While WordPress is the most popular CMS (content management system) around, it’s far from the only option as these WordPress alternatives prove. Many alternatives are supported by most major webhosts or you can always install them on your own server. Either way, your website doesn’t have to use WordPress to be successful.
What is WordPress?
Before moving onto the WordPress alternatives, let’s take a look at what WordPress is, along with the pros and cons. Do note that we are referring to the self-hosted version at wordpress.org, not the hosted WordPress solution wordpress.com. Check out the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com here.
WordPress is an open-source CMS tool that you download and install on your own web host. This can be your own personal server or any web host that supports WordPress. While it is primarily a blogging tool, it can also be customized to be any type of website you want.
Pros of WordPress:
- Easy to setup and customize
- Numerous plugins and themes to change how your site functions and looks
- SEO friendly by default
- Easy to use content editor
- Updated often
- Easy to find support, especially from the large, active user-base
- A major target for hackers since WordPress is the top CMS in the world (used by over 43% of all websites)
- You’re responsible for securing your website and ensuring updates are installed
- There’s no dedicated support since it’s a free open-source product
- Customizing your site can get overwhelming and expensive when using premium templates and plugins
Price: Free / Hosting is not included
Drupal has become the second most popular CMS due to robust security and customization options. Compared side-by-side, you’ll immediately see that Drupal isn’t nearly as easy to set up and customize as WordPress, especially for beginners. You’ll need to know a little more about coding to really get the most out of Drupal. However, there are pre-made kits to help you out. Overall, it’s incredibly fast and perfect for larger sites, especially with enormous amounts of content.
- More secure than WordPress in many cases
- SEO friendly
- Modular structure perfect for building more dynamic sites
- Not beginner-friendly
- More difficult to update than WordPress
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Price: Free for self-hosted / Hosted plans starting at $9 per month
Ghost is one of the easier to use WordPress alternatives. Just like WordPress, you choose from an open-source, self-hosted option or a hosted option. It’s designed mainly with blogging and content creation in mind, which is why the publishing tools are front and center. Surprisingly, backup and SEO features that you’d need a plugin to use in WordPress are included with Ghost. While simpler than WordPress, it’s a writer’s dream.
- More intuitive layout than WordPress
- Designed specifically for publishing content
- Easy to add subscriptions and newsletters
- Customize with plugins and themes, but basic SEO and backups are already included
- Not ideal for more complex sites
- More technical to manage than WordPress, but the Pro versions take care of that for you
Price: Free for self-hosted / Hosted starting at $6 per month
Joomla is nearly as old as WordPress and used to be the top competitor. It offers numerous customization options, making it ideal for most any type of website. With thousands of extensions, there isn’t much Joomla can’t do. What makes it better is it comes with a lot more features immediately upon installation without needing extensions, such as extra content types, templates, and multilingual support.
- Offers more in the core version than WordPress
- Perfect for all websites
- Easy to customize the backend
- Not the most beginner-friendly option
- You will need some coding knowledge to customize and maintain Joomla
4. Magento Open Source
Magento Open Source is partnered with Adobe, but it’s still a completely free and open source CMS. All the code is freely available on GitHub. Adobe does offer a hosted version, but you must contact them for pricing. It’s an advanced platform designed for ecommerce, but you can create other types of sites too. While you can customize it as much as you want, there is a very steep learning curve.
- Highly customizable with ample templates and extensions available
- Designed and optimized for ecommerce
- Scales with growing ecommerce businesses easily, including support for large inventory systems
- More difficult to use for non-ecommerce sites
- Can be hard to learn to use
Good to know: While these WordPress alternatives allow you to create websites, you will need special tools to turn them into desktop apps.
WordPress alternatives don’t have to be all about databases or complicated setups. With Jekyll, you create static web pages. Simply link the pages together to create your personal blog or even business website. It’s a simpler option that eliminates all the bells and whistles you might not need at all. Plus, without any databases to hack or updates to deal with, it’s more secure. Another great perk is you can host your Jekyll site on GitHub Pages (which is powered by Jekyll) for free.
- Create static web pages and link them however you want
- Quick and easy setup (only takes seconds)
- Create sites using Markdown, HTML, CSS, and Liquid
- Migrate your blog and keep all your custom layouts
- Not the best for large sites requiring frequent updates or more dynamic content
- Does take some coding skills to manage Jekyll
6. Craft CMS
Price: Free for starter / $299 per project for premium
Craft CMS is basically the amped up premium version of WordPress with support plans available to help you better manage your site. Everything’s designed to be user-friendly, including fully customizing the backend. While the CMS is made mainly for site designers to build sites for clients, it’s a powerful option with impressive customization, the ability to easily build your own plugins, and numerous features built-in without the need for plugins.
