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Insights Which CMS does your website need and why?

By Tomasz Kwiatkowski, Head of Development

14 Jun 2022

4 minute read

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If you’re looking for the best Content Management Systems (CMS) for your business it’s important to know what different types of CMS’s are out there and what they offer. In this article I will list some of the types of CMS platforms to help you understand their differences and make a more educated decision. 

The main types of Content Management Systems you should know about and have probably already heard of, or maybe used, are open source, proprietary, bespoke, cloud-based and headless. They won’t all be juxtaposed as some of the CMS’s can be - we will get to that later though. First let's start with the basics.


Open-source CMS
The source code of these CMS’s is publicly available to everyone. You can download it for free and there are no license or upgrade fees. The only thing you need is a web server and expertise to set it all up. Obviously, not every business needs an in-house developer and if this is you, fear not, as there are plenty of digital agencies which can help you with website development. 

You are probably asking yourself a question - how do they make money on creating open-source CMS’s? Very good question! The main motivation of open-source developers is not profit but pushing the boundaries of the technology. Sharing the source code with others to use and learn from and having thousands of people collaborating to constantly improve it. They are not driven by profit but they usually find means of making money on the back of their projects, eg. offering support and extra services. 

This brings us to the extendability of open-source platforms. Thanks to their popularity developers built vast libraries of third party modules and plugins that can be installed in the CMS to extend its functionality. Some of them are very simple, like an image carousel, others could improve the content editing experience or even transform a blog into a full-featured e-commerce platform.

One of the biggest benefits of open-source is that there are thousands of eyes looking at the code every day, pointing out flaws and suggesting improvements. This makes them really secure and future proof. The communities that are backing the platforms can continue developing and supporting them even after the main author loses interest. 

Proprietary CMS
The proprietary CMS’s usually involve a license fee and an ongoing cost for updates and support. This means there’s a paid team of developers constantly working on improvements so you should be getting a very polished platform. The main difference is that the source code is a property of the company that developed it and is not shared publicly. Corporations tend to like proprietary platforms as they give them a single point of contact and dedicated support right at the source. 

Bespoke CMS
This one is probably my personal favourite, but I will try to be objective. A CMS built from scratch to the unique requirements of your project. No unnecessary features that will never get used. Simple and fast. This is most often built upon a popular open-source framework for kick-starting the development with the basic functionalities and security benefits mentioned earlier. This type of CMS can be a more expensive option but think of it as a perfectly tailored suit - if you want it to fit just right you don’t buy it off the shelf. 

Cloud-based CMS
If you don’t want to mess with website hosting you have two options. First - get help from a digital agency that can set it up and maintain it for you, or second - choose a cloud-based CMS. Similarly to some proprietary CMS’s, there will be a monthly subscription and some usage quota to cater for limited, shared platform resources. The benefits of a cloud-based CMS are nearly no downtime, regular updates of the underlying architecture and very good security. 

Headless 
This is the new kid on the block, a very cool kid, and it seems like most developers want to make friends with a Headless CMS. Why is headless so cool? It only serves the purpose of storing your content and not displaying it. No flashy templates, but rather an API that can deliver all your content to the front-end of your website (this can be oh, so flashy) or your mobile app, or anything else you can imagine that is connected to the internet, has a display and needs to show your content. 

Making a decision
If you’ve already chosen your preferred type of CMS based on the above then good for you! But if you’re still undecided because you like the idea of two or more of them, for example, an open-source CMS and also a headless, then guess what… there are CMS’s that combine open-source and headless, or proprietary and bespoke, you can really mix and match and I’m sure you will find something that will suit your needs. 

Here are our top picks… 
If you value the editing experience and ease of use then we highly recommend ConcreteCMS. It should suit most small to mid-size websites. It’s a well established open-source CMS with a huge marketplace of third-party add-ons. 

For mid-size to larger websites, one of our favourites is Drupal. A full-featured, open-source, proven and tested by some of the biggest companies and governments in the world. 

Our recommendation for a headless CMS is Strapi, it’s a very flexible and easy to use open-source CMS. Very popular among the big tech companies. It can be self-hosted, but will soon also be released as a cloud-based platform if this is what you would prefer. 

If you need an e-commerce solution, you can’t go wrong with Shopify! Extremely popular cloud-based CMS, very flexible and extendable, at a fairly low cost. 

Here at The Escape, we still love to develop bespoke systems for our clients, as well as using the other options mentioned above. CMS or CRM, whatever it is, our experienced team of developers can make it happen! If you need a little advice on any CMS system, send us an email or give us a call and we will be happy to help!

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