10 Most Popular Content Management Systems Online

What is a Content Management System?

It’s important to note the distinction between a CMS and a customer relationship management tool, or a document management service (such as Microsoft SharePoint). Text editors are not CMS tools, for instance.

Content Management Systems are web-based applications that are designed for the creation and updating of websites. They may have themes or plugins to extend functionality, and make the management of a website simple.

WordPress remains popular for running a website, but other CMS solutions are available. Some of these might replicate WordPress’s “jack-of-all-trades” approach, while others may specialize. For instance, a portfolio-focused CMS might be ideal for artists; an audio-focused solution more suitable for musicians or podcasters.

These solutions all have their own strengths and benefits. Let’s see what’s available.

The following list of content management systems are free to download and use unless otherwise stated.


It remains the most widely used content management system on the web, so it would be crazy to list the most popular CMS tools without a mention of WordPress. Many of your favorite websites rely on WordPress, not to mention countless blogs.

Google Sites

Let’s get started with perhaps the most user-friendly content management system currently available. Google Sites makes it as easy to create and edit a website as creating a document in Microsoft Word.


While many of the CMS applications in this list will be available for free, ExpressionEngine is one that offers both free and paid versions. The premium ExpressionEngine CMS is available for $299 per license; for users preferring a free option, ExpressionEngine Core is available.


Open source CMS solution SilverStripe doubles up as a standard CMS as well as a framework for web applications. Don’t want to develop a web app? That’s no problem, as the CMS is powerful enough to sit in the background of most websites.


Designed with both bloggers and designers in mind, TextPattern comes in an incredibly modest 2 MB download. Within minutes, you’ll be blogging. If you want to tweak the design, all aspects of the XHTML and CSS can be manipulated via the admin interface.


A Ruby on Rails content management system, RefineryCMS v 3.0.5 has over 500,000 downloads at the time of writing. 100% free and open source, RefineryCMS is also devastatingly simple to use. We’re talking point, click, launch — a simplicity enhanced by the clear, clean user interface.


Many reasons for browsing a list like this might be to find an alternative to WordPress. One such alternative was developed by a bunch of former WordPress developers. Ghost is the name of the CMS, which marries blogging with subscriber management.


If you’re trying to migrate away from WordPress and similar CMS tools, and are looking for a new way of managing a website, Jekyll might just be the tool for you. Eschewing databases and comment moderation, Jekyll focusses on your content. Designed to create static websites, Jekyll can be up and running in moments.


There is something slick and impressive about Concrete5. Aiming to put the tools of website or blog creation into the tools of anyone, this CMS is potentially the ultimate time-saving device for web developers, designers, and admins.


Launched in 2005, ModX is running over 100,000 websites for business of all sizes. It’s easy to use and enables anyone to create content. It’s even possible to deploy multiple styles to the same web page. Developed to deliver content to search engines without additional SEO plugins, ModX is a CMS that everyone should try out.

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