Content Management Systems could be considered the backbone of any good website. Content Management Systems, or CMS as I’ll be calling them, give the site owner the ability to interact with the website in a way that previously only a web developer could do. With a good CMS, you can easily navigate to a page of your website and edit the content without ever having to reach out to a developer.
Please note any links directly to HubSpot are affiliate links! Although this means I am literally being paid to suggest HubSpot in this blog post - I've been doing it for free for years anyway. haha.
What Makes A Good CMS
So what actually makes for a Good CMS? What do you need to consider when choosing one? There are dozens of articles that go over that exact topic and they all seem to echo what I think.
The core functionality of your CMS is what dictates what it can and cannot do out of the box. This means things like creating posts, creating pages, uploading media, managing URL structure, and other basic settings required for it to function.
The default page editor of any CMS needs to be usable at least. In 2020, it’s pretty much expected that the page builder gives columns functionality and on-screen visual feedback, meaning you’re able to see the area you’re editing as though it was the front-end. This is sometimes called a “Front-End Editor.”
How often are you going to be stuck running updates? And you absolutely need to run those updates for security. Some CMS platforms manage all the updates for you while others allow you to use old code to avoid breaking anything.
Asset management is a pretty big deal for a CMS. The whole point of using one is so that you don’t need to edit code or enter the site’s files via FTP or otherwise. Does your CMS manage those assets in an easy-to-use way? Are you able to create folders or groups of assets? Can you upload assets straight to the server without much hassle? Does it resize and manage thumbnails? How does it serve those assets on the live site?
Expandability means how easy is it to add features that are not part of the core functionality to the CMS. For example, adding new post types, custom fields, page builders or CMS-managed web forms.
Security in 2020 is incredibly important. When choosing a CMS, you need to know that your CMS is secure. That you’re not going to get taken offline for a few days, weeks or months because your site becomes infected with some malware. Although a lot of this specific line item varies heavily based on the server configuration, the base CMS does contribute some.
What kind of official support is available? Does your CMS have a number or email you can reach to get help? Or is their support pretty “meh” at best?
Peer support is different than official support since this would be more in the form of forum posts and google searches. If your CMS is popular enough, chances are what you’re doing or trying to do has already been done. And that question you’re working on right now, someone else has already asked and answered. You just need to find it.
And finally, multilingual support is huge. Although I personally am not multilingual, I’d like to know that the CMS I am using is. I want to be able to create a website and then easily port all the content to a different language to expand that website’s reach. This is a bit of an ask for most CMSs, but I think it’s a fair request.
What Are Other People Using? Show Me The Numbers!
Does it matter? Well sort of. Like when talking about peer-support, having a large following tends to make a CMS better. It means there are more interest and demand for that product, which creates more jobs to make that product better.
WordPress Market ShareTop 1,000,000 WebsitesTop 100,000 WebsitesTop 10,000 Websites
HubSpot Market ShareTop 1,000,000 WebsitesTop 100,000 WebsitesTop 10,000 Websites
These numbers are pulled from BuiltWith.com. They crawl the internet the same way that Google does and generate data accordingly.
Top 1 Million, 100 Thousand, and 10 Thousand percentages are all percentages of that market. So, for example, WordPress powers nearly 33% of the top 1 Million websites online. It also powers 37% of the top 10,000 websites.
These numbers aren’t very surprising. Remember that WordPress is a free CMS and that it’s been around for over a decade. Whereas HubSpot is a premium CMS. To use HubSpot’s Landing Page functionality, you need to be on the Professional platform. To use their full CMS you need to be on an Enterprise account. At the time of writing, Professional costs $800/month and Enterprise costs $300/month.
WordPress, an Overview
So what is WordPress? Well according to their About page, it’s pretty great.
WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use. We believe great software should work with minimum set up, so you can focus on sharing your story, product, or services freely. The basic WordPress software is simple and predictable so you can easily get started. It also offers powerful features for growth and success.https://wordpress.org/about/
WordPress started out as just a blogging tool back in the early 2000s. During those early years, it saw some backlash over security, or lack thereof, but pulled through and has improved tremendously year after year.
