Top 10 open source CMS for building a website

For quite some years now, Content Management Systems (CMS) have been on the rise and are growing at a fast pace. Surrounded by very active open source communities or developed by large tech companies, CMS are increasingly used by developers, web agencies and IT companies to improve productivity and simplify the process of developing complex websites. It's also a way to collaborate effectively with your team, take advantage of the community's many resources, helpers, and extensions and give your client access to an advanced administrative interface that is already ready to go.

But in this great environment of content management systems, there are multiple solutions: free, open source, paid, with or without databases, with more or less features ... and it can sometimes be difficult to navigate and choose the right tool for your website project showcase, blog, e-commerce website ...

In this list, I'll only focus on open source solutions because otherwise there would be too many choices but I'll also talk about paid solutions in another list.

So here's a selection of ten content management systems that I think are incredibly powerful and very used nowadays.

  • WordPress icon


    Freemium Mac OS X Windows Linux Web Android ... iPhone Blackberry BSD iPad Self-Hosted PHP Cloudron Website

    When you think about content management systems, WordPress is the first that comes in mind. Besides powering more that 30% of all websites in the world, WordPress is very user-friendly, has a large community and a lot of free and paid ressources like themes, plugins and tutorials ...
    WordPress can also be used as an e-commerce platform with Small WooCommerce iconWooCommerce but I'll talk about that in an upcoming list about e-commerce solutions.


  • Joomla icon


    Free Self-Hosted PHP Website

    Joomla is for those who are looking for a little bit of a challenge, at least in terms of coding power. In many ways, Joomla has been built with medium to large sized sites in mind. Joomla’s code base is much more sophisticated than that of Small WordPress iconWordPress, but it comes at the benefit of more scalability and more back-end integration.
    Regardless of the kind of business you operate, you need to maintain your website in a proper way to create a good impression with potential customers. Small businesses reputed Joomla as the best option for their needs. This open source platform is easily customized and handled. There are lots of themes and extensions available for Joomla.


  • Drupal icon


    Free Mac OS X Windows Linux Web Android ... iPhone Blackberry Android Tablet Windows Phone iPad Self-Hosted PHP Website

    Drupal goes even deeper into the architecture of the content management system itself, and because of how widely adopted it is to professional coding standards, a lot of engineer and developer-type webmasters have adapted to Drupal as their primary content management platform. Drupal offers more than 30,000+ extendable modules to bring your site to a whole new level, as well as 2,500+ individual and unique themes that will help to build the site that you’ve always wanted to build. Thousands of members participate in daily forum discussions, meaning that finding support for Drupal is really not a problem, rather a question of whether you really need help or are there resources available that can solve your problem without having to visit the community forums.


  • MODx icon


    Free Self-Hosted PHP Website

    MODX is a content management system that was first released in 2005 by Ryan Thrash, Raymond Irving and Jason Coward. They created it to give them freedom of design and yet retain robust security which they felt other CMSs didn’t allow.
    If your website is critical to your business, MODX delivers power and creative freedom. Freedom for designers, freedom for non-technical content authors and freedom for your site to grow and change with your business. Web pros get a customizable core to fit almost any requirement or scale. Whether it be a multi-domain global presence, a mobile API, or anything in between, MODX meets your needs today—and tomorrow.


  • ProcessWire icon


    Free Mac OS X Windows Linux Web Self-Hosted ... PHP Website

    ProcessWire is a content management system (CMS) distributed under the Mozilla Public License version 2.0 (MPL) and MIT License. It is designed from the ground up to tackle the issues caused by exactly this kind of opinionatedness (which, inevitably, results in frustrated developers and users) by being — you guessed it — non-opinionated. At its heart, it is based on a few simple core concepts and offers an exceptionally easy-to-use and powerful API to handle content of any kind.


  • Grav icon


    Free Web Self-Hosted PHP Markdown Website

    Grav is a fast, simple and flexible file-based web-platform. There is zero installation required. Just extract the ZIP archive, and you are already up and running. It follows similar principles to other flat-file CMS platforms, but has a different design philosophy than most. Grav comes with a powerful package management system to allow for simple installation and upgrading of plugins and themes, as well as simple updating of Grav itself.
    The underlying architecture of Grav is designed to use well-established and best-in-class technologies to ensure that Grav is simple to use and easy to extend.
    Some of these key technologies include Twig templating, Small Markdown iconMarkdown, Small YAML iconYAML and much more.


  • Jekyll icon


    Free Mac OS X Windows Linux Self-Hosted Website

    Jekyll is a simple, blog-aware, static site generator perfect for personal, project, or organization sites. Think of it like a file-based CMS, without all the complexity. Jekyll takes your content, renders Small Markdown iconMarkdown and Liquid templates, and spits out a complete, static website ready to be served by Small Apache HTTP Server iconApache HTTP Server, Small nginx iconnginx or another web server. Jekyll is the engine behind Small GitHub Pages iconGitHub Pages, which you can use to host sites right from your Small GitHub iconGitHub repositories.
    Jekyll does what you tell it to do — no more, no less. It doesn't try to outsmart users by making bold assumptions, nor does it burden them with needless complexity and configuration. Put simply, Jekyll gets out of your way and allows you to concentrate on what truly matters: your content.


  • Ghost icon


    Commercial Mac OS X Windows Linux Self-Hosted Cloudron ... Node.JS Website

    Ghost is a free, open source, hackable and simple yet powerful blogging or online publication software written in Small Node.js iconNode.js. It is a collection of modern publishing tools designed for easily building and running online publications.


  • Anchor CMS icon

    Anchor CMS

    Free Windows Linux Web AppFog Engine Yard Cloud ... PHP OpenShift Website

    Anchor is a super-simple, lightweight blog system, made to let you just write.
    Anchor gives you full freedom over your words. Just write in Small Markdown iconMarkdown or Small HTML iconHTML, whatever you prefer.


Before stating my conclusion, some honorable mentions to Small Hugo iconHugo, Small Hexo iconHexo, Small October iconOctober, Small Bolt iconBolt, Small Pelican iconPelican, Small Monstra CMS iconMonstra CMS and Small PyroCMS iconPyroCMS.

All these content management systems are different and do not necessarily use the same technologies or the same approach in their step. I won't be able to say which is the best or the most appropriate for this or that situation. Ghost is more blog oriented whereas a CMS like Grav also allows you to build a showcase site or an e-commerce website. You also need to see if you prefer to use an open source system and participate in the community or pay for a turnkey solution with professional support to help you in your project. It's up to you to try them out and see which one is best for your project.