A Comparison of PHP-Based Web Content Management Systems

various content management system related icons

Over the last decade, digital content has continued to gain ground with the ever-increasing number of new technologies being used to create and maintain it. Newspapers have progressively moved to websites with paywalls, and interactions among people have moved to social networking sites. Companies now have landing pages to connect with their customers, and government agencies have moved many of their operations and support services online to serve citizens, creating a citizenship experience. 

With the evolution of digitized content, Content Management Systems (CMS), software that allows end users to easily manage websites by creating, modifying or eliminating digital content, have also multiplied. There is a very wide variety of preferences in the CMS used for websites. Some users prefer a web developer-focused experience and require a more versatile and complex tool that allows for customization of their needs. Others prefer a more non-technical-user-friendly experience and automated interaction. Regardless of preference, each CMS is focused on the same purpose but may use a different distribution of tools.

Artemis Consulting has been using open source CMS platforms for many years as mentioned in our Capabilities page on open source technology adoption
 

WordPress – The Most Popular PHP-Based CMS 

First released in 2003, WordPress was created as a tool for typography and to improve writing blogs. Over the years, the platform continued to develop new tools and has become one of the most popular PHP-based platforms with nearly 40% of websites worldwide powered by WordPress. With its user-friendly interface and SEO environment allowing those with little programming or HTML knowledge to create and manage websites, WordPress’ popularity has also spread to the federal government. The federal government began using it for digital content particularly because of WordPress’ focus on accessibility for individuals with disabilities. 

Another benefit of using WordPress is that it offers specialized plugins for E-commerce that allows an average WordPress user, with some practice, to set up their own digital store, configuring user accounts, payment gateways, commercial content, and much more. Read more about WordPress in one of our earlier blogs, Why Choose WordPress.

WordPress Technical Features and Benefits

  • Requires PHP 5.6 but PHP 7.3 or higher preferred
  • Has its own PHP framework, known as Themosis
  • Requires MySQL 5.6 or higher or MariaDB 10 or higher databases
  • Uses Nginx, Apache or Microsoft IIS with mod_rewrite module application servers
  • Uses the jQuery and React Js JavaScript libraries with Gutenberg reusable blocks
  • Has built-in REST API services
  • One of the largest open-source communities available
  • Largest theme and plugins repository, both free and paid available
  • Built-in search engine optimized mechanism
  • WCAG 2.0 AA compliant out-of-the-box, both its administrative backend and its default themes
  • 68+ languages can be installed
  • Easy learning curve for the end-user 
     

Drupal – The Second Most Popular  

Since its launch in 2000, this platform has been very versatile and powerful; however, it has had a steep learning curve for users. The latest updates have greatly improved this issue. Because the platform is visually pleasing and practical without losing programming elements, it comes in second for managing digital content after WordPress. While only about two percent of all websites worldwide use Drupal as their CMS, this percentage still amounts to over a million websites. It is also often used by government websites, notably, for its security features over other CMS products.   

Unlike WordPress plugins, Drupal uses modules with themes. Depending on the theme, Drupal can be modified for users’ needs and work according to their specifications. Due to the versatility and complexity of this CMS platform, many end users who decide to use Drupal hire an experienced person who has a thorough understanding of the tools. 

Drupal Features and Benefits

  • Requires PHP 7 or higher
  • Supports MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, or Percona database servers
  • Uses Apache, Nginx, or Microsoft IIS web platforms
  • Uses PHP Symfony framework
  • Has built-in REST API services
  • Best PHP CMS for high traffic sites
  • One of the best user management sessions
  • Advance security and data encryption available out-of-the-box
  • 90+ languages can be installed
     

Joomla – Build Complex Sites

Joomla’s ease of management makes it competitive with WordPress. It requires minimal instructions and has mostly automated functions out-of-the-box, allowing users to create websites quickly and edit content easily. However, it is known for being a good option for building more complex sites if customization is needed, but will most likely require the assistance of a developer.

Joomla, however, does not have as many options for extensions as other CMS’ and is better for companies that have technical resources. Unlike other CMS’ that require extensions or plugins, Joomla has an out-of-the-box multi-language feature that allows users to switch languages. 

