3 fresh CMS options that could be better than WordPress

Quick, name a CMS! Let me guess, you said WordPress. Maybe Joomla? ExpressionEngine? TextPattern?

It doesn’t really matter. We all know the big names, and chances are we’ve picked our favorites. Some try to use one versatile CMS to solve every problem. Some have a few they’ll consider, depending on the job.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s to pick the tool that’s right you, and for the job at hand. That’s why I keep looking at new tools, new options. That is why, every so often, I’ll try out a new CMS, just for fun. Recently, I tried three which I thought were worthy of note.

These CMS options are relatively new to the market, but they already show promise. In the right situation, they could be more appropriate than your old favorites. Let’s give them a whirl, see what they can do…

 

Bolt CMS

Bolt starts out by giving you the usual options of “pages and posts”, but it doesn’t stop there. Anyone familiar with creating custom post types for WordPress will find it easy to create new content types to their heart’s content. You can define what kind of content goes into each content type: text, images, lists, lists of images, and so much more. See the documentation for more details.

Templating is done using the ever flexible Twig template engine. Basically, it’s a lot easier than reading and memorizing new PHP functions, so I’m all for it.

Bolt also features an as-yet-small but growing library of extensions. Full documentation is provided for anyone who wants to make their own, so check it out, and go wild!

Drawbacks

Many of the settings are changed by editing text files (including navigation menus). Sure, you can edit these files from the admin interface, but this could prove intimidating for some users. In fact, this CMS has a bit of a learning curve in general.

The admin interface lacks polish. It appears to be built with an older version of Bootstrap, so it looks… fine, but it’s not always easy to understand.

General impressions

Bolt CMS is powerful, and highly customizable. That power comes at the cost of ease-of-use, however, so train your clients to use it with care. Oh, and maybe don’t give them full admin access.

People with experience creating WordPress themes shouldn’t have too much trouble switching, though. Use it on those occasions when you need power and flexibility, and have clients who are willing to get their hands dirty.

bolt

 

Anchor CMS

Anchor CMS is geared towards exactly one thing: blogging. This single-minded focus is reflected in the feature-set, and indeed, the very design of the admin interface.

Speaking of which, the Admin interface is very, very polished. Nothing like working in an environment that’s just plain pleasant to look at. Post formatting is done with markdown (no live preview, sadly), and posts come with the usual options for post categories, tags, custom fields, etc. Also included are interfaces for creating additional “site variables”, and editing your blog’s metadata.

Theme creation is a bit more WordPress-like. You’ll need to be comfortable with mucking about, and learning the various PHP loops and so on that display the content.

Drawbacks

As of yet, there are no extensions. This is a planned feature though, and I can’t wait to see what people come up with.

General impressions

This is another one that is great for web professionals, and any clients you can convince to learn markdown.

It’s simple, pretty, starts with a great idea, and executes it perfectly. Anchor CMS is focused on doing exactly one thing, and it does it well.

anchor

 

Pico

Pico differs from the other two CMS options on this list in one major way: it’s a flat-file CMS. No, I don’t mean that it stores all of its information in a flat-file database. There is no admin UI. There are no pretty screens for writing content or changing settings.

All of your content goes into flat text files, formatted with markdown, and organized by directory. You create and edit content, change settings, and switch themes using your favorite file manager and text editor. Obviously, this makes it a no-frills kind of system, best used for simple sites that might otherwise just be a collection of static pages.

Essentially, Pico provides just enough power to make managing sites with largely static content easier. Additionally, it allows you to more easily expand said sites by separating content from layout markup.

Templates and themes are made, like Bolt CMS, using the Twig template language. As previously stated, content formatting is done with markdown, but you can also add as much raw HTML as you like.

Drawbacks

Obviously, there’s a bit of a learning curve. Tell most clients that they’ll have to edit their site with a text editor, and they might freak out a little. Then, there’s always the chance they might edit something in the wrong directory, and so on.

General impressions

Pico is powerful, with a few features that go beyond those I listed. It is, however, probably not suited to most client projects. If you need to manage a small-medium size website with laregly static content, however, it just might be for you.

pico
  • Nathan

    I’m a big fan of Processwire
    https://processwire.com/

    • http://arrahmah.com/ Fadly

      Me too.. It’s lightweight.. but comparable to the big Drupal, MODx, or ExpressionEngine..

    • Darius Schindler

      Processwire + Foundation / Bootstrap site profile is the better one choise :)

  • matt

    There’s already one called Drupal. Time tested, best solution ever, switched from WP to Drupal long ago, any site can be built on it. When was the last time your government used WP? E.g whitehouse.gov runs on Drupal. Drupal > the rest.

    Come at me haters.

