Judging Five Overall Best Content Management Systems

Submitted By Bryan Ruby December 09, 2009

This year, I had the privilege of participating as a member on the judging panel for Packt Publishing's Overall Best Open Source CMS Award. As I mentioned last month, WordPress was declared the winner of the award followed by MODx, SilverStripe, DotNetNuke, and finally XOOPS. Since the award announcement, I've had a lot of inquiries asking me how and in what order did I rank the content management systems. I decided to wait for a month before my posting my rankings of the Web applications because I wanted focus to remain on the declared winners and not my individual choices.

My rankings for the Overall Best Open Source CMS (with number one being the highest) were:

  1. WordPress
  2. DotNetNuke
  3. SilverStripe
  4. MODx
  5. XOOPS

Each of the judges on the panel, selects their top three CMS from the five included in this category. The judges are given a lot of reign for how they rank the CMS and may consider a number of factors such as performance, usability, accessibility, ease of configuration and customization, scalability and security. Despite the criteria given, the fact is the best CMS is the CMS you determine is best in meeting your project requirements. In other words, you may find that all five CMSes in this category meet your project needs or in some cases none of the given applications will meet your requirements. Despite how I ranked the CMS you still need to do your own homework before choosing what your "best" CMS.

It is important to note that neither Drupal nor Joomla! competed in the Overall Best category as previous winners in this category duke it out in the Hall of Fame category. This year, Drupal out competed Joomla! in both the Hall of Fame category as well as the Best Open Source PHP CMS category. Joomla! may be out of luck this year but you surely can't count them out as the upcoming Joomla! 1.6 version should keep them competitive for next year. With Wordpress as well as Drupal and Joomla! now qualified to be in the Hall of Fame, it should make for an interesting competition between the three in 2010.

Criteria Winners

The table below includes the "winner" for each of the criteria I used to rank the Overall Best CMS. Given that all five finalists used some form of user access control and other typical security measures, I considered it a five-way tie for "Security measures available" although DotNetNuke may have done slightly better in this category than the other four. Also, the definition given for scalability is Packt Publishing's definition for scalability and not my definition.

Criteria Finalist Name 
Ease of Installation WordPress
Ease of Use (Usability) DotNetNuke
 Availability of relevant documentation on the project website SilverStripe
Scalability (extension/plugins available to extend CMS functionality) WordPress
Availability of themes WordPress
Security measures available No Winner
Performance WordPress
Ease of Customization WordPress/MODx

 

WordPress

Over the years, I've struggled with seeing WordPress as a CMS instead of just a blogging application. I question how much a blog-based application can further advance itself as a CMS. However, I think it would be CMS guru snobbery to deny WordPress qualifies as a CMS.

The WordPress community has certainly made a lot of effort to showcase WordPress as a CMS. A lot of the CMS like features of WordPress are not only obtained from 7,000 available plug-ins but also additional projects such as  to WordPress MU, BuddyPress, and bbPress. So despite any misgivings I might have of WordPress being a CMS, I still ranked it based on the criteria as the best of the five finalists in Packt's Overall Best CMS Award.

WordPress scored high in ease of installation, scalability, and availability of themes. I continue to be impressed with not only how WordPress is easy to install but also easy to upgrade. WordPress offers automatic upgrading of not only the WordPress application but its plug-ins as well. In the free and open source genre of Web applications, the only other application that I can think of which has made upgrading your applications this easy is a Web forum application called SMF.

The quantity of themes and plugins available for WordPress is really a credit to the open source community involved in supporting WordPress. Similar to another judge's opinion, some of my positive ranking for Wordpress was influenced just by the fact that WordPress likely has the ideal open source community that most projects wish they had.

On a negative note, I once considered WordPress as having the best user interface than any other open source CMS. I'm not so sure this is the case anymore. The administrative side of the menu is starting to look more cluttered to me and may be relying too heavily on AJAX features. Perhaps it's just me but I think WordPress needs to rethink a bit the direction they wish to take the administrative menus. Sometimes, less is more.

WordPress
Ease of Installation 5
Ease of Use (Usability) 4
Documentation on project's website 4
Scalability (extension/plugins) 5
Availability of themes 5
Security measures 3
Performance 4
Ease of Customization 4
 Total Points 34

 

DotNetNuke

I was the outlier among the judges for my higher ranking of DotNetNuke. DotNetNuke is the only .Net based CMS included in this category and I know almost nothing about application development for Microsoft .Net. So, it's possible the other judges either knew something more than I and found DotNetNuke lacking as a .Net application. Or, perhaps I was off my rocker the day I reviewed DotNetNuke with such positive enthusiasm. Regardless, I only considered DotNetNuke as a CMS from the viewpoint of an end-user or system administrator and I liked what I saw in this application.