Joomla Features and Benefits

  • Requires PHP 5.3 but PHP 7.3 or higher preferred
  • Supports MySQL, SQL server and PostgreSQL databases
  • Uses Symfony framework
  • Uses Nginx, Apache or Microsoft IIS application servers
  • Can build own e-commerce website with online mechanisms available within its integrated systems
  • 64+ languages can be installed
     

Magento – E-Commerce Focused

Owned by Adobe, Magento is a CMS platform that was specifically designed for e-commerce. As with any good CMS, it is very flexible and can be adapted for any type of additional content.

Magento has continued to evolve into one of the most popular platforms for building an e-commerce website. Its latest updates have proven to be a responsive tool in addressing what the community has requested and also provides excellent security standards.

Due to its compatibility and ease of management, more than 300,000 online stores currently use Magento to operate, and its community is growing daily, which continually improves user information and support. 

Magento Features and Benefits

  • Requires PHP 7.4 or higher
  • Supports MySQL, MariaDB, and Percona databases
  • Uses Zend PHP Framework
  • Uses Nginx or Apache application servers
  • Best known open-sourced licensed CMS for e-commerce
  • Highly customizable but requires coding knowledge
  • Advanced reporting system available
  • User-friendly page builder available out-of-the-box
     

Typo3 – Corporate Clientele 

Famous among large companies, Typo3’s CMS platform has good compatibility with most operating systems—Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and macOS.

Typo3 seeks to be flexible for the average user, allowing content to be managed separately from the code, thereby, making it is easier to manage both. It offers a wide range of customizable features, as well as the possibility of managing large integrations.

This platform has a large community that is constantly growing, so it grants the rights to modify the code at the enterprise level. For the average user, it can be difficult at first since its configuration is somewhat complicated. There are just a few tutorials on how to manage this platform, so users are dependent on instructions or advice from the community to learn faster.

Typo3 Features and Benefits

  • Built with PHP using the Symfony framework
  • Supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite databases
  • Runs on Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS or Caddy web servers
  • Highly scalable system for multi-site and multi-language
  • Smart and easy setup out-of-the-box content management, as well as easy to setup automated workflow and planning modules
  • Supports CRM and ERP
  • 50+ languages can be installed
     

Concrete5 – Built in a Modular style

As an open-source CMS designed to manage content, Concrete5 has one of the most complete writing toolbars on the market and is a very flexible and powerful tool. Designed to work on any device, it allows websites to be responsive to any screen size. It also contains SEO optimization and social network tools, allowing website owners to find more viewers for their site. 

Released under an MIT license, Concrete5 is a highly reputable CMS. It has an effective security system that comes with SSL support, login history, content approval, captcha, audit trail, email verification and more. It is known to be extremely easy to use and extend and can be used to manage sites with little programming knowledge.  

Concrete5 Features and Benefits

  • Requires PHP 5.5 or higher
  • Uses a PHP framework based on Model View Controller architecture (MVC)
  • Supports MySQL and MariaDB databases
  • Supports Apache, Nginx and Microsoft IIS web servers
  • Modular building & templates
  • Easy forms creation and data collection
  • Many security functionalities available
  • Has enterprise scalability

Moodle – E-Learning CMS 

Compared to other CMS platforms, Moodle is one of the best PHP open-source choices for e-learning content management. Many educators have built complete learning programs with this CMS platform. The design of this CMS is focused on LMS (learning management system), supporting educators or pedagogues by providing students with a robust online learning system to create an individualized learning environment. The name Moodle stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.

Moodle is an easy-to-use platform with free licenses that regularly receive updates and improvements for its loyal customer base. Offering flexibility and customization, Moodle allows users can build online classrooms, quizzes, and even blogs. Its programming is quite powerful and has good security standards and protection for its content.

