Ultimate CMS Showdown - which platform is right for you?

Ultimate CMS Showdown

After a summer hiatus, I'm back at it again and taking full advantage of Vancouver's booming tech scene. I've been popping around the city attending tech industry meet-ups, networking events, and panel discussions on a regular basis once more and it feels great. I love that our city is buzzing and that new opportunities present themselves at every turn. Our local tech industry is growing by leaps and bounds and I'm thrilled to be a part of it!

But does that mean that you're doomed if you DON'T live in a tech hub? Are you automatically at a disadvantage if you want to make it in our field outside of these areas? Are your chances of becoming a quality web designer/developer lower from the start?

NOPE, nope nope!

Thanks to the internet, information is instantly accessible to anyone, anywhere in a way that has never been seen before. This means that even if you don't live in a major area where tech events are happening every night of the week, you can still get the Coles Notes of these events with a little research!

This article is a little different from most other posts on my blog in that I'm sharing my notes from a recent tech event I attended called "Ultimate CMS Showdown". This way, even if you weren't able to attend in person, you can still see what experts in the field have to say on the topic! It's a new-er format I'm experimenting (previous example here) with so be sure to let me know if you like these types of posts!

Related: 5 tips for attending your next tech event - video

To make sure that we are all on the same page, CMS stands for Content Management System. More info on that here but basically it's what you use to build a website or blog.

If you've read my blog or visited my Services page, you'll know that I'm a HUGE fan of Squarespace, which is a "software as a service-based content management system-integrated website builder". Meaning, Squarespace is a content management system (CMS) and it is growing with popularity every day. You can read more about why I build client websites on Squarespace here, but know that when I was starting out as a web designer/developer, I primarily worked with Wordpress (another CMS). I wanted to share my notes from the Ultimate CMS Showdown panel because it was super interesting to hear about other CMS's, especially those intended for large, enterprise-level clients. 

NOTE: Anywhere below that you hear the features of Wordpress and why it works for a particular organization, you can safely apply those same points to a website built on Squarespace. Both CMS's serve similar markets and in our case, they are usually comparable options. 

I work primarily with small businesses so I don't think I'll be building any client websites on these other platforms anytime soon, but I'm still super glad that I got to hear a balanced comparison on these platforms and learn more about why each option could be the right choice for a particular organization.

Without further ado, here are my event note from "Ultimate CMS Showdown".

Ultimate CMS Showdown

Picking a CMS

The event kicked off with an overview presentation of what a CMS is and things to consider when picking a CMS.

  • In the Vancouver market, small websites built by an agency/experienced professional(s) usually go for $5-50,000. Mid-level goes for $50-200,000, and large enterprise level begins at $200,000.
  • Entry level requirements for a CMS include ease of use, limited tech expertise, creativity, digital marketing capabilities (so as to support ROI). WordPress is a typical entry level CMS and makes up about 28% of market share
  • Mid level requirements for a CMS include workflow management, marketing capabilities (ROI built into the CMS), ease of use, creativity, etc. Consider it a step up from the basic website and many people working on and maintaining the site will not be rookies. A popular open source option is Drupal while .NET environments are often Sitefinity or Kentico
  • Enterprise level requirements for a CMS include reliability, scalability, integration with social media & ecommerce, interoperability with CRM/ERP/etc., workflow management, progressive marketing. It's not uncommon to have in excess of twenty other integrations: these apps and tools are becoming increasingly web facing. Popular options are Sitecore, Sitefinity, Adobe, Oracle, Acquia, and IBM (actually the largest digital marketing agency in the world)
  • Important to consider requirements when picking a CMS. Biggest question to ask is who will run it? A few things to consider: cost to learn a new platform/CMS; .NET vs open source - how customizable does it need to be?; hosted vs SAAS; hosting requirements; multi-sites and/or brands; security needs

A case for Wordpress 

  • 59% of CMS based sites on the internet are powered by Wordpress (as of August 2017)
  • Examples of sites that are built with Wordpress: National Post, Obama Foundation, Southern Bancorp, Five Thirty Eight
  • Very scalable and can handle high traffic
  • Wordpress is expanding capabilities as it grows and competes in the market
  • Site builder within editor - Gutenberg. Extendable and modifiable through themes and plugins
  • Weakness: security and maintenance, search functionality
  • Strengths: usability, customization, rich content creation
  • 52,202 plugins, thousands of themes, vibrant and active community of users and developers

A case for Drupal

  • Php based CMS that was created in 2000, primarily for enterprise level implementations
  • Examples of sites that are built on Drupal: Nasdaq, Time Inc, Fox, most Ivy league universities (like Harvard), Pfizer, WhiteHouse.gov, NBC, Tesla, The Weather Channel
  • 1.3 million websites run on Drupal and there are well over a million members (perhaps the largest open source community in the world)
  • Known for innovation, speed and scalability
  • Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to other enterprise CMS's
  • Weakness: learning curve, complexity (vast amount of modules, connectors, etc.), out of box administration is barebones, cost because of support requirements (basically you need developers to work with Drupal)
  • Caching tools enabled
  • Drupal 8 - integrations have been improved, better UI (user interface)

A case for Sitefinity

  • 15+ years old, stable & reliable CMS for mid/large size clients, good for organizations with multiple departments
  • Examples of sites that are built on Sitefinity: NASA, Code, Audi, Toyota, Microsoft
  • Easy to learn and manage (non-technical users are able to use Sitefinity without difficulty), good mobile support, tight security (meaning less monitoring required)
  • Developer flexibility (extensible) & support (technical documentation, video tutorials, working examples, etc.)
  • Weakness: proprietary CMS is a barrier to purchase because of licensing and cost, not aimed at small businesses, .NET platform means you need someone with developer skills
  • Benefits marketers: simple & intuitive UI means that it's easy to modify, create and maintain content. Helps achieve organization buy-in and higher adoption across an organization
  • Predictive analytics engine - good to track > segment audience > engage > personalize > convert. Don't need technical knowledge and there are a ton of guides
  • Runs on Microsoft IT infrastructures (uses ASP.NET in its development), runs on Windows servers
  • Doesn't require a huge amount of technical knowledge - fully open source portal
  • Licence base - perpetual, one time flat fee
  • "Entry level enterprise solution"

Which platform comes out on top?

It depends on your needs! They all have strengths and weaknesses and hold a difference place in the market :)

That being said, if you are a small or medium-sized business who wants a fairly straightforward website, your best bet is probably WordPress/Squarespace. As your organization grows and becomes more complex, the other enterprise-level CMS systems will definitely be the right choice but don't get ahead of yourself!

Event Photos

I snapped a few pics to share on my Twitter, see below:


Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed attending this event and hearing the panel's thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of several popular CMS options. I was familiar with Wordpress and Drupal (to an extent) but I've never really thought much about Sitefinity so that was super cool to learn more about! When it comes to choosing a CMS for a website, there are so many factors to consider, and I loved the way this presentation was laid out in a balanced way. What's right for one organization might not apply to another, so it's important to consider things like who will be building the site, will those same people be maintaining it, how important is social media/e-commerce integration & support, security concerts, etc.

The only thing I didn't love about this particular event was that there weren't any women involved in the presentation. The host was male, as were the four presenters, and while I very much enjoyed each of their presentations, I would have loved to see a woman included up there. There is NO shortage of female talent in the tech industry and I wish we were better represented at events like this!

As I mentioned above, this is a newer article format so I'd love to hear what you think about it! Would you like me to continue sharing tech event recaps and notes? Does this type of content interest and help you? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email with your feedback! 


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