    • Peter Waegemans

      I agree. You can do Drupal the easy way out of the box or you can do it the hard way.
      It’s not that flexible and very difficult if you want advanced theming done.
      But from what I’ve learned by now, I can see you can get very far with it and actually create any kind of site you want.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      Any IT decision taken by any government is automatically a disaster. So that’s a point against Drupal.

      • Jelle

        That’s not a very solid point…

        @peterwaegemans:disqus:
        Advanced theming has indeed been a problem in the past, but will improve in Drupal 8 (the next major Drupal release), since we switched to Twig.

      • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        No, it was a tongue in cheek point ;)

      • Peter Waegemans

        Ah yes, Drupal 8 sounds promising. I worked with Twig once and really liked it.

    • http://www.ngtech.pk Ahmed Ali

      I think these are Government sites using WP :P
      http://www.data.gov/
      http://open.nasa.gov/
      http://www.consumerfinance.gov/

      But no doubt Drupal is a great platform :)

    • Bob

      I’m one of the devs for Bolt, which is one of the CMS’es in the article. We also do a lot of jobs using Drupal. It’s a blanket statement to say “Drupal > the rest”. You should always pick the right tool for the job. By saying what you said, you’re basically saying you’re a one trick pony, and I’m sure that’s not correct. :-)

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

    More appropriate for the task at hand.

  • Tim

    Concrete5

  • http://www.daverobertson.me Dave Robertson

    The blog part seems to anyway.

    The US Government uses WP for http://www.data.gov/ too.

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

    Whether or not WP is an appropriate tool for content management is certainly debatable, but it’s very hard to argue that it isn’t used as one.

    In fact I think WP probably powers more content as a CMS than as a blog engine. (Although that’s just a guess, I don’t have any stats on it.)

  • Martynas

    You should also try Monstra CMS (http://monstra.org)

    • Pablo Garcia

      Have you tried lightcms (light-cms.com) or wepify(wepify.com)

  • Robert Austin

    I had a client that was already using ModX, so I installed a copy on my pc, and took a look and liked what I found. It is open source, cross platform, and extendable. I actually tried looking at Drupal, and DotNetNuke, and a couple others, but they were all too confusing, but once I got to exploring ModX, it was easy to pick up, and, in my opinion is more powerful than the others, with the ability to add custom properties, to use code snippets, and the latest version allows multiple sites (with an extension installed), socyou can have multiple domains and/or sub-domains. From what I understand, you can even have one single site but have the site switch formatting templates based on the domain or sub-domain name used to access the site.

    • http://arrahmah.com/ Fadly

      You might want to try ProcessWire

    • http://www.spy.my Spy.My

      I was testing so many CMS and modx was the one i found to be the one that could actually fill my needs for one particular site. After that I explored its extendibility & was totally surprised by its versatility. Now I always look to modx before anything else when developing a site, I don’t always go with it but, my personal experience is it fits the bill for many so differing scenarios.

  • Nathan Huening

    I’ve been an ExpressionEngine developer for more than 6 years and, after having built more than 50 sites with it, am now moving my entire studio and clients over to Craft CMS. ( https://buildwithcraft.com/ )Few reasons why:

    Control panel + database meets my needs better in almost all cases than a flat file system like Statamic which, I’ve found, makes more intuitive sense for non-technical users.

    It’s totally flexible: whatever kind of content needs you have, it’s probably built in natively. First, everything is an element: users, tags, global variables, entries, assets, everything. So you can create a single set of custom fields and apply them wherever you want. Second, the Matrix field type functionality alone is worth the price of the software: you can basically build your own “The Verge” longform features out of the box.

    Because the Craft guys were extremely successful ExpressionEngine 3rd party add-on developers, they know what works and what doesn’t.

    The Craft guys are wicked fast developers and are maintaining an extraordinary, breakneck release pace. V2 just came out and it’s awesome.

    Probably the easiest and most well-structured plugin architecture / API you’re ever going to need.

    Responsive and beautifully designed control panel UI.

    The Craft guys (including lead developer Brandon Kelly) are super active doing help & support — there’s even a “email us” widget built right into the control panel that sends off info about your server config so they can help troubleshoot.

    Speaking of support, the Google Plus community is super active.

    Template engine is based on Twig, which is by far the best and most complete PHP text parser (and independently maintained).

    Terrific license & fee structure: free for most uses, Client version doesn’t include a lot of unnecessary features, Pro gives you the kitchen sink. Pro is the same price as ExpressionEngine with 50x the features & flexibility.

    I could go on and on, but you get the gist.

  • Wolfie

    Contao on http://contao.org is obviously missing

    • Pablo Garcia

      I use it few times and looks good

  • http://www.tylerbrownvisuals.com/ Tyler Brown

    WP isn’t always the ideal solution for every project, but the reason I (among others, probably) turn to WP every time is because of the endless stream of support that comes with it.

