WordPress Alternatives: Five Options for Publishers

As great as WordPress may be, it’s still not for everyone. The learning curve can be steep, the security sometimes not as robust, and the capabilities limited. Thankfully, there are a number of alternatives to WordPress available, from the free and the open-source to professional, paid services.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at five WordPress alternatives. If you’d rather stick to WordPress, check out this excellent WordPress for beginners course to help you get started.

1. Tumblr

There’s a lot in common between WordPress and Tumblr. Both were started by 20-something year olds who were fed up with the existing blogging solutions. Both have rabid communities that pump out themes and templates by the thousands. Both boast an Alexa rank in the sub-30 range.

What separates them is their extensibility and the kind of content they support. Tumblr is chiefly a “microblogging” platform (which is exactly what it sounds like – a platform for sharing short posts). Its community favors visual content over lengthy word posts. It also gives you far less power than a standard WordPress installation, which also means that its extremely easy to use right out of the box.

The Good

  • Twitter-like follow feature makes it easy for anyone to get real-time updates from your blog.

  • Rich visual design is perfect for sharing image-rich content.

  • Huge community of users that loves to share content.

  • Extremely easy to use, even for complete neophytes.

  • Doesn’t require web hosting.

  • Vast library of stunning templates and themes.

The Bad

  • Very limited customization options.

  • Not appropriate for creating long-form content.

  • No third-party plugin support.

  • Difficult to manage large number of posts.

Price: Free

Who is it for: Bloggers and brands that want an additional platform to share mostly visual content.

Example Sites: Young Manhattanite, I Can Read

Unsure about blogging? Learn why you should blog in this course.

2. Blogger

Blogger is the grand old man of the blogging world. It was launched way back in 1999, when the word ‘blog’ still hadn’t entered popular idiom and WordPress was four years away from inception (fun fact: Blogger co-founder Evan Williams is also the co-founder of Twitter). The service was acquired by Google in 2003 which further helped its spread. It’s the default blogging choice for many amateur bloggers, though its limited features and capabilities make it a poor fit for professional and enterprise customers.

The Good

  • Easy to use, particularly for complete newbies to blogging.

  • Deep-integration with existing Google services. Importing pictures from Picasa, for instance, requires just a couple of clicks.

  • Other bloggers can follow you through Google FriendConnect (now Google+).

  • Huge community of existing bloggers.

The Bad

  • Very limited customization options.

  • Poor selection of themes and templates.

  • No third party plugins.

  • Mostly ignored by Google; receives very few updates.

Price: Free

Who is it for: Casual bloggers who want something easy to use, easy to setup.

Example Sites: Single Dad Laughing, Mouses Houses

3. Joomla

Joomla isn’t a blogging platform; it is an enterprise-grade CMS (Content Management System) that can power anything from eCommerce stores with thousands of products to amateur blogs. Like WordPress, it is written in PHP and boasts a robust list of third-party plugins and themes. By some estimates, it is the second most popular CMS online after WordPress as well.

The Good

  • Powerful admin controls.

  • In-depth customization options.

  • Vast plugin library, thanks to an active developer community.

  • Plenty of documentation and tutorials available online.

  • Hundreds of striking themes.

  • Easy to develop for.

The Bad

  • Difficult to use and setup.

  • Admin panel can be confusing.

  • Templates and themes not as pretty as WordPress.

  • Requires web-hosting.

Price: Free

Who is it for: Organizations that want a robust, easy-to-extend CMS for large amount of content where steep learning curve is not an issue.

Example Websites: NookDeveloper, GE Transportation, IKEA Kuwait

Using Joomla? Learn how to create a corporate website using Joomla in this course!

4. Drupal

After Joomla and WordPress, Drupal is the third-most favored CMS used online. Like Joomla, it is a robust CMS written in PHP with a thriving developer community that loves to create new extensions and plugins (called ‘modules’). It is supported by some of the brightest minds in the open-source community and boasts users as high profile as the Whitehouse (Whitehouse.gov). Drupal is far more developer-friendly than Joomla, which means your IT department will love it. It is also more scalable and faster than Joomla or WordPress.

The Good

  • More than 22,000 available plugins, called ‘modules’.

  • Active and friendly developer community that loves to create new modules.

  • Very developer-friendly; customization is easy thanks to strong coding practices and standards.

  • Robust admin-controls (via drush).

  • Plenty of available themes, though they tend to be not as pretty as WordPress.

The Bad

  • Not user-friendly; has a steep learning curve for non-tech people.

  • Not very useful out-of-the-box; requires external modules to add basic features.

  • Many popular modules have poor documentation.

Price: Free

Who is it for: Organizations that want to create large, complicated websites with thousands of pages.

Example websites: The Economist, Whitehoues.gov

Get started with Drupal with this Drupal for beginners course.

5. Movable Type

Movable Type was among the earliest paid-for blogging platforms. It was wildly popular among amateur bloggers in its earlier avatars, but the rise of WordPress stole the sheen from its success somewhat. Today, Movable Type (which is developed by Six Apart) focuses mostly on enterprise customers and offers both hosted and self-hosted solutions. Some of its largest clients include HuffingtonPost and Gothamist.

The Good

  • Extremely easy to setup, especially the hosted version.

  • Easy to use.

  • Built-in analytics tools.

  • Highly stable, even with millions of pageviews.

  • Can be easily scaled from a small, amateur blog to a major publication.

  • Community management through the Movable Type Community Pack.

  • Strong customer support.

  • Free MT developer license (MovableType.org) for non-commercial blogs.

  • Beautiful built-in themes.

  • Features like revision history and strong editing tools make it perfect for professional bloggers.

The Bad

  • Expensive; a five-user license costs as much as $595.

  • Difficult to develop for.

  • Very small community of developers and designers which limits your customization options.

  • Plugin availability not as robust or vast as WordPress’.

Price: $595 for a 5-user license; free MT developer license.

Who is it for: Professional bloggers and large publishers that want a hassle-free, easy to use blogging platform.

Example Sites: HuffingtonPost, Gothamist

The blogging platform/CMS you choose at the end of the day will depend on your requirements. If you want a visually rich blog, pick Tumblr. For a larger website with thousands of pages, choose either Joomla or Drupal. And if you’re trying to build a large publication, Movable Type would be a good option.