fast? A static site generator (SSG) like Hugo is one solution.

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The ultimate way to have a fast, portable, and secure website without the drawbacks of a CMS like WordPress is to use a static site generator. The performance of static sites is outstanding. They can be hosted anywhere and don't have the security vulnerabilities, update hassles, or overhead of a typical content management system. The static site generator that we find most appealing is Hugo. And because it's written in Golang, it builds sites very fast, and has a plethora of features built in. There are also hundreds of free themes for Hugo that can be easily modified to work well with your particular content.

There are many nuanced pros and cons with an SSG. But the key takeaway is that this newer technology pre-loads pages as soon as a user tries to access the website. This approach contrasts with the prevalent method of loading images, scripts, and other content in a time-consuming, sequential order.

Bottom line, an SSG can work great if you have a simple ecommerce website that demands the fastest loading speeds possible. But it’s not practical if you have a complex website chock full of videos and other media.

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We use Jekyll, which is very different from a CMS like WordPress in that it uses a completely different technology called static site generator. Compared to WordPress, it removes the risk of seeing your server being compromised (because you don't execute code on the server at all). It’s also maintenance-free (because everything is static, there's no need to be on-call to patch security issues at all), simple to scale up, and loads faster for the user. On the downside, the ecosystem is much smaller than WordPress, and such technology can't easily be used on a gigantic website.

Non-CMS options are worthy alternatives

Not everyone deploys a content management system. Many small-business owners opt for a custom-made platform perfectly tailored to their business. Meanwhile, some tech-savvy individuals ditch visually engaging solutions altogether in favor of programming languages like HTML and PHP.

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We don't use WordPress or any other CMS, nor do we advise it. Though it can make setting up a website quick, there are certainly limits to the customization in terms of the look, features, and functionality of sites. Additionally, a WordPress site is more likely to have security issues and perform worse for SEO.
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The takeaway

Content management systems are a simple solution for people needing a website without too much technical fuss. WordPress is a time-honored favorite. However, Shopify is better for ecommerce entities. Meanwhile, other options, like Webflow and Weebly, similarly get the web development job done.

Need to provide administrative support for your employees? Then check out our favorite human resource software for small businesses.

Related reading

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources:

  1. Portent. “Site Speed is (Still) Impacting Your Conversion Rate.” August 20, 2019. Accessed March 1, 2022.
Ian Agar
Written by
Ian Agar
Ian covers human resource administration at Business.org. His expertise stems from his four years as a military HR generalist in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he held the title of yeoman and became an Oracle Peoplesoft maestro. Ian also owned an ecommerce small business for over three years and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He was previously a venture capital reporter at PitchBook Data, and his work can be seen on Seeking Alpha, The Motley Fool, and Yahoo! Finance.
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