Moodle Features and Benefits

  • Requires PHP 5.5 or higher
  • Supports MySQL, MariaDB, and PostgreSQL databases
  • Supports Apache web server
  • Has its own customized MVC based framework
  • Incredibly detailed reporting and logs system available
  • Multiple progress tracking options for any type of course or exams
  • Personalized dashboard for educators and students
  • Designed to exchange data using open industry standards
  • 100+ languages can be installed

OctoberCMS – Best Flat File CMS

As a flat file CMS, OctoberCMS’ database and functionality differ widely from the processes used in other popular content management systems and is a complete change of environment at the development level. It received an award as the best flat file CMS—one that has no database and pulls content from text files.

Although it is a relatively new CMS, it allows for the extension of its core functionality through the use of approximately 700 different plugins, making it a flexible tool for adapting to any use. It can be used for blogging, E-commerce, data management and more.

OctoberCMS Features and Benefits

  • Based on the Laravel PHP framework
  • Supports MySQL, MariaDB, SQLite and PostgreSQL for the back-end
  • Uses the flat file database for the front-end structure
  • Uses Apache, Nginx, Lighttpd and Microsoft IIS web servers
  • Front-end uses Twig tempting engine
  • CDN out-of-the-box support
  • Command line option available in addition to wizard installation like other CMS 
  • Back-end is responsive and exceptionally clean with UX consideration
  • Live preview available while typing
  • Plugins meeting certain criteria and quality go through the review process 

Conclusion

In summary, we have provided some basic information about eight of the most popular PHP-based content management systems available to create and manage websites. We hope it can help users decide which ones best fit their needs. The tables below provide a comparison of the eight PHP-based content management systems across some of the main features and benefits described above. 

At Artemis Consulting, we evaluate a number of factors in determining which CMS is appropriate for our clients, including the users’ profile, cost of the tools, add-ons and extensions, as well as the system requirements and compatibility. 

  WordPress Drupal Joomla Magento
Description Most popular open-source CMS Used for enterprise projects and loads fast. Not as user-friendly, often requiring a developer Known for building complex websites, requiring a developer; but automated features allow for easy content editing and management of websites out-of-the-box Adobe’s CMS for e-commerce with many out-of-the-box features; premium features require paid subscription
Technical Requirements
License GNU GPL GNU GPLv2+ GNU GPL OSL Ver. 3 / AFL Ver. 3
Framework Themosis Symfony Symfony Zend
Supported Databases MySQL, MariaDB MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, Percona Server, PostgreSQL, SQLite MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server MySQL, MariaDB
Application Servers Nginx or Apache or Microsoft IIS with mod_rewrite module Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS Apache, Nginx
Primary Features/Functionality
Ease of Use Easy Somewhat Difficult Moderate Moderate
Security Protection Medium High Low Medium
SEO-Friendly Excellent  Good Fair Excellent
Multilingual Options Plugins Required Out-of-the-Box Out-of-the-Box Out-of-the-Box
Site Speciality
Blogs Out-of-the-Box Out-of-the-Box Extensions Required Add-Ons Required
Ecommerce Plugins Required Out-of-the-Box Extensions Required Out-of-the-Box
E-learning Plugins Required Modules Required Extensions Required Add-Ons Required
  Typo3 Concrete5 Moodle OctoberCMS
Description Used primarily at the Enterprise level, competing with Drupal Favored by web developers who like total control over their builds using the MVC approach One of the most popular Learning Management Systems Flat file CMS that is lightweight with modern design with small, yet slowly growing community
Technical Requirements
License GNU GPL MIT GNU GPL MIT
Framework Symfony Custom MVC based framework Custom MVC based framework Laravel
Supported Databases MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite MySQL, MariaDB PostgreSQL, MySQL, MariaDB Flat-file, MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, SQLite
Application Servers Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS, Caddy Server Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS Apache Apache, Nginx, Lightttpd, Microsoft IIS
Primary Features/Functionality
Ease of Use Moderate Easy Moderate Moderate
Security Protection Moderate Moderate High Moderate
SEO-Friendly Good  Fair Fair Poor, plugins required
Multilingual Options Out-of-the-Box Out-of-the-Box Language package Required Plugins Required
Site Speciality
Blogs Add-ons Required Add-ons Required Out-of-the-Box Plugins Required
Ecommerce Add-ons Required Add-ons Required Add-ons Required Plugins Required
E-learning Add-ons Required None Out-of-the-Box Plugins Required