CMS Toolbox

CMS Toolbox

Most websites being built today are using some sort of content management system. As the need for businesses and website owners to maintain an up-to-date web presence continue to grow, content management systems will only gain in popularity with developers and users.

There are so many CMS options out there that it can be confusing to know which one is best for a particular situation, and to know the basics of what is available. In this post we’ll take a quick look at a number of different CMS options and provide some links that will help you to dig deeper with those that interest you.

Please note that content management systems that are primarily built for e-commerce purposes, such as Magento, are not covered here. If this is the information you are looking for, please see 37 Shopping Cart Options for Developers. There are however a few listed here that include e-commerce in their core functionality, but they are also built to manage websites with other purposes.

While there are many options when choosing a CMS, you’ll want to consider things like stability and available resources before making a decision. One of the reasons I prefer to use WordPress when possible is because of the strong community of users that allows you to find just about anything you can image as a plugin or a theme. With that said, here is an overview of many popular content management systems.


WordPress is probably the most popular open source CMS right now. While it started out as just a blogging platform, WordPress now provides developers and users with the opportunity to build just about any type of website on its system. The standard WordPress installation provides most of the necessary functionalities you would expect in a CMS, and there are plenty of plugins that can bring added functionality.

WordPress Resources:

WordPress Codex – Provides documentation of just about everything you will need when working with WordPress.

WordPress Forums – With WordPress’s active community of users, the forums are a great place to turn when you have questions.

WordPress Developer’s Toolbox – A post that I put together for Smashing Magazine with all kinds of resources for those who develop WordPress themes.

How to Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer – An ebook by Collis Ta’eed and Harley Alexander that is available for purchase.

Designing for WordPress Series – Chris Coyier’s series of tutorials for designing and developing for WordPress.


Like WordPress, Drupal is another leading open source CMS. Drupal is the preferred choice of many developers for building multi-author sites and blogs, as well as community-driven websites. Drupal has a large community of users that make it solid choice because of large number of modules and other resources that are readily available.

Drupal Resources:

Drupal Handbooks – If you’re getting started with Drupal or just looking for some documentation, the handbooks can be a great resource.

Drupal Forums – Get some help from the Drupal community through the official forums.

Drupal Developer’s Toolbox – My collection at Smashing Magazine for Drupal development-related resources.

Drupal White Papers, Cheatsheets and Free Books – has a nice collection of useful resources for developers.

Drupal Sites – A gallery of websites powered by Drupal.

Create a Killer Band Site with Drupal – GoMediaZine has a six-part tutorial that leads you through the process of building a site with Drupal. Of course, this is a great resource even if it’s not a band site that you want to build.


ExpressionEngine is a powerful CMS that is preferred by many developers over the open source options. EE will cost you $100 for a personal version or $250 for a commercial version (there is a scaled-down version that’s free for personal use). EE offers a long list of features that will allow you to use this CMS for just about any purpose or type of website.

ExpressionEngine Resouces:

ExpressionEngine Developer’s Toolbox – My collection at Smashing Magazine for resources involved with developing for ExpressionEngine.

ExpressionEngine User Guide – The official documentation from ExpressionEngine.

ExpressionEngine Forums – Tons of information is already available in the forums, plus you can post your own questions.

Building a Small Business Website – A comprehensive 17-part tutorial that will take you step-by-step through the process of builing a site on EE.

Building a Church Site – A 39-part series that leads you through the process of building an example church website on EE.

ExperssionEngine Showcase – EE includes of showcase of example sites on their own website.

Movable Type:

Movable Type is another popular CMS that has a few different options depending on your needs. There is an open source version available for developers, plus a free version for individual bloggers. For larger companies, prices start at $395. Movable Type can be used for blogs, websites, and social networks.

Movable Type Resources:

Movable Type Open Source Project – A community effort, led by Six Apart, devoted to building and maintaining the open source version of Movable Type.

Movable Type Documentation – Official documentation for using and working with Movable Type.

Movable Type Forms – A great place to find answers to your questions about.

Movable Type Developer’s Toolbox – My collection at Smashing Magazine for those who want to develop with Movable Type.

Movable Type Showcase – includes a showcase of sites for your inspiration.


Textpattern is another free and open source option. Like the other leading open source options, Textpattern has a strong community that makes it easier to find information and resources about using it as a CMS.

Textpattern Resouces:

Textpattern Developer’s Toolbox – My collection at Smashing Magazine for those who want to develop with Textpattern.

Textpattern Support Formus – The official forums from Textpattern.

TextBook – TextBook is the documentation provided for those who work with and develop for Textpattern.

Your First Textpattern Theme – A tutorial for those who are new to building sites with Textpattern.

WeLoveTextpattern – A gallery of sites built on Textpattern.


Joomla is also a popular open source CMS that originated from Mambo. Of all of the open source options, I’ve seen more mixed opinions on Joomla than any of the others. It has a large community of users, and it is intended to allow developers to build all kinds of websites, including corporate, e-commerce, online magazines, intranets, and more.

Joomla Resources:

Joomla Documentation – Official documentation for users, designers, and developers.

Joomla Forums – The official forums for Joomla users and developers.

Joomla Developer’s Toolbox – My collection at Smashing Magazine of resources for Joomla developers.

Joomla Based – A gallery of sites built on Joomla.

Best of Joomla – Another gallery of Joomla sites.


