The 20 Best CMS for 2013

With content marketing finally coming into the mainstream and search engines like Google focusing on quality content and even author rankings, the time has never been better to choose an industry-leading content management system. There are a plethora of options available, and each of the 20 best systems deserves their mention due to different factors. After all, "best" can mean the most basic, the most advanced, the most popular, and a whole host of other things. Here's a look at 2013's best systems.

1. WordPress


The WordPress community is larger than any other on earth, and that’s because WordPress itself is the single most popular content management system in the world. With dynamic PHP coding, a huge number of templates, thousands of plugins, and even smartphone applications for mobile publishing, there is no comparison to the WordPress advantage over its competitors. The system is free and continuously updated.

2. Drupal


A strong runner-up when compared to WordPress is Drupal. The system is more content-centric than blog-centric, though, making it perfect for managing portfolios, galleries, video sites, and much more. With a thriving development community, a free price tag, and continuous updates, it's a strong option.

3. Joomla!


The Joomla system comes with access to more than 3,000 plugins and extensions, as well as an easy-to-use interface that masks its advanced features. The free platform has always been a touch more advanced than WordPress, and it remains so today. The developer and support communities are both thriving, and so is Joomla on major websites around the world.

4. ExpressionEngine

Expression Engine

For an annual license that costs $299.95, websites can get in on one of the best-designed premium content management systems available. ExpressionEngine has a seriously talented staff supporting it, and it comes with access to hundreds of plugins and templates. It's actively updated, robustly supported, and the best premium system on the market.

5. SquareSpace


The SquareSpace system might be considered more of an up-and-comer among premium CMS platforms, but it still bears a mention. The system is dynamic and extensible, with a series of plugins and themes, and it benefits from one of the best-ranked customer support experiences available anywhere. The system can be purchased for $240, and it's worth every penny for serious websites with a seriously large amount of content.

6. EZ Publish

EZ Publish

EZ Publish is another newer content management system with a for-pay architecture, though the system can only be priced after the company's staff has delivered a quote to prospective users. Both free and for-pay plugins can extend the system's functionality, and it comes with a unique user interface that is actually easier to use than even WordPress.

7. MovableType

Movable Type

MT, as it is known, was once the most popular platform in the world. It languished as a Perl application when WordPress embraced more dynamic PHP, though, and it quickly fell down the ranks. That doesn't invalidate MovableType's usefulness, especially now that it has embraced PHP itself. With thousands of developers, tens of thousands of plugins, and tons of themes, it remains a driving force in content management.

8. Magento


Most people start off with a free version of Magento that proudly touts itself as open-source. When their traffic increases and their content management needs increase along with it, those customers can then slowly transition to the for-pay version of Magento that offers superior security and add-ons when compared to the free "starter" version offered by the company.

9. Business Catalyst

Business Catalyst

Business Catalyst is hosted remotely by Adobe, making it different from other systems on this list. Even so, it bears mentioning because the system is so data-driven. Business Catalyst can monitor and report on virtually every customer metric, far exceeding the Google Analytics dashboard in many cases. With prices that range from $6 per month to as much as $38 per month based on business size, this system is also highly affordable.

10. Radiant CMS


Radiant is one of the few systems based on Ruby on Rails, and that actually helps make it more efficient than competing systems. Radiant's signature approach is to ship an extremely stripped down version of the system and then encourage users to install plugins as they see fit. This makes it faster and more suited to advanced development environments than systems like WordPress or even Joomla. Radiant CMS is available at no cost.

11. TextPattern


TextPattern is a bit more difficult to learn than WordPress, but it's an excellent CMS for authors who are primarily interested in sharing their articles with the world. Its article management and publishing routines are more advanced than WordPress and offer tighter controls, making it better for high-ranking SEO and hands-on management. The system is free.

12. Alfresco


Written in the JSP programming language, which is based on Java, Alfresco is unique among major content management platforms simply for its coding language. That said, it's also unique because the system presents a drag-and-drop approach to file and content management. Alfresco is free and intriguing, but it's a seriously advanced system that won't be friendly to content management novices.