What WordPress Does RIGHT
I’ve personally been using WordPress now as my primary web builder platform for over a decade and I absolutely love it. It has some quirks, but you can’t beat the price. Free.
The WordPress Community Is Huge
The peer support is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When a platform holds the market share like WordPress, the chances of you having a unique question is pretty slim.
Ability To Expand
WordPress’s expandability is unrivaled. WordPress uses plugins and themes to give the end-user the freedom to create whatever they want. In combination with their integrated hooks, API, and core functions, themes and plugins are able to do amazing things. In fact, I just went over my favorites in a blog post here.
WordPress Multilingual Support Is Acceptable
WordPress’s multilingual support is great! There are plugins like WPML that are needed to really make it shine. However, the reason I’m calling this a win in this scenario is because of how WordPress makes plugins like WPML possible. WordPress themselves don’t claim to be multilingual compatible, but in my experience, WPML fills in that gap quite effectively.
What WordPress Does WRONG
WordPress doesn’t do everything perfectly out of the box. Far from it.
The Gutenberg Editor is meh.
WordPress’s default page editor is… alright. It’s not a page builder, but it does offer column support. It was created with the author of a blog in mind. Writing content on it is easy and efficient. I wrote an entire article on the Gutenberg editor here. With the power of themes, WordPress’s page editor becomes way more impressive though. Divi, for example, expands upon the page builder hundredfold.
WordPress Security Is Important – Really Important
WordPress’s security is a bit of a hit or miss. The CMS itself is secure enough, but since the whole thing is open source and is so popular, it is the target of a lot of malicious intent online. That said, updates for WordPress roll out weekly, sometimes daily and these are almost always for update patches. Because WordPress is so quick to resolve any security issues on their CMS, and since most security problems come from plugins and themes, I think it’s unfair to say WordPress itself does security poorly.
What Official Support?
WordPress has little to no “official” support though. Since it is so big, and since the use-case for any WordPress site can be so unique, there simply isn’t an email or phone number you can call to get support. However, many premium themes and plugins do have a direct contact for questions. And if it’s not a theme or plugin issue, it’s likely a hosting one. Hosting support varies pretty significantly in the realm of WordPress. I use SiteGround and they’re great. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “Web Hosting”, check out this article where I go over exactly that, and why I think SiteGround is the best choice for 2020.
Asset Management From The ’00s
Asset Management for WordPress hasn’t been updated in as long as I can remember, and it’s starting to show. You still upload your media (images, videos, PDFs, etc) to the media library and it will automatically create a folder and subfolder for the upload year and month. This results in your media file structure look something like this: wp-content/uploads/2018/02/happy-birthday.jpg. That’s not a huge deal, but it would be nice if you could make your own folders in the media library. This feature can be added using plugins, but I don’t think it’s worth it for the extra load.
Also by default, the media is served at whatever size it’s uploaded as – unless otherwise edited at a theme level. Like most drawbacks of WordPress, this can be adjusted using functions available in the WordPress CMS while building your theme, but it would be nice if WordPress was a little more clever and did that automatically.
Unlike WordPress, HubSpot is not free. The CMS itself seems like an afterthought of the CRM (customer relationship manager). In fact, up until about a year or so ago, they weren’t even calling it a CMS. All that said, it’s a pretty baller CMS and when you pair that with their CRM, it’s a marketing powerhouse like none-other all in a single location.
What HubSpot Does RIGHT
Unlike WordPress, HubSpot does way more right than wrong.
HubSpot does marketing right. Really right. Like.. spot on, exactly what you want, makes a bunch of money, right. That’s not really on our list of what we want from a CMS, but to write a review of HubSpot without mentioning the CRM would be a disservice to you and HubSpot. In this review, I’m going to assume we’re using the Enterprise version since that is when you get access to the full CMS.
HubSpot Core Functionality
HubSpot’s core functionality mostly revolves around the CRM. Everything you do in HubSpot CMS is integrated tightly into the CRM, which gives you the ability to make marketing decisions with pinpoint accuracy.