DotNetNuke scored high in usability and ranked well with the rest of other criteria. SilverStripe technically scored a point higher than DotNetNuke but I felt DotNetNuke's ease of use far excelled any other CMS finalists. Since I personally give greater weight to usability I placed DotNetNuke in second place for this award category. I've made similar decisions in the past including the year I judged SilverStripe as the most promising CMS.

I was very impressed with the administrative menu in DotNetNuke including it's three modes of View, Edit, and Layout. The separation of Administrative functions from Host (server) functions also enhanced the easiness for navigating DotNetNuke's menus. DotNetNuke's user interface is clean, solid, and practical. A couple perks to DotNetNuke worthy of mentioning includes the Size Wizard as well as giving a security feature to  whether authors are given a modular editor or page editor.

DotNetNuke
Ease of Installation 3
Ease of Use (Usability) 5
Documentation on project's website 4
Scalability (extension/plugins) 4
Availability of themes 4
Security measures 4+
Performance 4
Ease of Customization 3
 Total Points 31

 

SilverStripe

I mentioned at the start of this review that you can't choose a CMS solely on the criteria but also on how well it meets your project requirements. For the CMS projects that I'm routinely involved with, SilverStripe would likely be my first choice of the five CMS finalists in this category. My placement of SilverStripe in the number three spot is likely more a reflection that both WordPress and DotNetNuke are more mature applications and SilverStripe is still needing some room to grow as a full featured application.

Although SilverStripe is one of the youngest open source projects among the finalists, the availability of relevant documentation on its website scored high with me. The SilverStripe community has done a great job in mixing text, videos, and graphics to provide quality documentation that can't be matched by many of the open source projects I visit on a regular basis. If you take a deeper look into SilverStripe, you'll also find that SilverStripe also scores well in ease of installation, customization, and usability.

The one area where I thought SilverStripe could improve was in the availability of themes and perhaps even the quantity of available modules. Again though, SilverStripe's project community is still relatively young and with time there should be no doubt we'll be seeing a continued increase of themes and modules made available for SilverStripe.

SilverStripe
Ease of Installation 4
Ease of Use (Usability) 4
Documentation on project's website 5
Scalability (extension/plugins) 4
Availability of themes 3
Security measures 4
Performance 4
Ease of Customization 4
 Total Points 31

 

MODx

I wish I would have had more time with MODx because I think I would have ranked MODx higher in this review than I did. Since MODx is more of a framework than a CMS...from a user perspective MODx can be difficult to master due to the learning curve. So from an "out of the box" perspective I didn't score MODx as high as I did with WordPress, DotNetNuke, and SilverStripe. However, make no mistake, MODx is definitely a CMS that you'll want to look at.

On the flip side, because MODx has placed a lot of emphasis on content management framework most developers that know MODx will tell you it is easy to customize and scalable. When I talk to developers about MODx there is a sense of excitement and loyalty about this CMS that reminds me of my first and second impressions of Drupal. I really think MODx has the potential for being the next Drupal and won't be the least surprised to see in the near future more people comparing MODx with Drupal.

For this award, I reviewed MODx 1.x Evolution since MODx 2.x Revolution was still in Beta. I'm anxious to see what Revolution has to offer.

MODx
Ease of Installation 3
Ease of Use (Usability) 3
Documentation on project's website 4
Scalability (extension/plugins) 3
Availability of themes 3
Security measures 4
Performance 4
Ease of Customization 5
 Total Points 29

 

XOOPS

XOOPS seems to be attempting a comeback from the days it once was more popular. The CMS has improved quite a bit this year and worthy of another look. However, the user interface is still a little dated and I wasn't sure what to make of many of the XOOPS modules and themes available at the project's website which appeared to me to not have been updated recently.

XOOPS
Ease of Installation 3
Ease of Use (Usability) 3
Documentation on project's website 3
Scalability (extension/plugins) 4
Availability of themes 4
Security measures 4
Performance 4
Ease of Customization 4
 Total Points 29

 


About this CMS Enthusiast

Bryan Ruby

Bryan Ruby

Bryan Ruby is the owner and editor for CMS Report. He founded CMSReport.com in 2006 on the belief that information technologists, website owners, and web developers desired visiting sites where they could learn about content management systems without the sales pitch. Besides this site, you can follow Bryan at Google+ and Twitter.

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