CMS Comparison - Most Popular CMS of 2021

Martin Gschwentner

In order to attract and retain visitors to your website, you have to offer something valuable. Whether articles, videos, or images, it's absolutely essential that your content not only be interesting but also of high quality and easy for search engines to find. Since the Internet is fast-moving, good content alone isn't enough; it also has to be up-to-date and effectively managed too. All of the above is made possible with a content management system (CMS).

A CMS helps site owners to create, edit, and publish content without a lick of programming knowledge. Owing to their practicality, the choice of platform is fairly large. To help in narrowing down your search, we've compiled a list of the most-used CMSs, noting those that are presently enjoying a boost in their popularity.

Statistics - the Most Popular CMS in 2021

Just because something is used by a lot of people doesn't mean that it's the best, however, at the same time, there are usually very good reasons why services or products become as popular among users as they do. We took a look at the 5 million most visited websites in the world and were able to determine which CMS integrations 887,130 of them were using. An overwhelming majority of these utilized the undisputed #1 in the CMS market: WordPress.

1.

WordPress

WordPress is the universal CMS solution. As such, it comes as no surprise to us that more than 75% of the websites for which we could identify CMS integrations relied on the platform. From its humble roots as blogging software, WordPress acquired ever greater numbers of features and functions, developing gradually into a complete CMS.

WordPress, already highly versatile on its own, can be augmented further with countless plugins.

WordPress remains in use by plenty of bloggers, however, its versatility has seen it become the go-to solution for small businesses, Fortune-500 companies, and everything in-between. Contributing further to the platform's popularity is that it is open-source and free.

WordPress dominates, however, its competitors haven't thrown in the towel. For users with less technical know-how or patience, website builders, which often include hosting, have emerged as a popular choice. This is in large part because they make things even simpler than self-hosted CMSs like WordPress.

User-friendly content management

Open-source and as a result, free

Countless extensions and plug-ins

Large community and plenty of support documentation

Ideal for smaller, as well as larger projects

Steeper learning curve than many newer, easier-to-use CMSs

Sometimes too detailed for smaller projects

Targeted by hackers owing to its sizable userbase

2.

Drupal

Similar to WordPress, Drupal is a versatile, open-source CMS that allows its users to create simple blogs, intricate websites, or even entire social networks. Representing around 5.6% of the CMS integrations for websites from our sample, Drupal is able to stake out second place on our list, although the distance to first is considerable.

Setting up Drupal is a bit more complicated than WordPress, and if doing everything by default, you'll need to make some additional changes. With that said, Drupal is well-suited to experienced developers looking to bring more detailed websites to life.

Drupal takes second place in our list, some ways off our #1, WordPress.

As an open-source CMS, Drupal is free, and doesn't require users to pay licensing or other fees. Since it's a self-hosted CMS, you will have to foot the bill for hosting, securing your website, and more, however.

Free, open-source CMS

Versatile, developer-friendly, and well-suited for detailed projects

Can be augmented with various modules

Designed with experienced developers in mind

Default installation more complicated than WordPress

Many modules must be paid for

3.

Joomla

Representing 3.7% of our sample and coming in third place behind WordPress and Drupal is Joomla. This open-source CMS is less complicated than Drupal, and in most areas, more flexible than WordPress, making the creation of intricate websites easier for users lacking in extensive programming experience.

Joomla is also open-source and (basically) free.

One of Joomla's greatest advantages is that it offers users the ability to create multiple language localizations for a single page, something that other platforms, like WordPress, can only accomplish through third-party plugins. Users are also given a freer hand in customizing and designing templates, with the added possibility of using different templates within a single project.

Less complicated than Drupal; in many ways more flexible than WordPress

Ability to create multiple language localizations for a single website without additional plugins

Doesn't require an advanced knowledge of programming

Steeper learning curve than WordPress

Third-party marketplace not as well developed as those of its competitors

As the number of arguments against creating a website decreases, more and more people, even those lacking a background in programming, have started creating digital presences through websites, blogs, or online stores.

To cater to this clientele, beginner-friendly CMSs have grown in popularity, as have website builders. The latter, which take care of everything from hosting to security, often make designing a website or store a matter of dragging and dropping elements and arranging them to one's preferences.

While user numbers for Drupal and Joomla have stagnated, or even started to diminish (WordPress continues to grow), those for site builders like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly have only grown.