HubSpot Asset Management
Asset Management is something HubSpot does great. They do this better than WordPress by a mile! HubSpot allows you to create your own folders and folder structure. It also serves correctly sized images and manages the sizes for you dynamically. Since HubSpot is hosted on HubSpot’s own servers, your assets are delivered very speedily.
Security at HubSpot seems to be top-notch. In my few years of working with HubSpot, I have yet to have a website compromised. I’m sure this has a lot to do with it being such a small market and that it’s hosted on their proprietary servers.
Maintenance, in terms of updating plugins or themes, isn’t really a thing with HubSpot either. A theme will every now and again roll out some feature updates, but if you’re already using that template, the only items you’d be receiving from those updates are new modules or ways to create page templates. Hubspot’s other updates on the server-level are handled by HubSpot themselves.
HubSpot makes up for their lack of peer support with their incredible Official Support. They’re quick to respond and happy to help with even some of the more complex development questions. It’s clear the people working there love their jobs.
HubSpot Multilingual Support
Multilingual Support with HubSpot promises to be spot on. Full disclosure on this one, I’ve never actually had to create a multilingual HubSpot website. However, based on the documentation, it looks like it’s pretty straightforward. Maybe even more straightforward than WordPress.
What HubSpot Does WRONG
Although HubSpot does get a lot of things right in terms of what you want in a CMS, it’s not perfect.
HubSpot’s Lack Of Expandability
Expandability isn’t really a thing with HubSpot. You can do some things, but since HubSpot doesn’t currently give you access to the database, things like a custom post type aren’t currently possible. You have to get pretty clever when creating much on HubSpot outside of your average content-driven website.
HubSpot’s Page Editor Is Rough
HubSpot’s Page Editor is pretty bad in my opinion. They do somethings right but limit you on others. For example, if you have a page template with 3 sections, you must clone that page template and make edits there to add or remove a section. Then, once you have a completely new page template created, you can populate that new template with the content. Want to go back to only 3 sections? You’ll have to apply to the previous template again. This convoluted back and forth is the worst part of the CMS.
HubSpot Peer Support Is Limiting
Since it’s so new, HubSpot’s peer support is… limited. HubSpot has a few forums that promise results, but I haven’t had much luck with them. Even when I have gotten answers from peers, it’s not until after I’ve asked the question to the forums and had to wait for the answer. I realize this sounds petty, but in most project timelines, waiting for 24 – 72 hours hoping for a reply from a peer just isn’t realistic.
HubSpot Is Expensive
It’s expensive. Really expensive. The businesses that are using HubSpot don’t see those numbers as a big deal due to all the benefits that HubSpot brings. But as a developer and business owner myself, I just can’t see it.
I’m happy to work with HubSpot’s CMS on projects and use HubSpot’s CRM for my own business, but I can’t see myself ever actually paying the $300/mo service fee to get access to the full CMS. It’s not a scam. The price is worth it and justifiable by the numbers.
However, if there was a ven-diagram showing the average businesses that are using HubSpot’s CMS and the average businesses that are using WordPress, I don’t think there would be a lot of overlap.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2023 - Okay, HubSpot shook things up a bit with their CMS Starter platform a year or so back. Now they offer you a little sampler platter of all their tools for the current cost of $25/month. At this price, HubSpot all of a sudden starts to make a lot more sense for a lot more businesses. WordPress CMS itself is free, but to get all the features you have in HubSpot out of the gate, you'll need a developer (like us!). And you really just can't beat the page speed load times you get in HubSpot these days...
Overall, I think…
So overall, I think they’re both great and that’s not meant to be a cop-out. WordPress is an incredibly powerful, expandable, popular and free tool that powers over a third of the internet. HubSpot CMS is part of a proven effective marketing infrastructure that comes with a big budget. HubSpot did get more things right out of the box then WordPress did, though.
That said, I would still say my favorite to work with is WordPress CMS. It’s comfortable and when I need to go out of my comfort zone with WordPress, finding the answers online is a breeze. And since you can link your WordPress website to HubSpot’s CRM for most of the same functionality, it’s a pretty safe bet.