I am primarily suggesting alternatives to WordPress.org, but most of these are also alternatives to WordPress.com. Without further ado, let’s get started!
To a get a clear idea, jump to the categories’ section of your interest.
- Best eCommerce alternatives
- Best website builder alternatives
- Best Content Management System (CMS) alternatives
Best eCommerce alternatives
First off, we have a couple of the best ecommerce alternatives. These are easily some of the most popular shopping cart builders around.
Each has facilitated billions in online sales and are essentially all-in-one solutions (they provide the hosting, the building, the payment processing, etc).
Overall, the downsides to using these platforms mostly come down to cost and some limitations for highly advanced users.
If you use WordPress, you can install free plugins that allow you ecommerce fuctionality, most notably WooCommerce. “Free” can be complicated, as those with ecommerce needs will typically pay for higher quality themes and plugins, thus raising costs in a non-standardized format.
For a more detailed comparison, you can read our comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify—the basics apply to BigCommerce even if the details do not.
The benefits of these ecommerce alternatives lie primarily in ease of use, security, and to an extent, features.
These shopping cart builders provide everything out of the box and are user-friendly, which isn’t only good for beginners but also saves time for the more experienced.
Alternative No 1: BigCommerce
As far as major shopping card or online store builders go, BigCommerce is in the major leagues. In fact, it’s probably only ranks behind Shopify and WordPress + WooCommerce in popularity.
Having said that, it has facilitated over $17 billion in sales and has over 5,000 app and design partners. The gist for BigCommerce is that you get a really robust store-builder that is pretty easy to use.
For non-advanced users, BigCommerce lets you do a lot more by making things that would be complicated on WordPress easy.
Ultimately, BigCommerce doesn’t really sacrifice too much power or user control, though it necessarily does a little bit.
- Lots of features dedicated to building an online store that are pretty easy to use. This doesn’t sound like much put to words, but in reality most plugins you would add to WordPress for your online store are included by default with a BigCommerce plan.
- Plus, BigCommerce has its own app store. The apps are high quality and cover most concerns.
- BigCommerce is pretty secure and reliable, especially because everything’s wrapped in one solution.
- BigCommerce is good for scaling up your business, given its stable pricing structure.
- BigCommerce has strong customer support.
- Expensive for those who aren’t willing to invest in eCommerce software, though again—depending on the plugins and themes you pay for on WordPress, it can even be more expensive than BigCommerce.
- Although BigCommerce’s app store is good, it doesn’t have as many varied or niche extensions as WordPress’ does.
- As far as the extreme ends of customization and store editing go, BigCommerce is overall good but of course not as in-depth as WordPress.
- Although BigCommerce has more themes than Shopify, it still pales in comparison to what’s available on WordPress.
Alternative No 2: Shopify
No serious talk of shopping cart builders fails to include Shopify. Shopify is a tremendous name in this world, with over 800,000 active stores (and presumably many more in the past).
Most impressively, at the time of this writing, Shopify reached a major milestone: it’s facilitated over $100 billion in online sales.
Comparing Shopify to WordPress for ecommerce is complicated, but is similar to BigCommerce and can be summed up as follows: Shopify is best for ease of use, security, and those with shipping needs.
Those with lighter ecommerce needs and who don’t mind some DIY-ing can probably do better with WordPress.
- Super easy to use, with almost everything you need out of the box.
- Very good customer support. It’s not just representatives, but Shopify’s on-site information, tools, and educational material are second to none.
- Good shop design capabilities, with a mostly drag-and-drop approach.
- Terrific for shops that expect to do a lot of shipping, with great discounts and integration with Oberlo. WordPress can integrate with a lot of ecommerce add-ons, including for shipping, Shopify still takes the cake.
- Centralizing everything in one platform makes security and performance more self-assured, whereas with WordPress it depends on your host (assuming you’re using WordPress.org, not .com).
- In line with a lot of options here, Shopify can be expensive not just for its plans, but for the cost of paid apps and themes.Note that while WordPress and WooCommerce (the main ecommerce plugin) are free, many businesses will upgrade to paid versions of plugins and themes on WordPress as well, so this isn’t an exact price comparison.
- Limited in themes, compared to what’s available on WordPress (compare dozens to hundreds/thousands).
- Those with simpler ecommerce needs and who are tech-savvy can use WordPress and WooCommerce easily without spending the money they would on Shopify.
Best website builder alternatives:
In a sense, WordPress is a website builder. WordPress.com certainly functions like a website builder, and WordPress.org has the basic elements of one.
However, the term website builder typically implies a unique focus on ease of use. And while “website builder” does not necessarily mean drag-and-drop, nowadays the popular website builders are drag-and-drop builders.
