Open Source Content Management: One Big Happy (Dysfunctional) Family

Content management systems have effectively replaced much of the tedious HTML and CSS work that was required to make changes to a website.

A custom theme for your CMS still takes time and an experienced professional to execute, but business owners no longer face the hassle of learning code or paying a developer for ongoing changes for simple adjustments to content. With that said, all content management systems are not created equal.

While popularity is somewhat of an indicator of how effective a Content Management System is, there are a lot of things you must evaluate when choosing a CMS. Each one has their own little quips and quirks you have to consider. In this way, there’s a striking resemblance between a modern dysfunctional family and the prevalent content management systems of our time.

WordPress: Our Brother

WordPress is like our brother: we know each other well and get along just fine. We might have our occasional quarrels, but that inevitably leads to a strong resolution and a strengthened relationship.

The fact of the matter is that WordPress is the most simple, consistent and reliable CMS on the block. The dashboard is perfect and yet somehow, it still manages to get better with every update.

The open source crowd has taken great care to ensure that virtually everything needed to succeed is covered. From the simple effectiveness of Askimet’s spam elimination to XML sitemap automation, WordPress has plenty of tools to make the lives of developers easier than they’ve ever been.

WordPress is doing everything right. In fact, it’s arguable that WordPress is the standard for content both now and going into the future. Even if something better than WordPress were to be released to the public, it would still need to have all of the little things that make WordPress so effective. In that sense, WordPress is like the champion that awaits a worthy challenger.

Drupal: Our Favorite Cousin

Drupal is a bit more advanced than WordPress and can do some very impressive things when it comes to large scale, highly dynamic websites that our brother WordPress has a harder time getting done. As far as our shop goes, It might not be as close as our brother, but Drupal is still the cousin that we love to spend regular time with when we get a chance.

Drupal doesn’t have as many friends and fans as our brother WordPress, but all the pieces that it takes for a content management system to be successful are there: it’s open source, it’s easy to use and plenty of people are successful with it.

There are businesses using Drupal as well, and their unique needs continue to fuel its growth. It’s even received high praise from Sony and Google. While it might not be as popular or prevalent as WordPress, it fits in the family just fine.

At the end of the day, Drupal is great. It can have a significant learning curve compared to WordPress, but like anything else, this can be overcome with time, research and practice. If the Drupal open source content management system grows more support, there is no doubt it will gain ground on WordPress for CMS market share.

It might be right for some people, but it’s still competing with the champ. The good news is that it’s the number one contender for the title, and that in itself should be seen as a distinguished honor.

Joomla: Our Slacker Nephew

Joomla! is like our problematic nephew. It’s foreign compared to our mainstays of WordPress and Drupal, but we still love Joomla! as part of the open source family. It isn’t enough that we have to type in an exclamation mark in the middle of a sentence every time we want properly identify it, but hey, that’s a rant for another time.

We still want to see Joomla! succeed because at its heart, its still got promising features. The reason people tend to use a content management system is for the sheer fact that they have no idea how to build a great site without one. Even if they did, they probably want it to be easier.

Joomla! has got its issues though: overly complicated configuration options, a community that tries to commercialize even the smallest plugin (that should be free), being targeted by hackers a little too frequently and a host of other smaller problems that all accumulate into unnecessary difficulty and headaches.

The final word on Joomla! is that it’s got its problems, but it would be great to see them resolved. It still offers many of the necessities that WordPress does, but its weak points tend to make it unintentional advertising for WordPress.

Modx: Our Full-of-Potential Niece

Modx is like the niece we know will go far in life. She’s young, smart and observant, and many of Modx’s biggest strengths are born from the weaknesses of its surroundings. Like a young niece, though, she is still too young to shine like the others. Time and patience are required, and it’s great to be a part of Modx’s growth.

A perfect example of this is in Modx’s interface. One of the features that makes WordPress so attractive is its ease of use, and Modx is almost there. The interface looks great, but there’s still a little bit lacking in content development department. Its customization options are fantastic and its community is strong. It has all the ingredients for a great content management system, but they’re still cooking.

It’s too hard to say whether or not Modx is going to push into the limelight anytime soon, but with a little more community involvement, it genuinely has the potential to rise to the top.

Dotnetnuke: The Creepy Uncle

Dotnetnuke is like the uncle that says he’s an open book, ready for greatness and willing to change, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that he’s on a downward spiral. He doesn’t make the people around him feel too great, and he’s going to need to change that if there’s ever to be any hope for him.

Dotnetnuke is as iffy as that green ketchup that was on shelves before everyone forgot about it. Sometimes it just plain fails to install itself, and that’s no way to start a relationship. Seriously, it’s literally impossible to have a relationship if it won’t even install itself. The “dashboard” is slow, archaic and lacks much of the function that makes WordPress and Drupal so successful.

There’s little or no structure to the content being managed by Dotnetnuke, and it doesn’t help that the platform doesn’t allow very much room for customization.

Even when it does, it’s characteristically catastrophic, but at least it’s consistent in that regard. Its performance is slow, it’s skinning system is complicated and most practical work has to be done with workarounds, which is mostly due to the fact that the basic function of the content management system is so wonky. The final verdict on Dotnetnuke is that it may as well have caution tape and a HazMat sign as its logo.

The Open Source CMS Future at a Glance

Barring any new companies entering the field and changing up the way that we perceive great open source software, the playing field probably won’t change much.

WordPress is likely to maintain its dominance on the web, and it’s earned that right. Between having a strong community, intuitive features and plenty of room for upgrades, its the standard for a great CMS. With that being said, some of the other systems might fit better with certain people.

It’s like that old saying goes: “Different strokes for different folks.” We need management systems like WordPress and Drupal for the professionals that don’t have time to learn the ins and outs of HTML, and we need systems like DotNetNuke for the self-hating masochists that want to punish themselves.

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready


Leave Comment


  1. Reply

    Thanks for the great read. We’re definitively moving in the right track. Came to your site looking for ideas on implementing a “Subscription” method for my drupal site. Didn’t find anything, but these blogs you have are fantastic!

    Keep up the endearing work!


    • Abbs
    • April 9, 2013

    Really helpful information you provide in your articles, thanks for putting this together. I’ve bookmarked your blog and will take a look back again more frequently. Good stuff!

  2. Reply

    Yeah, you pretty much nailed it, Steve! Love it!

You must be pretty smart because you're here. We like your style. You can have all of our latest tools, tactics and growth strategies FREE, in your inbox, every month or so. 

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