WordPress is powerful and versatile and it powers more of the internet's web pages than any other engine.
But it's not a perfect fit for everyone. And perhaps you're looking for something different. So let me help guide you through the confusing world of modern web Content Management.
To do this we'll compare the top Content Management Systems (CMS) built from each of the three dominant programming language families: PHP, Node, and Python.
All the options I’ll explore are open source. Which is fitting, since in many ways, WordPress was a pioneer in open source platforms.
However, some of us are looking for a more modern, faster, more secure CMS. And we still don’t like the closed-source ones like Squarespace and Wix.
What seems to be happening is that people are moving away from CMS platforms built on a single engine, MVC paradigm to a more decoupled system.
For example, does your website's blog really need a full database? And could your eCommerce or payment system use a simpler headless paradigm?
So let's see what's available, arranged by language.
PHP is a simple, reliable and well maintained language. So it's no surprise that it came to be the most popular backend of the entire web.
Its versatility makes it easy for developers to provide such large arrays of features and plugins for their CMS's. In short, PHP was basically originally invented for the CMS.
A downside to WordPress's popularity is that its plugin marketplace is hard to navigate or, in some cases, maybe it's too expensive.
However, WordPress may not be unique in that sense. Here are some other PHP CMS frameworks:
- Grav CMS
The first three all have the same issue as WordPress: a bloated interface or an overcrowded plugin marketplace.
But Grav felt like a breath of fresh air. It's a bit like a simplified WordPress without all the complex bloatware. There isn't even a database, just folders and pages.
It attempts to give you the best of both worlds. Grav has an admin dashboard plugin for non techies to manage everything as they would with WordPress.
At the same time, Grav also delivers the stability and customization of a decoupled system. You don't even need an admin GUI if you don't want it.
Node.js, the newest language to hit the back end market, is innovative and unconventional. Since it's already a popular language for front end web development, it seems like Node is making a play for most popular programming language everywhere.
Node deployments often rely on tech stacks such as NoSQL databases such as MongoDB, NGINX web servers, and Markdown. An advantage of a Node.js-powered CMS is that it tends to integrate well with web apps.
Here are a couple of Node.js based CMS's:
- KeystoneJs: Complex. More of a framework than a CMS.
- Ghost: Simple. Doesn’t do much more than Medium, which is perfect if you want to self host your Medium blog. You can add decoupled eCommerce like Shopify.
- NetlifyCMS: Not a standalone CMS – rather, you add it to a website/webapp as a custom git-based static content manager for your writers.
From a market-share perspective, Ghost seems to be the only new CMS that is positioned to take a bite out of the WordPress monopoly.
Although Python is known as a powerful scripting language, in recent years it has matured to be an all around server-side language. However it still has a much less developed plugin and themes market for its CMSs.
Here are a few popular Python based CMS platforms:
- Django CMS: Requires a bit more code know-how than WordPress
- Mezzanine: Also built on Django. Many features, but you still need to know Python for advanced functionality.
- Storyblok: friendly editor interface and headless api for apps but limited plugins
These Python-based CMSs might also find their niche when integrating with a domain that is dominated by Python. What areas are we talking about here? Check out this article and find out what Python is used for.
All the same, I doubt Python will ever be a major contender in the CMS market. Mainly because it came very late to the web. The lack of backwards compatibility between versions is an issue as well.
If you are ready to embrace the future of the CMS, here are the keys to making an informed decision.
Consider all the factors that will most likely give you all the security, reliability, and customization you need.