This makes them tremendously appealing to the inexperienced, and even the experienced who need speed and good-looking solutions.
WordPress is also designed to be user-friendly, but it still involves a lot of moving parts—and importantly, it’s not a drag-and-drop builder.
Note: for both of these website builder alternatives, you can create a free account (without registering a credit card) that more or less lets you use the full set of design features, though of course it’s limited to the companies’ subdomains and low storage.
If you’re unsure about either option, a free account is a good way of finding out!
Alternative No 1: Webflow
Webflow is in fact a lesser known website builder. While there are a lot of website builders out there that can be suitable WordPress replacements, Webflow brings a lot of power to the website building platform that makes it stand out.
It’s overall strength is its fusion of ease of use with customization, and its weakness is a complicated pricing structure and potentially higher expenses.
- As far as website builders go, Webflow is one of the most capable and advanced. Aside from Wix (see below), I’m not sure I’ve seen such a high degree of user-friendliness combined with such a high degree of customization capabilities. And it might even be a little better than Wix in this realm.
- While it’s true WordPress has more themes (WordPress has more themes than all the names on this list), Webflow has really high quality themes that are highly customizable.
- Webflow’s editor is uniquely easy: unlike almost every other builder, Webflow doesn’t have a lot of disconnected pages. You don’t need to go back and forth, you can simply edit on your web pages directly.
- Webflow has a lot of features out of the box that one would need to find plugins for on WordPress.
- Although Webflow is powerful on design, some people might want more advanced settings regarding hosting, their account, plugins, and so on. In these senses, Webflow can be too simple.
- Webflow can be expensive compared to WordPress by default.
- Webflow’s ecommerce functionality is alright, but is still improving. If you didn’t want a full ecommerce solution like those mentioned above, but still wanted some ecommerce functionality, it’s not clear to me Webflow is better than WordPress + plugins.
- Pricing is a little complicated, with two different types of plans (site plans and account plans) that each have their own sub-types, which then each have three tiers.
Alternative No 2: Wix
Wix is probably the most popular website builder around, with over 110 million users, and as such is in direct competition with WordPress.
Being such a popular website builder, Wix is the epitome of a WordPress challenger. Compared to WordPress.com, I think Wix takes the win—but compared to WordPress.org, it’s less clear.
Nonetheless, it’s a capable builder that just might make the perfect alternative for some people.
- Can be easier to use without sacrificing features. Wix is super well-featured and has a fairly robust app store. The result is that you end up with everything you’d have on WordPress, but most of it’s already there or easy to connect.
- The drag-and-drop website builder is very intuitive (and again, well-featured), which might be preferable to WordPress’s customization options—which can be pretty limited.
- Wix is similar to Webflow in that you can do almost any editing related to your website within the website builder application. Except, Webflow is a little more seamless.
- In my experience, Wix has had really strong performance on uptime and response times.
- Wix has a lot of templates, especially compared to other website builders and the ecommerce platforms discussed earlier. It may not be on par with WordPress, but it’s as close as a website builder can get.
- Wix is friendly to developers and programmers, though it’s not the target demographic.
- Wix might be too centralized for some people. This comes down to personal tastes, but as Wix is an all-in-one solution that focuses tremendously on ease of use, some users can feel they lack control over their site. Again, this is highly subjective.
- Like WordPress, Wix doesn’t have a live chat, but the rest of its support is alright.
- Although Wix has blogging features, these aren’t as robust as WordPress’.
Best Content Management System (CMS) alternatives:
A content management systems (CMS) essentially means a system that manages the creation and editing of digital content. Features and styles vary, but technically, just about everything on this list could be considered a CMS.
In practice, CMS tends to have a more specific meaning: it tends to mean a class of systems that allow for a lot user control, and are easier to use than programming from scratch but not as simple or out-of-the-box as website/shopping cart builders.
Most of these are supposed to be connected to your host and domain, just like WordPress.org, but some have special plans that include hosting (like WordPress.com).
Some of these are more complicated than WordPress but allow a greater degree of control, and some are easier.
These have a lot of different pros and cons, but a common flaw to expect: they’re not as easily accommodated or installed on hosts as WordPress is, due to their popularity.
Alternative No 1: Joomla
Joomla! is probably the most popular CMS that isn’t WordPress, along with Drupal. Even between these two popular alternatives, Joomla! is the bigger brother.
Joomla! has been downloaded over 100 million times and its estimated to be the second most popular CMS after WordPress, though it’s not an exact science.
Because Joomla! is probably the closest to WordPress on this list, it shares some of the common benefits and drawbacks.
Overall, Joomla! is not the easier CMS alternative, but the more complicated one.
