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A CMS alternative to Wordpress



10:51 am on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Apologies for raising a topic that seems to have been discussed a bit already, but I'm yet to find a post that recommendeds a decent alternative to Wordpress.

Sometimes, configuring Wordpress sites for my clients becomes unnecessarily complicated because I'm working against what it was originally developed for (as a blog rather than a traditional CMS). However, the ease with which clients can use Wordpress has been a massive advantage and kept me coming back to it as my preferred 'CMS'.

I've looked at Textpattern which looks ok, but isn't as easy to set up quickly as WP and has limited plugins etc. Joomla and Drupal are too difficult for my clients I've found - you have to get your head around the logic behind the developers, which isn't the same as the layman, and I've taken a look at a few others but when someone asks for additional functionality, I find myself lost at where to start.

As I'm a freelance web developer who works alone, what is the best way to deal with these types of situations? I'd like to find a simple PHP/MySQL-based CMS that allows upgrades to functionality (I know a bit of php), so should I be building my own CMSs with a developer for clients to make my life easier? Or is that re-inventing the wheel and there's a suitable option already available?

I'm happy enough to purchase a CMS/a licence if that's the best way.

Any ideas welcome,



11:03 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member dreamcatcher is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Test drive some of the other CMS systems here:


[edited by: engine at 8:32 am (utc) on Oct. 16, 2008]
[edit reason] fixed link [/edit]

Fortune Hunter

3:04 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I have a friend of mine that runs a web development business here that is a little bigger than my company. He said he quit using open source programs for things like CMS for client web sites. He said the problem was they could be good, but if they broke or had a bug in them he said the huge expenditure of time tracking down a work around wasn't worth it. He preferred paying for a CMS package where he could get support if he needed it and not have to rely on bulletin boards and other open source areas to get support for the open source versions. I wondered if anyone else felt the same way.


4:59 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Apologies in advance. What follows is a bit of a rant that comes from seeing the dark side of the commercial CMS issue (indirectly from my wife's corporate site), where Fortune Hunter's friend has fortunately seen the lighter side. Also, this is more a perspective as someone who builds sites for himself, not someone serving clients, so it's perhaps not as germane as it could be.

Add one grain of salt.

So here goes...

There are a handful of CMS that allow both options - free or nearly so for the CMS with the possibility of also purchasing support. So as a freelancer, you could try to go one of those routes and do what you can for the client (install, design work, themeing, module/plug-in installation, etc), but if you want something complex or get stuck, you could call in the cavalry.

There are also many shops that center on a CMS or maybe a couple (say a LAMP and a Windows-based one for a range of clients) and after deploying dozens of customized sites on that platform, they are as good as the approved providers for commercial CMS, but much cheaper. So you could contract out work to them.

Then there are shops that have developed CMS in-house that they licence, but also of course can provide in-depth knowledge and customization. So you could look around for that and see if they're willing to work a deal with you in terms of licensing/support. These would likely be the hardest to find.

Finally, there's the "serious" commercial CMS. My wife's company is stuck on a commercial CMS which was pricey to begin with, has limited capability and is incapable of producing a page that would pass a validator. But it gets better. The fees charged by the approved providers are highway robbery in my opinion. For example, the company, which for various reasons doesn't do any coding in-house, wanted to change the link colors - three lines in the single CSS file (87 lines including comments) the site uses. They were even given the numeric color code the company wanted. The vendor-approved support provider came back with an estimate of $700.

I might understand if they had never worked together and that fee included getting up and running with a new client, getting server access and so forth, but this is the company that designed and implemented the system and does regular maintenance and tweaks, so they already have all the server login info, know the site and the system and interact at least monthly if not more often with the client.

Under those circumstances, I can't imagine this taking more than one hour, including estimating, delegating, editing the very simple CSS file, testing and billing. That's $700/hour to do a simple CSS edit.

So my bias leads me to think the following, though perhaps Fortune Hunter's friend has had better luck. Whether you go commercial or open source, beyond simple installation support it is always going to cost you money to have someone come in and work on your site. The commercial vendors, if they provide support beyond installation support, it will be fee-based and not cheap. If they have an approved list of support providers, the cost will be high and the pool of providers will be limited.

