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As anyone in the online marketing field will tell you, making a connection with consumers is all about content. It’s what drives traffic to a business’s website, and it’s what can turn a disinterested consumer into a dedicated brand loyalist.

Being able to present that content effectively depends on having the right foundation for your site, and that means choosing a content management system (CMS) that will best match up with your site’s intended purpose.

The Top CMS Contenders: Drupal, Joomla and WordPress

A large and growing percentage of businesses are choosing one of the three most popular open-source platforms: Drupal, Joomla or WordPress. Whether you have plans to unveil a sophisticated cavalcade of multimedia content or a basic user forum, one of these three platforms will provide the capabilities you’ll need. Tens of millions of websites are based on these free, open-source CMSs, each of which offers a variety of functionality and style. But making a wise decision hinges on having a solid awareness of what you expect a CMS to provide as well as your own web development skills (or lack thereof).

The Five CMS Considerations

Before you start to delve into the capabilities of each platform, take the time to consider your online goals. Five essential points can help you begin narrowing down an ideal CMS platform:

  1. The learning curve: Your tech knowledge will be put to the test if you venture beyond the user-friendly WordPress. Installation and setup will be the first hurdles you’ll have to deal with and if you don’t have a lot of experience with web development, you’ll need to consider a platform that won’t leave you flummoxed.
  2. Control, scalability and overall management: Although Drupal, Joomla and WordPress are considered strong general-purpose systems, each provides different levels of flexibility when it comes to the content it can handle and how a site administrator can manage all of it. Also consider how often you’ll make updates to the site and whether many people, or just a single person, will need access to the management system. A user-friendly interface for someone who isn’t an experienced web developer can go a long way toward making site updates easier and efficient.
  3. Design and customization: As you consider the content you’ll be producing, you’ll likely also be imagining how it’s going to look onscreen. Designing an original look is an excellent way to stand out from the competition, and how ambitious your design is will determine the sophistication you need from your CMS. Be aware of trade-offs: A CMS with user-friendly style will likely have certain boundaries on its design potential.
  4. SEO: It’s crucial that users will be able to find your site easily through a search, yet not all CMSs have the same search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities. Plugins and extensions can improve them, but if you want something that will help your search engine rankings immediately, do some research on which ones will provide an SEO advantage right out of the box.
  5. Your content requirements: Last, but definitely not least, consider the content that you’ll be producing. How robust will your site be? Will it be text or image heavy? Will video be a standard or an occasional feature? Will you need to have a blog? Answering these kinds of questions will help narrow down your choices, as Drupal, Joomla and WordPress all have their strengths depending on the content they’re supporting.

Further points to consider are whether you’re building an e-commerce site, and how likely you’ll depend on the larger CMS community for help if you have questions about the platform.

Next Up: Making Your Decision

Devising a website for a new business is both an exciting and challenging endeavor. It’s your chance to provide helpful information about your products and services, and to distinguish your brand from the competition. Determining the best CMS for the site you have in mind is key to this process, and the five-point prep list here will get you started.

For further information, Rackspace has created a helpful infographic breaking down the essential characteristics of Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. Balancing what each one offers with your business’s online needs will lead to an effective means for showcasing your online content and pave the way to building an engaging marketing campaign.