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Battle of the CMS Giants: Unveiling Top PHP-Based Platforms

Welcome to the battle of the greatest! These CMSs aren't your run-of-the-mill wishy-washy management systems some lathe-drinking developers use!
Daniel Zacharias

Code Power Team

October 10, 2023

Welcome to the battle of the greatest! These CMSs aren’t your run-of-the-mill wishy-washy management systems some lathe-drinking developers use! (I love lathe, btw)

These are born from PHP’s core, capable of building dynamic, user-friendly websites in seconds and powering huge chunks of the web you browse today. Whether it’s a blog post, an online store, or a social media site, these CMS champions handle them all.

But what are they? How do they actually work, and which one takes the PHP-based CMS crown home?

Let’s find out! 

PHP-based CMS: The backbone of dynamic websites

As a PHP developer, at the beginning of my career, I got wondering: How did PHP find its way into Content Management Systems (CMS)? What was going through the heads of developers that included this backend development language into space where words, eye-candy visuals, and user interaction dominate?

In the world of web development, PHP-based CMS is like Excalibur. Whoever masters and wields it poses the ultimate power of creating, editing, and deleting content.  CMS’s dynamic and interactive components achieve a level-up with the PHP component added. 

What sets them from the rest of the crowd are:

  • Incredible user-friendliness
  • Minimal knowledge barrier to entry
  • Huge support network available 24/7
  • Huge library of plug-and-play extensions and plugins
  • Ready-to-rock web development tools

All is possible thanks to the versatile server-scripting side of PHP.

The evolution of PHP-based CMS

The year 1994 was the moment that the PHP-based web management revolution slowly started. 

That year, Rasmus Lerdorf created a scripting language for his Personal Home Page (that’s where PHP got its name from). But little did he know that his scripting language would give birth to some of the CMS giants we use today. 

The shift to PHP-based CMSs happened when the first and oldest CMS giant, WordPress, was born. 

Fast-forward to today. Using PHP-based CMS, developers can integrate databases, scale their work, and customize their websites with the click of a button!

5 perks of using PHP-based CMSs 

PHP-based CMSs didn’t only come with features making developers’ lives more coffee-friendly and enjoyable but also pushed the bar upwards of web app development. 

It’s all thanks to the perks such as: 

  • Scalability made simple — PHP-based CMSs are designed to follow your website’s scaling footsteps. They come with hassle-free scaling solutions, adjusting to your increased traffic and content without any obstruction.
  • Time-saving templates — Forget starting from scratch every time! Ready-to-use templates offered in PHP-based CMS platforms save plenty of production time, giving you more time to sip your favorite lathe and focus on coding.
  • SEO-ready — Needing an SEO guru to optimize your website? Scratch that! Use PHP-based CMS that already comes with SEO tools and search optimization tools. 
  • Cost-efficient — Most of the PHP-based CMSs are open-source and budget-friendly, so you do not have to worry about giving arm and leg for your content management. Thanks to the thriving community, CMSs are constantly improving without burning holes in your wallet.
  • Customization unleashed — Imagine if you could personalize every segment of your website (literally!)?! With PHP-based CMS’s infinite libraries of modules, plugins, and themes, there’s no limit!

4 PHP-based CMS giants


Among PHP-based CMSs, none shines brighter than WordPress. 

Since its inception as a simple blogging platform in 2003, WordPress has evolved to become the most widely used CMS in the world, powering 40% of all websites. 

 It’s perfect for beginners and small-to-medium businesses because it’s easy to use and comes loaded with robust SEO tools (the best part you’ll love about it!). But let’s not forget WordPress’s community deserves all the credit for making your site increasingly customizable with endless themes and plugins.

2. Drupal 

Meet Drupal — the marvel among content management systems, handling even the most mind-blowing sites. 

Drupal packs functional complexity and flexibility features under its hood, allowing heavyweight websites to find their place on the web. But don’t be easily fooled – Drupal requires complex user hierarchy setting since it includes advanced user management, along with permission setting capabilities designed for those heavyweights.

What you’ll love about Drupal is its built-in caching features ensure quick loading times. Great for fast-loading sites bustling with rich content.

3. Joomla 

Joomla lies right in between ultra-flexible Drupal and super-easy-to-use WordPress. 

Think of it as the gold spot in the PHP-based CMS world. It has the perfect balance between complex functionality and user-friendliness.

Joomla provides advanced user-management services alongside world-class multi-lingual support straight out of the box, making it ideal when creating memberships or social networking sites. 

4. Magento

Magento is the king of PHP-based CMSs available specifically for E-commerce sites. 

Magento comes with powerful product management features with multi-store support and an extensive collection of payment gateway integrations, making online retail businesses alive and thriving.

Here’s why Magento is best suited for you if you’re a large-scale e-commerce business:

  • It’s mobile-friendly
  • In-built SEO features
  • Multi-store management features
  • Extensive customization
  • A perfect mix of scalability and security 

Picking the right PHP-Based CMS: 6 factors to consider

Choosing the right PHP-based CMS means the difference between a smooth-sailing project and a code-overloaded headache. So, how do you make that choice?

Here are some key factors that’ll guide you:

  1. Understand your project requirements — The make it or break kind of moment that directly influences your CMS selection. Magento, as a heavyweight option, suits eCommerce sites with vast abilities, while WordPress is great for simpler websites.
  2. Get your budget straight — While some PHP-based CMSs are free, others may need investment. Besides potential add-on costs, there will also be ongoing maintenance and hosting expenses.
  3. Verify your technical chops — Inspect your development team skills with the technical knowledge CMS requires. For beginners, Joomla or WordPress are your best bet. For those familiar with code-crunching, Drupal gives you complete customization freedom.
  4. Don’t forget about the learning curve — Each CMS has a learning curve. It’s an unavoidable fact! Considering it before choosing one will save you tons of time and skill development costs.
  5. Check the CMS community — Always look at the community! It’s a rule of thumb most PHP-CMS gurus won’t tell you. An active community is a lifeline when you’re stuck with development hiccups.
  6. Scrutinize security features — Security matters the most. Period! If you’re dealing with customer data on e-commerce sites, Magento and Drupal are your best bet. They both score high regarding safety and reliability.

Who is the PHP-based CMS winner? 

Who takes the crown?

The truth is: There isn’t an all-powerful PHP-based CMS that fits all of the bills. Each of them has their perks related to the type of projects you have. 

Meaning, you won’t use WordPress for e-commerce web management or Drupal for building blog-based websites. It would be a waste of features or a monumental task to pull off.

With time you’ll learn that the best PHP-based CMS isn’t the one with the fanciest plugins or mind-blowing customization (sure, they are useful), but the one that best fits your project’s weight class, your technical skill set, and your audience’s demands.

At least, that’s what I learned throughout my PHP career.

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