If you go with one of the big names in open source (Joomla, Drupal, Typo3, etc etc, or DotNetNuke etc if you want to be on a Windows platform as some of your clients may wish), there is an army of people who know them inside and out and you may be able to find a crack developer locally. On the net, you will find shops that specialize in that platform. If you find someone who has written one of the more complicated modules, that person likely knows the system really well and is probably cheaper per hour than the support staff at the commercial CMS, but can get things done very quickly.

So, in short, I would say that the key is finding a good programmer who knows the CMS well, whether it be commercial or open-source. That may take a bit more effort with a more "community" system (open source or not) than it will with a straight commercial system, but it may be worth the effort.

It is certainly true that hunting around bulletin boards for help is going to be a time sink and if you're trying to do things in a timely manner, having a a crack programmer you can call in your moment of need will be key.


4:46 pm on Oct 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Although I prefer drupal (excellent for community sites, and with good caching such as the boost module for speed and performance), if your client finds drupal and even joomla difficult, and wordpress (easy for personal sites, mostly blogs) is not enough, in this case you can try something like expression engine, an user-friendly cms with good support.

Another possibility is acquia (free drupal with paid support), if you need something very powerful. Of course, typo3 would be more difficult than drupal.


11:41 pm on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

This is a very interesting discussion and I'm glad I found it. I'm in the same boat as Mr Nabo in wanting a CMS that I can use to build good solid sites, which my clients can maintain with their content and stay within their budgets. I am in love with Wordpress and use it a lot. I feel fairly confident in it (as much confidence as one can have in anything these days) and am considering using it to develop a large site with a partner who is far less tech savvy than myself.

I cut my teeth on open source and learned everything I've learned about php and mysql the hard way (trial and error!) and have been frustrated at times by message board support for some of these apps, but every single experience I've ever had with Wordpress has been awesome. I am inclined to use it for a CMS for this large site, but am still freaking out a little that it may not work well.

and like the guy (I forget the username now) whose wife's company is getting screwed by the commercial CMS company, I am completely aggravated by these companies who charge an arm and a leg for the simplest of tasks. I went with a commercial shopping cart called DigiShop once because I was afraid to use Zen Cart. I wanted to be sure that I was getting good support for my client's livelihood. Not only did the company misrepresent the software to me, they want to charge for every damn thing. I'm now trying to make it up to that client by giving her a really cheap Zen Cart setup.

I think I'm babbling at this point, but I'm curious if anyone out there has used Wordpress for a very large, membership/subscriber-based site that requires e-commerce and community capabilities. If so, how is it going? If not, what are you using?

thanks! :)


4:47 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Two years ago I had my site put into Coranto (a highly skilled web developer did the back end and I added all the content taken from my site previously managed with FrontPage). But Coranto has turned out to be a nightmare for me. I hate it. This is no dispersion against the web developer, who I'm working with to put my site into something that will be much easier and intutive to use.

Thus far, it seems like WordPress fits the bill but the hours of work it will take me to transer a huge amount of text and graphics has me vey anxious.

I'm unclear how a "standard" site, with thousands of internal hyperlinks, can work effectively in a Blog setup like WordPress.

Any insights would be greatly appreciated.


7:41 am on Jan 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

You might want to check out comfypage as an alternative. You dont have the option of running it on your own servers but its trivially easy to use. Completely automated setup, wysiwyg editing, custom templates are just a html document with half a dozen tokens added etc

Whatever you do don't use Joomla. Im using it with a client and its been a never end stream of problems.


7:47 am on Jan 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the recommendation. I've actually had quite good experiences with Joomla after having to learn about it the hard way. The most difficult thing I find is that the concepts involved in editing content can be difficult to teach clientswho know little about computers. But it's a powerful system if you learn it well.

CMSimple seems to be an alternative, but the problem I've found is that you need to know PHP well to customize it to your needs. I've also been using Plone a lot now for my work, and although it's a beast to set up, run and manage, it's got some of the best workflow options I've come across. Not for the fainthearted though!


8:29 am on Jan 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Perhaps I was a bit mean re Joomla. I agree it is powerful once you get to know it. I've just spent the last two days trying to teach a client how to run their own Joomla site which has left a bad taste in my mouth.


11:23 am on Jan 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I've been there too! In fact, two days ago I had to do a training session on a Joomla site and there were one or two hiccups (but these were Internet Explorer quirks more than anything else).

This is going off-topic a bit, but I find it easier to explain that Joomla is made up of 'areas' such as menus, modules and pages that you manage independently of each other (depending on how you set up your site).

With the site I just finished, when you change one of these 'areas', you almost certainly need to change the other. For example, adding a new page means you should assign a module(s) to it if there isn't one assigned already. Adding a new page means you'll need to assign it to the menu and so on. I recommend teaching nothing more than what they need to know and making screencasts of you performing those tasks with something like Jing.

The difficulty with any CMS I think is that the more fancy features a client sees online, the more they want it for their own site. Unfortunately, in my experience, this means they need to learn complex systems (and complex add-ons like modules/plugins in Joomla), and many people are reluctant to go back to school.


11:35 am on Jan 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Whew! You guys/gals make this whole CMS thing seem so complicated. Is it really worth it all to allow the client to make a few edits here and there? I mean, do you really need all those bells and whistles for a simple content editing system?

I'll tell ya what, just give em a copy of FrontPage Express and be done with it. I have free copies for all to take. ;)


5:25 pm on Jan 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

P1 - I think a lot of people want a CMS in a team environment because of granularity of privileges (i.e. some people can change design elements, some people can publish, some can submit drafts for review but not publish).

Can you handle that type of situation with FP Express?


9:13 am on Jan 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator bill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

FP Express is not really an option. It's a 10 year old lite version of FP. It's not supported by MS any longer. It was a decent tool in its day, but that day is long past. ;)

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it yet, but MovableType is a great CMS. It's not been plagued by all of the WP vulnerabilities and have been a very stable platform for me. It's also a lot more mature than any of the other options listed here.


11:55 pm on Jan 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

>> It's not been plagued by all of the WP vulnerabilities

And just what are the vulnerabilities?

I'm spending a good chunk of change to move my site into WP from a @#$% CMS. I've never heard of WP vulnerabilities. Please tell me what they are.



10:58 am on Jan 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator bill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

WP is quite vulnerable to hacking. Many sites and servers have been breached because of WP installs that have not been updated. We've had a few threads here [google.com] about some of the problems.


2:51 pm on Jan 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks, Bill.

My web developer is very good at keeping client sites updated, so I should be covered.

travelin cat

11:07 pm on Feb 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator travelin_cat is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Whatever you do don't use Joomla. Im using it with a client and its been a never end stream of problems.

This can happen with any cms that you are not familiar with. Joomla gets a lot of bashing around for many reasons, but we find it to be an excellent resource and have built all of our recent sites using it.

The Joomla community is very large and eager to help. If you use any 3rd party extensions, just make sure to read reviews of them first, especially feedback regarding the developer's response to problems.


9:52 am on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Another CMS that your clients should be able to handle easily enough is e107

Have to admit, that for me, my initial glance into this CMS didn't do much. The more I looked into it, the better I liked it.

Just throwing in another alternative for you to consider.

The only issue that I have is that updates have to be 'applied' unlike WP where you can just 'svn update' to keep absolutely upto date in case of known vulnerabilities, and stay 'bleeding edge'.


7:17 pm on Mar 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Never had an issue with WP for my personal website, but then it is just used for 10-20 pages website. My real sites are based upon perl or vb.


8:30 pm on Mar 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have been looking at joomla for the past few days. I am glad I found this forum. I have a custom developed cms we developed for our own site, and I use it for customers sites as well, but it doesn't have the great following or a bunch of plug ins. Thats why I am searching for a cms that any mid level manager can learn to change an image on the front page of his site because they just fired someone, or some other reason.

I am looking for simple user interface, plug in and mod availability for ecommerce, etc... and also be search engine friendly with sensible urls.

It seems that the KISS ones are too simple and the complex ones would confuse a lot of my potential clients. What's a guy to do?


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