LightCMS is a bit different than many of the other options on this list in that it targets designers by providing a source of ongoing income. Clients pay to use LightCMS on their site, which includes hosting (sites must be hosted on their servers), and designers can provided their clients with a branded content management system and earn recurring commissions from the hosting.

LightCMS Resources:

ReSeller Information – Designers can become resellers to build client sites on LightCMS and earn a residual income.

Video Demos – Here you can learn more about how the system works and how you can build sites with LightCMS.

How to Use Any Template with LightCMS – A tutorial from Element Fusion, the company behind LightCMS.

LightCMS Review – Collis Ta’eed wrote a review of LightCMS on Freelance Switch.


GoodBarry is another CMS that offers reseller options to designers who want to provide a branded solution to their clients. GoodBarry’s emphasis is growing online businesses, so e-commerce functionality is a big part of what they do, although other CMS functions are also included.

GoodBarry Resources:

GoodBarry Forums -Support forums from GoodBarry.

ReSeller Information – Learn about using GoodBarry on client sites and making some additional income.

GoodBarry Videos – Video tutorials and information.

GoodBarry Review – Design Shack covers the basics of GoodBarry in this review.


Traffik is similar to GoodBarry in the fact that their focus is providing a CMS to power online businesses. Traffik includes e-commerce capabilities as well as other typical CMS functionality. [Update – Traffik is a reseller of Business Catalyst. GoodBarry is also based on BusinessCatalyst, although GoodBarry is owned by Business Catalyst.]

Traffik Resources:

Support Videos – Training videos for all aspects of using the system.

Wiki – Documentation for using Traffik.


Pligg is an open source CMS that specializes in allowing developers to create social networking sites where users can submit an vote for content. Sites such as Sphinn and Design Float are built on Pligg.

Pligg Resources:

Pligg Forums – Get answers to your questions from the Pligg community.

Pligg Wiki – Documentation in the form of a wiki.

Understanding Pligg Template Files – A good starting point for those who want to understand more about how Pligg works.

Setting Up a News-Voting Website with Pligg – This tutorial will take you through the steps of getting your own site set up with Pligg.


Concrete5 is an open source CMS that has been built to meet the needs of both developers and site administrators. It aims to be simple and powerful. Concrete5 gives you an editing toolbar on any page of your site that allows you to give you all the controls you need.

Concrete5 Resources:

Concrete5 Forums – You can interact with other users and get your questions answered in the official forums.

Concrete5: Site Building Toolkit -Some basic information on c5 from Web Resources Depot.

C5Mix – Concrete5 tutorials, themes, tips & more.


Typo3 is a powerful, free, open source CMS. Typo3 has a lot of features and can be used to run large websites for many different purposes.

Typo3 Resources: – Provides of all the documentation and developer’s resources for the community of users.

Typo3 tutorial – Siteground has a tutorial series that will help you to get started with Typo3.

Radiant CMS:

Radiant CMS is an open source option that was designed for simplicity of use. Unlike many of the other open source options, Radiant CMS is built using Ruby on Rails.

Radiant CMS Resources:

Radiant CMS Documentation – The best source of information for Radiant CMS users and developers.

Radiant CMS Tutorial – A basic tutorial for getting started with Radiant CMS.

Frog CMS:

Frog CMS is a PHP version of Radiant CMS. Like Radiant CMS, it aims to be a simple solution for your content management needs.

Frog CMS Resources:

Official Documentation – Learn all the basics of Frog CMS from the docs.

Frog CMS Forums – Get answers to your questions from the community of users.


Plone is an open source CMS built with Python. Plone claims to have the best security track record of any major CMS.

Plone Resources:

Plone Documentation – Official documentation for working with Plone.

Plone Support Forums – Get answers for your questions from the Plone community.

Plone Tutorials – Learn more about Plone from these tutorials covering various topics.


SilverStripe is an open source CMS that aims to be a simple option for both designers and site owners/content editors.

SilverStripe Resources:

Sapphire – Sapphire is the framework developed to build sites for SilverStripe.

SilverStripe Forums – Get help from the community of SilverStripe users.

Tutorial: Building a Basic Site with SilverStripe – A good starting point for working with the CMS.


CushyCMS is a delibarately simple option. While it doesn’t offer all over the features and functions of many other content management systems, it may be ideal for small websites where the owner just needs to be able to edit some text and change photos – situations where a full-feature CMS may be overwhelming. There is a free version as well as a brandable Pro Plan that can be resold to clients.

CushyCMS Resources:

Set Up a Client’s Site to be Editable with CushyCMS – A tutorial that I wrote for getting started with CushyCMS.

How to Build a Maintainable Site Using CushyCMS and Twitter – A tutorial from Collis Ta’eed that covers the basics of working with CushyCMS.

CushyCMS – Simplicity at its Best – A basic overview of CushyCMS by the Positive Space blog.

General CMS Resources:

10 Things to Consider When Choosing the Perfect CMS – This Smashing Magazine article written by Paul Boag will help you to know how to choose the right CMS.

How to Choose the Right CMS – A Webdesigner Depot article that can also help with this decision.

Choosing the Right CMS Platform for Your Website (from an SEO Perspective) – Rand Fishkin covers the subject of what SEO factors should be considered.

The CMS Matrix – A website that has information on all kinds of content management systems, and allows you to compare them.

CMS Watch – Evaluates content-oriented technologies, publishing head-to-head comparative reviews of leading solutions.

10 Promising Content Management Systems – Jacob Gube of Six Revisions highlights some content management systems that may not get their share of attention.

Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design. Connect with Stephen on google+