Content Management Systems (CMS) are a dime a dozen and navigating the market gets more difficult by the week. So, the team at Deskree Studio has compiled a list of our four favourite CMS providers based on several key categories:

  • Design Capability
  • Ease of Use and Accessibility
  • E-commerce benefits
  • Open source or Proprietary

This article is broken down into sections based on the above categories, and at the end we’ll do a quick comparison of the tools mentioned in this list. But first, let me introduce Deskree Studio.

Deskree Studio is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We work with many companies and entrepreneurs across a variety of industries. Our expertise ranges across a spectrum of topics within the IT sphere from custom software development, marketing, web design, branding, E-commerce, and consulting. We originally made this list as a way of showcasing various CMS systems to our clients, so this article will mainly focus on benefits these tools provide to end users rather than to the developers working on the project. But don’t worry, each of these tools is easy to use, intuitive, proven, and fully scalable. So, let’s dive in.

girl in green and white shirt praying
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Oh Gods of Design, Please, Show me a Sign!

Webflow is like photoshop for web developers.

Constructed by Y Combinator alumni, Webflow was designed to change how websites are built. Webflow is an absolutely first class website builder + CMS tool. Through Webflow, it is possible to build truly stunning websites with less effort than more traditional systems, such as WordPress.

  • Animations are, quite possibly, one of the most difficult and easy-to-mess-up aspects of web development. But with Webflow, animations are very simple and intuitive, thanks to Webflow’s design-based visual interface.
  • Hosting is also super simple with Webflow, as it is not self-hosted. Webflow is ideal for a certain type of client who wants a visually striking website but does not have many technical concerns of their own.
  • Security is basically a non-issue with Webflow. Because hosting is covered by Webflow itself, it is incredibly secure and you don’t really have to worry about things like XSS and BF attacks.
  • Code-free development is another benefit Webflow provides. A drag and drop visual editor is  ideal for testing, designing, and quick meetings with those clients who like to keep themselves involved.
  • Content Management provided by Webflow is good. Webflow’s CMS is ideal for a client who does not require a super detailed, boutique CMS system. Not to say that Webflow’s CMS is lacking, it is perfectly adequate, but as most things are, it is not suited to every client.
  • E-commerce is a relatively new addition to Webflow’s toolkit, but we’ll discuss this point a little later on.
  • Integrations are available via Zapier, which provides Webflow clients with plenty of options to choose from to ensure their website is properly automated. If Zapier isn’t our client’s thing, Webflow also manages similar processes using API calls.
  • SEO (search engine optimization) tools are built in, so our clients can rest assured their SEO needs are always met and up to date with the latest trends in the industry.

Webflow is difficult to sell to clients who have specific requirements for open-source CMS tools and self-hosting because its a proprietary system. In our experience, this is mainly due to an extra cost often being attributed to tools like Webflow. It is true that Webflow can be a little pricey, but its benefits significantly outweigh this basic drawback. Webflow’s CMS is super intuitive and requires little training to operate professionally. Clients and their employees can very easily add and manage content via Webflow’s CMS.

Webflow is a secure system, and is trusted by Adobe, NASA, Dell, Zendesk, AMD, CBS, and Yelp.

If our clients are just looking for a standalone CMS, there are a couple of other options we regularly suggest.

guys in suits wearing colourful socks
Photo Credit: Pixabay

A Touch of Class

If you have spent any time in the design world, you’ve probably heard tell of Area 17. If not, Area 17 is a design agency based in Paris, France. They are very well known and respected designers and web developers, and they released their CMS, Twill, to the public.

Twill is a classy option for our clients to consider. Twill covers our clients’ CMS needs, but it requires a bit of heavy-lifting on the development side of things as Twill is not code-free, however, Twill is fully customizable.

Twill features drag and drop tools, a visual editor, responsive previewing, and simple design controls. Twill also allows you to assign multiple levels of permissions, see activity on your dashboard, and view content changes side by side.

