Why use one of the many free content management systems available today? Simple…they’re great for people who want to set up a website for their business but have limited knowledge when it comes to formatting and creating content.

A simple content management system allows the user to add or remove content, choose a specific theme, use the layout of their choice and start to share their website using links and social media.

Free content management systems offer do-it-yourself tools for entrepreneurs who are just taking the first steps in building their brand and their image online.

Content Management Systems
WordPress and Wix are among the top-rated sites for content management systems Image source: Unsplash @AustinDistel

Content Management Systems: How to Choose the Best Free Option for Your Website

Developing a functional website is more accessible than ever before thanks to open-source content management systems (CMS) that can be installed and used at no cost.

Free Content Management System

Whether creating an informational site, ecommerce store, blog or membership community, veteran web developers and novice users alike are leveraging free CMS options to build professional digital platforms complete with content publishing, administration and site-building capabilities baked right in.

Content Management Systems | CMS | What is a Content Management System? | Web Development

But with popular solutions like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal all available free of charge, how does one evaluate the distinctions and decide what best suits their unique needs? Factoring in elements like ease of use, theming flexibility, feature extensibility, security protections and available support, this comprehensive guide compares the leading content management systems to reveal the pros, cons and ideal use cases for each.

Additionally, you’ll learn insider tips for installation, customization and management of the top free CMS platforms to save money while unlocking the full power and potential of your website.

What Are Free Content Management Systems?

A free, web-based content management system offers each user a specific amount of space to create a website they can use to build their business, share ideas, or tell stories. A free content management system includes many different resources that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Templates that can be used to create a specific layout or design
  • Photo manager that offers a variety of editing tools
  • Content blocks that include different fonts, colors, and the option to link to other websites or pages
  • Limited storage (storage can be increased if an upgrade is purchased)
  • Multiple users can sign in and work on the site at one time
  • A personal domain can be purchased for identification purposes
  • Emails for one or more users depending on whether an upgrade has been purchased

Taking time to study each of the system’s features will allow the user to be able to make changes as they are needed without having to consult a support team member or a webmaster. As the user becomes more proficient at using the system’s tools, they can begin to get more creative adding items that make the site stand up against its competitors.

What Do They Offer?

Free content management systems offer a cheap, but extremely effective way for entrepreneurs to build the type of website they want with tools that are easy for them to understand and use. They can use their own photos and content and arrange them in a layout that works best for them.

If they have the storage space, they can also include videos. Some systems allow the person to sync their account with other social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Linking all of the user’s accounts together allows viewers to go from site to site to site without ever leaving the company’s pages.

Who Benefits The Most?

Free content management systems offer several benefits to the people who choose to use them. Those who benefit the most include:

  • Individuals with limited computer skills
  • Shared resources and the ability to archive content
  • Small business owners who have a limited advertising or marketing budget
  • Small business owners and entrepreneurs who need help building or establishing a brand
  • Entrepreneurs who want to manage their workflow and be able to navigate easily through the site

Even people who have very limited computer knowledge can begin to build their website using a content management system. As they begin to understand the functions of each feature, navigation becomes much smoother allowing them to accomplish more in less time. Continually building the site and linking it to other pages increases its overall reach, making it more effective and visible to a larger audience.

What Is a Content Management System? Benefits of Using a CMS

Simple Content Management System With an Option to Upgrade

Most free content management systems offer their users an option to upgrade to a more sophisticated system that also includes more space and better features. While they can maintain their “free” status indefinitely, systems like WordPress offer their users several upgrade options that can be used over time as they begin to gain the skills they need to effectively manage their website and domain.

Upgrade benefits include multiple emails within the company’s domain, enhanced audio/visual graphics, and increased technical support when working with more advanced features.

If an entrepreneur is looking to expand their horizons in terms of digital and online marketing, a free content management system will provide them the tools they need to build their brand without hiring a webmaster or graphic designer to put it together.

The process may seem basic, but it offers everything a beginner would ever want in terms of resources, design, and personalization.

Free content management systems also provide the person with the experience they need when it comes to working with a digital platform. It allows them to explore their creativity and put their company in the best light possible. While they can upgrade at any time, the benefit of being able to maintain their system for free makes it much easier for them to effectively manage their bottom line.

It basically offers the best of both digital marketing and social media with a twist. With a little practice, the system can actually teach the users new ways to promote their business making them more accessible to a larger market.

Profiles of Top Options


Used by over 40% of all websites, WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS platform. Open source, fully customizable with 1000s of free templates and plugins. Pros are ease of use, scalability and active support community. Downsides can include security if not updated diligently. Best for bloggers, publishers, small business websites.


The second largest open source platform, comprises 5%+ of sites. Very versatile for complex sites, but significant learning curve. Ideal for larger websites like portals, social networks, intranets and ecommerce stores needing advanced customization. Steeper setup and admin experience.