13. Concrete5


This more basic content management system is, unlike Alfresco, perfect for beginners. The developers have focused on creating a free system with a very basic interface. That includes an inline-editing tool for posts and pages that essentially functions in a WYSIWYG manner. With easy designing and editing, and few surprises, Concrete5 is a great alternative to WordPress.

14. Typo3


Typo3 offers one of the best user interfaces available, and it comes at no cost to users who download the open-source content management system. In addition to its unique and intuitive interface, the system is available for virtually every server environment on the market. That includes Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and OS X, as long as those environments are running Microsoft IIS or Apache.

15. e107


The e07 content management system is not a traditional, blog-centric system like many on this list. Instead, e107 is actually a way to create a portal to all kinds of different content. This makes it relatively unique among the competition and, when paired with its free price tag and usable interface, it might be a top option for those new to online publishing.

16. Wolf CMS

Wolf CMS

The Wolf CMS system is actually a fork of Radiant CMS, in a distant way. To that end, it uses Ruby on Rails and offers a lightweight installation that's refreshing in this genre. The system is free and continuously updated, and might represent the most serious competitor to the WordPress-PHP dominance that has characterized the market in recent years.

17. Pligg


Pligg is not only a content management system, but also a social content ranking system. For those who are familiar with Digg, the Pligg system is the perfect way to create an upstart version of that website. Because it's free, unique, and well supported, this option might be great for more entrepreneurial publishers.

18. Contao


Contao began as a free version of Typo3 before that system was made free itself. Since then, it has evolved into a fully featured CMS that benefits from a free price tag, continuous updates, and one of the most robust development communities for a software project of this size. Extensible and usable, Contao is a great option for publishers.

19. CushyCMS

Cushy CMS

CushyCMS starts out free, but will require a $25 monthly subscription payment for custom branding within the software's control panel for major companies. The system was designed to be easy to use, and it certainly is, though it doesn't have nearly the robust number of features that the likes of WordPress, Drupal, and others offer to their users.

20. Plone


For those managing content within an intranet, Plone is the best option. The system is new, but well supported and updated at a rapid clip. Its focus on internal content management and information sharing is a key way to collaborate in today's economy, and it benefits from being one of the few systems that uses Python for extensions, plugins, and other add-ons that can help to manage various other sources of content.

Great Options for Website Owners of Any Kind

The Internet is full of excellent content management systems that benefit from near-constant updates, thriving communities of independent developers, and accessible pricing that can meet virtually any budget. The systems here are easily the 20 best, though there are tens of thousands of content management systems available at any given time. The best rule of thumb is to simply choose a system that has the right extensions, works with a server's technologies, and fits into an existing budgetary requirement.

With careful planning and research beforehand, each of these content management systems can serve as an essential, and central, way to create content and make sure that it is both seen and interacted with by the legions of people perusing the internet at any given time. Be sure to evaluate each potential choice thoroughly and independently, and these 20 systems will pay dividends over the course of their installation on any personal or business server.

Written 2013-02-19 (Updated 2016-10-10)
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Written by David Walsh

David Walsh is the editor in chief here at Web Hosting Search. Having been in the industry for many years now he knows pretty much everything about everything. At least that's what he keeps telling everyone at the office. So, don't hesitate to drop him a line  if you've got a question - david(a)

Share your thoughts

dennis iversen,  7 November, 2013

Hey, you missed CosCMS found at It's not strange that it is not on the list as it is quite unknown. It is a nice mix of framework and a CMS system. It only works with MySQL database or any database if you use it as a framework.

Joompixel,  20 September, 2013

Nice article, I have been working on Joomla for many years. Joomla is a flexible CMS that can be customized to meet specific project requirements such Corporate Web sites or portals, Online magazines, newspapers, and publications, Small business Web sites, E-commerce and online reservations,…and more. Joomla is highly extensible.

David,  7 March, 2013

M.Sid, Thanks for the comment. MODX looks really good - will definitely keep it in mind if writing another one of these articles.

m.sid,  28 February, 2013

Strangely you didn't mention MODX on your list.
It surely deserve a place.
Excellent post though

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