Area 17 regularly updates their CMS security so it is secure and trustworthy as well. Twill is self-hosted, so whatever the server needs of our clients, Twill meets them.

  • Drag and Drop Tools save us and our clients time while editing content within the CMS.
  • Visual Editing adds an extra layer of design confidence for our clients.
  • Access Levels allow our clients to assign permissions on a case-by-case basis to their employees so their content always goes through the proper channels.
  • Configurable Navigation allows us to employ custom breadcrumbs so the clients of our clients are able to easily access the website.
  • Twill’s Tech Stack is based in PHP/Laravel and Vue.js which is a very common stack. Our clients are able to make change requests which we are easily able to manage. If the client has an IT team, they will also have no major problems configuring the CMS as Twill behaves in a similar way to a Laravel application.

Twill is an open-source CMS trusted by Opéra National de Paris, Art Institute of Chicago, Pentagram, and Pen America.

female weight lifter
Photo Credit: Unsplash

A Strapping CMS

Strapi is a JavaScript based CMS, if you are unfamiliar with back-end, but you know front-end, Strapi is a good choice. Strapi is open-source and headless, and allows for quick set-up and easy maintenance.

Strapi is a very flexible system, much more so than platforms like WordPress, and it retrieves its content via an API so it is compatible with just about any front-end setup. Unlike Webflow, but like Twill, Strapi is self-hosted so our clients can host it anywhere from AWS to their neighbour’s garage.

  • Flexibility is a key point of Strapi.
  • JS-Based and Headless, Strapi is a great CMS tool to use with basically any front-end setup.
  • Filtering Capabilities allow content to appear seamlessly and easily.

One path we often suggest to clients is React + Gatsby + Strapi for an advanced, well-designed, and seamless CMS experience. In this case, Deskree Studio would build our client a website in React, and would employ Gatsby to populate the site with content generated in Strapi. Gatsby is a tool that drastically simplifies the process of editing content via a CMS tool similar to Strapi (open-source, coding necessary, headless). Gatsby retrieves the content from the CMS and populates our clients’ website in a clear and concise manner following the theme package our client has selected. Strapi is an excellent tool for clients who require a new CMS, more functional/flexible CMS, or are looking for a unique self-hosted CMS solution.

woman with shopping bags
Photo Credit: Unsplash

E-Commerce! My Commerce!

Shopify is the e-commerce builder we recommend most often, it isn’t the only option out there, but it is so simple to use and manage that it is quite difficult to argue against using it. Although WordPress accommodates e-commerce, Shopify handles e-commerce seamlessly through a variety of under-the-hood integrations that make managing huge amounts of inventory a sleep-through-the-night process.

Earlier I mentioned that Webflow also supports e-commerce, we’ll discuss that now.

Webflow’s e-commerce is ideal for small boutique applications. While Shopify is also a great tool for this, Webflow’s design capabilities exceed those of Shopify. Webflow is fully customizable in terms of design whereas Shopify relies on template-based themes for its designs. Shopify is absolutely fantastic for large-scale online stores with a lot of volume, while Webflow is ideal for boutique, discerning clients with smaller scale inventories.

As far as general e-commerce is concerned, Shopify is our number one choice. It is fast, reliable, very secure, and meets any payment system standard our clients could realistically request.

  • Large Inventory is made easy with Shopify’s management tools.
  • Template-based store designs are easy to work with and provide the client with a recognizable and trustworthy store design.
  • An integrated payment system meets the needs of almost any client and conforms to many standards across the world.
  • Multilingual Templates allow clients to supply service in multiple languages without dramatically changing the content of the web-store.

Shopify’s ease of use and security set it apart from solutions like WordPress that rely on 3rd party plugins to account for E-commerce. Shopify is a native E-commerce CMS that is trusted by countless entrepreneurs who have made over $135 billion in sales.

CMS Rankings Chart: Deskree Studio

So there you have it, Deskree Studio’s 4 favourite CMS tools for 2020. Who knows what the future will bring to the world of CMS systems, but for now, you can’t go wrong with any of these!

Thanks for reading!