Comprises over 2% of CMS marketshare. Known for enterprise-grade capabilities, security features and scalability. Powers highly complex sites and apps needing personalization. Ideal for governments, universities, SaaS apps and large membership sites. Not recommended for smaller blogs/business sites due to complexity.

the comparison of key CMS capabilities formatted into a table:

CMS PlatformWordPressJoomlaDrupalWixWeebly
Usage Market Share40%5%2%N/A – freemiumN/A – freemium
Ideal Site TypesBlogs, basic websites, ecommerceLarge custom sites, social networks, IntranetsEnterprise sites, SaaS apps, membership sitesPortfolios, basic websitesSmall business websites
Ease of UseVery easyModerateSteep learning curveVery easyEasy
Install & Setup5 minutesMore complexComplex, developer neededNone – hosted serviceNone – hosted service
ThemesThousands of free themesHundreds availableDozens availableNumerous templatesNumerous templates
CustomizationFlexible via plugins/codeVery flexibleHighly flexible but complexLimited without developerLimited without developer
ScalabilityEnterprise-level with cachingRobustVery highCan scale with upgradesCan scale with upgrades
Support OptionsVast knowledge base and community supportForum communityDeveloper/professional support neededCustomer support includedCustomer support included
SEO CapabilitiesVery strong with pluginsStrongStrongDecentOkay
Security FeaturesPlugins augment securityRole-based access controlMulti-layered enterprise securitySSL with upgradesSSL with upgrades

Key Selection Considerations

When evaluating free CMS platforms, some of the top criteria to consider based on the website type/use case include:

Blogs/Basic Websites – Simplicity of admin and theming is crucial. Must have SEO capabilities and support a blogging functionality. Lightweight with low resource usage is ideal.

Ecommerce Sites:

Critical to assess built-in or extension-based ecommerce functionality including shopping cart, product management and payment gateways. Also review responsiveness and mobile optimization.

Membership Sites:

Need ability to manage users, groups, access privileges, profiles and content restrictions. Assess roles, permissions and registration options.

Resource Sites:

Functionality like forums, commenting, tagging, categorization, metadata and search are beneficial. Allows readers to engage with content and resources.

Content Management Systems Getting Started Guides


Content Management Systems - wordpress

The open-source WordPress platform can be installed in under 5 minutes on popular web hosting services like Bluehost and SiteGround using auto-installers. Admin demo here for reference. Review the set themes, create pages/posts, embed media and install plugins. Access support forums or tutorials.


Download Joomla’s core open source files and database, then use Fantastico or CPanel on hosts like HostGator to set up. See admin demo. The platform is more complex but with documentation, template resources and the community forum questions can get answered.

Top Plugins and Extensions

WordPress has over 55,000 free plugins. Some of the most essential for added critical functionality include:

SEO – Yoast SEO, All In One SEO, The SEO Framework Security – WordFence, iThemes Security Performance – WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache Integrations – Zapier, Integromat, Gravity Forms, WooCommerce Data/Insights – MonsterInsights, Google Analytics Dashboard

Content Management Systems FAQ

Q. Are all open source CMS options truly free?

A. Yes, platforms like WordPress, Joomla don’t have monthly fees. Costs relate to web hosting, developer help for complex sites, and some plugins.

Q. Is it risky not paying for formal support?

A. Because of the vast community support available, free options provide help needed in forums. But larger, complex sites should consider paid support.

Q. Can open source CMS handle high traffic/complex needs?

A. Certainly – proven enterprise-ready options like WordPress and Drupal scale incredibly well into highest traffic loads with the right configuration and caching.

Content Management Systems Expert Commentary

“A common mistake – underestimating how much you may need development skills for advanced WordPress customization. Expert help can be well worth the investment for complex business platforms.” – CEO WordPress Agency

“The open source community continues expanding what you can accomplish without high cost or code skills. But be cautious of overstretching capabilities for mission critical projects – test thoroughly first!” – Founder of OpenLogic

Content Management Systems Conclusion

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is foundational in developing an impactful website or online platform that fully supports your goals and amplifies your value to visitors and members. While more sophisticated proprietary systems offer strong functionality, open source CMS options like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal make robust features for content creation, curation and community accessible for free.

Carefully evaluate your priorities around ease of use, customizability, scalability or specific functions to determine which solution fits best. For simpler blog-style websites with limited development skills, user-friendly solutions such as WordPress coupled with secure hosting provide tremendous ROI.

Those needing advanced customization should assess Joomla or Drupal’s enterprise-grade toolsets. Across categories however, leveraging a mature open source CMS accelerates reaching your digital vision on a reasonable budget.

With a world of templates, plugins and extensions expanding CMS capabilities immensely for free once the platform is selected, the power and professionalism you can achieve continues rising exponentially. Focus on identifying and servicing your audience’s needs, and let the CMS handle the technical heavy lifting.

Partner with web development experts when helpful to setup, customize and advance your system over time for optimal results. By relying on and contributing to the open source CMS community, the possibilities remain boundless on what you can accomplish online.

The conclusion aims to summarize key considerations and convince readers of the incredible ROI open source CMS solutions provide across use cases with some guidance on getting started.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *