Top 12 CMS Website Builders That Beat Desktop Software

Last Updated Jul 29, 2010 10:24 PM EDT


I was in the downloadable software business for almost 15 years. I created Web design shareware for millions of people until I noticed a shift in the way they were creating their personal and small business Websites: They didn't need downloadable software anymore.

The Web ultimately beat downloadable design software. Sure, Dreamweaver is great but it's pretty much the only contender still standing and it's designed for professionals, not your average business owner.

Fortunately, with Web-based design tools, pretty much anyone can learn to build a site. The last time I wrote about how to build a website if you don't know html, I covered hosted SaaS. The other option, which is also increasing in popularity at a break-neck pace -- both among beginners and more experienced designers -- is content management systems. With a CMS, you host the Website builder on your own Web hosting account.

Among the many advantages of a CMS:

  • Most are free or very low cost and since many are open source, they have a pool of thousands of developers updating them and adding new features.
  • They come with thousands of templates, themes, and plugins and are much easier to use than typical software that requires a high level of HTML and CSS knowledge to create a great Website.
  • They take only a few days from beginning to end to learn, setup, and create a great Website.
  • You control where your Website lives and all the features you ever want to add. Your destiny is in your own hands with an awesome CMS.
Top 3 CMS Applications to Build Your Website:
1. WordPress -- With more options than you can shake a stick at, WordPress has become the de facto CMS for thousands of businesses and blogs. Though most people see WordPress as a blog builder, it is so much more than that. The secrets to WordPress are the design themes and plugins. (Plugins are how you get things like video, images, content, contact forms, etc. on your pages.) At last count there were over 10,000 plugins and over 1,000 themes available on WordPress, most either free or very low cost. This doesn't include the thousands and thousands of premium themes and plugins available on other Websites. Here is the famous 5-minute install instructions for uploading WordPress to your hosting account. (Ask your hosting provider first because it might already be there)

2. Drupal -- Drupal is another free software package that allows a small business to easily publish, manage, and organize a wide variety of content on a Website. Hundreds of thousands of people and organizations are using Drupal today and though the learning curve may be a little steeper than WordPress, its features are deep. Here is how to do the basic installation of Drupal.

3. Joomla -- Joomla is an award-winning, open-source CMS, which enables you to build Websites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla one of the most popular Website creators available. Download and get install instructions for Joomla.

Other CMS Applications to Try:

And... here is a big list of even more content management systems
Keep in mind, of course, that with a CMS, you have tons of flexibility but the trade off is you're hosting the Website builder -- which means you have to stay on top of servers, security updates, and a slew of other tech issues. Sound like a headache? Maybe you're more of a hosted SaaS person. Which ever way you go, start building and tell me what else you find out there!
  • Nick Longo

    Nicholas Longo is the director of Web strategy at Rackspace Hosting. He's a successful serial entrepreneur and founder and former CEO of CoffeeCup Software, which develops software tools that let nontechnical people build websites. For 15 years, he has been equal parts product developer, word-of-mouth marketer, business development executive, and a guy who built a multi-million-dollar company from the ground up.