Headless CMSs, like Contentful, make managing content for a wide variety of user devices easier, and as such, have also boomed in popularity, as we'll explore below.

1.

Contentful

Contentful is a type of "Headless CMS", something which has enjoyed a significant amount of growth over the past year. Headless CMS is a new generation of CMS which separates the front end (head) from the site's content (body).

In a classic CMS, the content and presentation layers of a website are intertwined, displaying as a website in a browser (for example), Headless CMS focuses instead on content creation and administration. The channels through which this content is output are regulated through versatile API integrations.

The advantage of this is that CMS editors can focus entirely on content. In turn, this content can then be output to all sorts of devices, from websites to smartphone apps, smart speakers, or VR glasses.

Contentful simplifies how content is output via multiple APIs.

Creating and administering content with Contentful doesn't require a specialized knowledge of programming, and editors can use the platform on their own. For designing the apps and websites on which the content will be output, however, developers are needed.

2.

Wix

In our evaluation of the best website builders, Wix came in first place. Its users are also highly satisfied with the service, underlined by what we've identified as 45% growth in usage over the past year.

Wix came in first on our list of website builders.

We can fully understand the service's popularity: Wix offers an intuitive user interface, a regular editor, and one that's geared towards beginners and makes designing even easier. Thanks to its wide variety of features, countless design possibilities, and well-stocked app marketplace, users of all types and levels of experience can bring their digital visions to life.

3.

Squarespace

Squarespace is another website builder which has enjoyed considerable growth in recent times, and again, we can understand the reasons why. In our evaluation, the platform earned top marks and a rating of "Very good".

We particularly liked the elegance and high quality of Squarespace's designs, both of which have been one of the developer's calling cards for quite a while. Beyond that, the platform is intuitive to use, boosting its appeal to users of all types and levels of experience.

Squarespace's clean and professional design options are one of the platform's claims to fame.

There's a bit less variety when it comes to extensions. A few are available, however, as Squarespace is a closed system, the number of plugins is significantly less than for other site builders, such as Wix. In terms of pricing, Squarespace is a premium service, and as such, also slightly more expensive than its competitors.

Overall Result

WordPress remains the undisputed 'king of CMS', and a strong all-rounder, even among self-hosted options. The platform is relatively user-friendly, catering to beginners, while also multi-faceted enough to offer more experienced users a free hand to accomplish whatever they have in mind. For those who can handle a steeper learning curve, Drupal or Joomla also offer strong options.

Apart from the Top 3 most commonly used CMSs, there's a whole world of other platforms, some of which, as we've pointed out above in the "Trends' section, might pose a threat, even to WordPress.

Conclusion

The statistics don't lie: WordPress is the undisputed king of CMS. The platform dominates the world of website design like no other, and continues to grow, even while its direct competitors stagnate or hemorrhage users.

However, in looking away from WordPress for just a few moments, it becomes clear that a lot is going on in the world of CMS. In particular, highly intuitive website builders and Headless CMS are enjoying an upswing in popularity, demonstrating, at least to us, that simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to creating and administering digital content.

In our comprehensive EXPERTE.com evaluation, we looked at 8 popular site builders from top to bottom, letting you know which impressed us.

FAQs

What is the most popular CMS?
WordPress is by far the most popular CMS, powering 77.9% of websites from our sample for which we could ascertain their CMS integration. In concrete numbers, from 5 million sites, and 887,130 integrations, 691,237 used WordPress.

Which CMS is right for me?
Selecting the right CMS depends on your level of experience as well as your requirements. Open-source software like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla make it possible to complete multi-faceted projects, however, you will need some programming knowledge to bring these to life. On top of that, with an open-source CMS, you'll also have to take care of hosting and security yourself. With that said, WordPress is particularly popular and for a classic CMS, a solid choice. Website builders greatly facilitate the creation of websites, but are often less flexible than traditional CMSs. The highest-scoring platform from our evaluation was Wix, impressing us in particular with its wide variety of features and ease of use.

How can I find out which CMS a website ises?
Thanks to EXPERTE.com's Technology Check, it's possible to find out which technology a website is using by simply entering its address.

Author (German Version): Martin Gschwentner
Martin Gschwentner majored in American Studies and Media Studies in Germany, the USA and France and works as a freelance editor in Paris. He is a doctoral student at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Paris Diderot, where he is researching the influence of money on US politics. On EXPERTE.com he writes about IT security, data protection and software for the self-employed and small businesses.
Translator & Editor: D Bare
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