- Both premium and community support available
- Includes most every WordPress feature, including many that are only available with plugins
- Free version available with most features (not a trial)
- Full features cost $299 and updates are only included for one year – $59/year for updates after
7. Concrete CMS (.org version)
Concrete CMS may just have everything you need without having to download plugins, though extensions are available. What really stands out is content and page editing. It’s like a word processor and a drag-and-drop webpage builder had a child. It’s free to use under the MIT Open Source License, though you can purchase hosting from Concrete CMS if you want.
- Incredibly intuitive content and page editor
- Numerous features built in to the core
- Both free and premium themes and plugins available
- Built mainly with developers in mind, so technical expertise is needed
SilverStripe is a free open source CMS framework. Dive into SilverStripe Framework, which is surprisingly easy to learn if you’re already familiar with programming. For developers, code is clean and organized, and of course, simple to customize. You can also quickly build pages without any technical knowledge and it features a content editor similar to WordPress.
- Designed with both developers and content creators in mind
- Beginner-friendly CMS layout
- Active user community and numerous educational resources
- You’ll need to learn the SilverStripe Framework to customize
- You’ll need to add quite a few plugins for optimal functionality (free to do though)
Textpattern is small, lightweight CMS that doesn’t skimp on features. The tag-based template language makes sites easy to manipulate without being a developer. What’s nice is how uncluttered everything feels. You have just what you need in a clean interface. You never even have to touch the code to add plugins. Support is built in for HTML, plain text, and Textile, but you can also add in Markdown to write the way you want to.
- Ideal for bloggers wanting a simple way to quickly build a site
- Intuitive content editor and clean interface
- Lean core for faster response times
- Much of the functionality comes from plugins outside of basic features
10. Hosted Alternatives
If you don’t want to deal with trying to find a web host, install and configure everything yourself, and handle all the updates, you might prefer WordPress.com alternatives that just let you quickly build a website right on the platform. You’re usually a little more limited in your options, but you can still buy a domain name and make the site your own. Many offer a free starter plan and then various premium plans based on your needs.
A few popular hosted WordPress alternatives include:
- HubSpot CMS Hub – The popular CRM software also has a CMS for you to build a website. It functions similarly to WordPress, but also integrates with HubSpot’s CRM tool, making it ideal for business sites. Free and premium plans (starting at $23/month) available.
- Shopify – If you’re building an ecommerce site, Shopify might be the best hosted option. It starts at $29/month (3-day free trial) and provides all the tools to run an online store without any extra coding or plugins necessary.
- Medium – For those who just want a place to blog, Medium is the most minimal and easy to use WordPress alternative you could hope for. It’s part blogging platform, social network, and writing community all rolled into one. You don’t get any real control over the look and feel of your pages outside of basic article formatting.
- Squarespace – As one of the most professional looking drag-and-drop website builders, Squarespace is perfect for building most any type of site in minutes. Custom CSS is supported to give you more control over how you customize the look of your site. Pricing starts at $16/month after a free trial.
- Wix – Wix is similar to Squarespace, offering advanced drag-and-drop website building tools. Plus, you’re free to customize nearly every part of the design and host most any type of website imaginable. You also get business management tools to help automate marketing, sales, and more. A free plan is available and premium pricing starts at $16/month.
- Microweber – While it’s simpler than Squarespace and Wix, Microweber is a good platform for a basic or personal site. A free and $8/month plan are available.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need technical expertise to use these WordPress alternatives?
For some, you will. However, most of the alternatives on this list have active user communities and endless tutorials online. Check with the alternative’s website for help articles and tutorials. Of course, YouTube is always a great place if you need help getting things set up.
Can I use any of these alternatives for free?
Outside of hosted solutions, the software for self-hosted WordPress alternatives is free. However, you’ll still need a host. You can host the site yourself using a dedicated computer or server in your home. Though not nearly as reliable or secure as a premium web host, you can also use a free web host. However, you’ll still need to pay a fee to use a custom domain name.
As the very least, you’ll still need to buy a domain name for your website. Typically, you can get decent hosting and a domain name for around $10-$15 month for a basic website.
Can I migrate my WordPress website to another CMS?
Often, you’ll find extensions to help you migrate your WordPress website content to another CMS. It’s not always a 100% perfect transfer, but it does make the process faster.
Always make a full backup of your WordPress site before installing a migration extension or attempting a migration. Keep your WordPress site going until you’re certain everything has migrated successfully.
You can also test everything out by creating your own local web server.
Do these alternatives have the same security issues as WordPress?
Every WordPress alternative will have some security vulnerabilities. The reason WordPress is targeted more often than the others is due to its popularity. However, you still need to focus on securing your website no matter what alternative you use. At a minimum, you should get a free SSL certificate for your website.
Image credit: Fikret tozak via Unsplash, All screenshots by Crystal Crowder, Concrete CMS Demo video, SilverStripe Demo video
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