    With WP, I know that none of my clients will be left with something lacking a support base if/when I’m not around. I’ve worked with CMS/ERP/Et Al with limited support and finding quality developers can be a difficult process and a downright hassle.

    For building personal projects, WP isn’t always at the top of the list…

    • http://www.scanpartner.no/ Thomas L.G.

      Also… missing something? There’s probably a plugin for that. Either that or someone on stackoverflow already solved it some other way ;)

  • http://gorenburg.com/ Ilya Gorenburg

    Simple flat-files CMS with extensions GetSimple CMS: http://get-simple.info

  • Bob

    Hi, thanks for the write-up!

    I’m one of the devs for Bolt. You’re correct about the backend. It’s built using Bootstrap 2, but we’re currently working on a new version that’s a bit more polished and intuitive.

  • http://www.scanpartner.no/ Thomas L.G.

    You’re saying WP isn’t a CMS and shouldn’t be, but I fail to see your arguments for those claims. WP has everything you mentioned, and its big strength IMHO lies in the huge amount of available plugins, most of which are free or ridiculously cheap. I’m just wondering, what are your arguments?

    • Jamie Wade

      You just answered your own question … ‘plugins’. You will need to download and install lots of 3rd party plugins to get any sort of further ‘CMS’ functionality out of WordPress, thus stretching it into something it was not designed to do.

      Whereas my argument is if you use an actual CMS, the functionality will be there already because the software was made just for the purpose.

      I can’t deny WordPress does have it’s advantages, but at the end of the day, it is a blogging tool, and no number of plugins can hide that fact.

      • Sebastián Fuentes

        Functionality is related to requirements, and the requirements are unique and varied to a particular development so it’s almost impossible that a “good CMS” will already have the functionalities in it (can you imagine such huge CMS?).

        I think the most important is how flexible it is, from there, eventually you can extend and optimize to any requeriments you have :).

  • jlu
    • Jason Delaplain

      “Bad Request”

  • Pablo Garcia

    Hey Benjie, than you for your censorship… Good move

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      Hey Pablo, thanks for your slightly oblique comment…good move :)

  • Toni

    What a stupid comment, than you have no idea what wp is capable of

  • http://www.mckaymultimedia.com Nathan Mckay

    Let the cynic be a cynic. This guy has clearly never dove into the WP codex or taken a look at the incredibly impressive things other developers are doing with the WP platform. Chalk it up to naivety or hubris. Either way anyone that has flexed the WP system knows what it is capable of, with or without plugins. About the only thing this guy gets right is that WP is a blogging that got extended.

  • http://www.mckaymultimedia.com Nathan Mckay

    Funny too because WP is used on approximately 20% of websites (blog, CMS or otherwise) worldwide according to a number of sources. Not bad for a little ole blogging platform.

  • http://www.smooster.com/ Madeleine Maier (smooster)

    I’m part of the team of so I’m a little biased ;) but if you’re looking for a great cms for designers & don’t want to use scripting languages, try smooster cms: http://www.smooster.com/en –> hosted cms, lets you build website with just html&css, currently free until the website goes live. (and if you like designing websites in photoshop etc. and need someone to build them for you, we also provide that)

  • John Kelleher

    For me, there’s really two main camps for CMSs. Conventional, full-featured CMS typified by WordPress (or whatever flavour – Drupal, Joomla et al). For the hard core out there who like to have a bit of fun with a CMS, there’s Jekyll which is just great. Host on pancake.io and you’re away. For the best middle-ground, I like Processwire.com.

    It avoids the key pitfalls of WordPress in that access to the engine is instant. Know a little PHP? Know a little CSS (or can dl a template)? Well, you’re there. Processwire throws in a serviceable back-end admin panel too for your clients. But crucially, front of house it don’t get in your way with the styling and that is key. I use PW for the boring serve a page functionality (and by the way, a page can be ‘non-publishable’ in that it can just be somewhere you store data – think database in a database). The styling I make or get from any template I find. Perfect.

  • Anna Mayer

    Guys, you have missed http://www.impresspages.org !!!

  • mfcs

    Nice post. I am a blind fan of this blog and really enjoy reading here. Web designing is my passion and keep my self up to date reading new things here.

  • Justina Bakutyte

    Check out ImpressPages, man! Known as the good alternative to WordPress http://www.impresspages.org/

  • http://www.climatiseurmural.org/ mounir abdallah

    I am a webmaster and thank you very much for the advice

  • gie

    Take a look at windu.org multilanguage cms with easy extensions and bootstrap3 themes for free.

  • vj

    Can anyone please tell me which CMS Is best for building thememarket and sell themes, which cms is lacking theme support or having very less themes.