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Developers will make decisions as they build your new website or digital project. Use this page to help you understand those decisions.
A content management system (CMS) is software that helps you create, manage and change website content. By using a CMS, you don’t need to write code to keep your website updated.
This page focuses on the three main content management systems that developers supporting community groups and charities use. They are Drupal, Wagtail and WordPress.
You may choose not to use a developer. If you're building your own website using online tools, some of them have a CMS for adding content and others don’t.
Find out more about DIY website-building tools.
When you're choosing a digital agency or freelancer to work with, ask them what CMS they'll use. This will help you understand how they'll build the website. Your team will need to use that CMS to keep your website updated.
The best CMS for your organisation will depend on what your needs are. Below are some questions to consider.
Each of these CMS has different strengths. If you're looking to build a new website for your organisation, you'll need to choose one that’s right for you.
One thing that Drupal, Wagtail and WordPress all have in common is that they're all open source. This means it's free to download their basic elements. There's no license fee, and you're not tied in to a proprietary system that can’t grow with your needs.
You do need to pay for other things.
Drupal works with a ‘core’ functionality. Pre-built blocks called 'extensions' expand that functionality. Some extensions are free, some have a cost. A global community of over 100,000 people develops Drupal and its extensions.
Various developers own the extensions. Those developers have to keep them up to date with the core, which gets updated from time to time. You'll need ongoing developer support to keep your website working when these updates happen.
Drupal isn't the best choice for web beginners. You can add content without needing to write any code but you need to understand how websites are put together to make your pages appear in the right place.
Most organisations who use Drupal will have at least one person internally dedicated to looking after their website.
Wagtail is a developer framework. Your developers add functionality by building 'packages'. They won’t need to use 'extensions or plugins' that come from outside the Wagtail framework. They can draw from existing open-source packages.
The Wagtail content editor, StreamField, is excellent.
You can create new pages and use custom content blocks for different display types within a page. You can give permission to lots of different editors. You won’t need to work with a developer to add, edit or manage content.
Python (on Django framework)
WordPress powers around 30% of all websites. It’s simple, flexible and quick to install.
It works with a core functionality supported by extensions or 'plugins' which can be free or paid for. When you're working with a developer they'll use these plugins. They'll also use templates and might tweak the look and feel of the site (using HTML and CSS coding languages).
WordPress also has an option for self building using no code at all. See our comparison of self build website tools.
It’s easy to add new posts and pages with WordPress. You can also set different levels of user access in the CMS. This is useful if you have more than one person looking after the website and want to give them different rights.
WordPress uses a familiar interface for adding content. Many people are already familiar with it and feel comfortable using it.
Over the last ten years it has become possible for developers to build websites in two parts and still give lots of editing power to the website-owning organisation. To do this they configure a content management system and connect this to a static website generator (often called jamstack) that they will build. It can be complete or partial separation.
The main reason for this is to have more flexibility about what the website itself can look like and do.
It can also give you:
It won’t be for everyone.
Some names to look out for:
Not every website needs to be built by a developer using a traditional framework or content management system. Even if it does, you don’t always need to work with developers who write programming languages to build one.
Online tools for building websites are getting more popular. These are sometimes called low-code or no-code tools. For some organisations, using a mix of small tools and apps might create the best experience for your users. This can be cheaper than a full website build. It may also be more complicated to work out exactly what you need. You may still want to hire an expert to help you configure the tools.
Some of the names to look out for in 2021 if you want to know more about low-code or no-code solutions include:
Find out more about Webflow and Glide in our article comparing DIY website-building tools.
Last reviewed: 02 March 2021Help us improve this content
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