It’s similar to WordPress, but better suited to more advanced users and those experienced with web development. Powerful, but not #1 on ease of use.
- Most hosts will support Joomla!, though it can possibly get complicated to set up.
- Joomla! has a ton of plugins that can more or less correspond with WordPress’ most popular plugins, and a lot of themes as well.
- Joomla! hits a sweet spot in its popularity: it’s popular enough to have a lot of support and plugins available, but not so popular that you’re faced with tons of unsecure extensions. It’s harder to filter through the junk plugins in WordPress.
- Joomla! has better security out of the box than WordPress, as well as better SEO.
- Joomla! contains a paid option that includes a domain and hosting in addition to its free CMS option, which is simpler than having to choose between WordPress.org and WordPress.com (as they are separate entities).
- Joomla! can sometimes be better for advanced users. It allows users a lot of control, especially when it comes to designing pages or applications. Joomla! is thus a bit better for those more experienced in web development.
- You’re less likely to find as many hosts that accommodate easy Joomla! installs. They certainly exist, but quick installers for WordPress are far more common.
- Although Joomla! can certainly handle blogging, it’s not as optimized for blogging as WordPress is.
- Users inexperienced in web development can still use Joomla! but may have a harder time compared to WordPress, which is more user-friendly.
Alternative No 2: Drupal
I think of Joomla! as the most natural CMS alternative to WordPress. It may be less user friendly, but it’s still usable, and has a lot of WordPress’ strengths. If Joomla! is a step in the learning curve…Drupal is a big leap.
The short version: Drupal is like Joomla! in that it is better for more advanced users looking for serious customization and developer tools out of the box. In my opinion, Joomla! is more challenging than WordPress but less challenging than Drupal.
If usability is important and you aren’t proficient in coding, I wouldn’t recommend Drupal.
If you have some experience with web development and you’re willing to take on a challenge, you’ll find Drupal is super powerful and lets you do whatever you want.
- Drupal is open source and free, like WordPress.
- Drupal is super flexible when it comes to designing and managing your content: while it’s true that you can do a lot with WordPress, Drupal’s main limitation is your imagination and skill. Although I’ll admit those are both common limitations…
- Drupal is better suited for handling a ton of content, especially from the perspective of a user.
- Drupal is great with security, both out of the box and with integrations. WordPress plugins are a common weak point that can infect the entire software, whereas Drupal, even if not perfectly safe, has enterprise-grade security and in-depth reporting. For this reason, many government sites use or have used Drupal.
- On the note of integrations, Drupal has a much wider selection of safe and free “modules” that can extend what your site can do (over 40,000 free modules and counting). However, most of these require advanced knowledge and needs.
- The main downside to Drupal is the learning curve. One doesn’t need programming knowledge to use it, or even to use it effectively, but it can be complicated for new users. Plus, you can make the most of Drupal if you’re more tech-proficient.
- On that note, Drupal is also more difficult to install and set up. Compare this to the ubiquitous one-click installs for WordPress:
- Drupal has themes but because it’s geared towards developers, it has a weaker selection of easy to use and customize themes to choose from.
Alternative No 3: Craft CMS
Craft CMS is well-known, but not as famous an alternative to WordPress as Drupal or Joomla. However, it still can be an option worth considering for those looking for WordPress alternatives.
Although Craft’s entrance has been much more recent—2011-2013—it has been growing in popularity and recognition.
I can certainly see its strengths opposed to WordPress. Craft CMS has a freemium model all from the single entity (a bit like Joomla!).
As I see it, Craft CMS manages to bring the complexity a CMS provides without sacrificing the ease of use WordPress is known for (and that Joomla! and Drupal are comparatively weaker in).
However, it does suffer somewhat for being a smaller CMS, and still is best used by those serious about design and customization.
- The free plan is really robust considering it’s free.
- Craft CMS hits the sweet spot that WordPress and the previous two CMSs lacked. Craft CMS is user-friendly, but also allows a ton of control over design.
- At the same time, Craft CMS is still developer-friendly. It may not be as robust as Drupal, but it’s still bringing a lot to the table.
- The plugins are good, but fewer in number (see “cons”).
- Limited number of pricing plans: you’re either getting a free account (that’s admittedly robust) or an expensive plan. Note that “pro” is a one-time payment per project, not per month.
- Craft CMS has a smaller selection of plugins and less free plugins.
- Although Craft CMS has an easier user-interface and learning curve than Joomla! or Drupal, knowing how to use its features still requires a more advanced understanding—and I don’t mean code necessarily.
- The number of hosts ideal for Craft is limited—you don’t have to use these hosts, but it’s harder to integrate Craft with other hosts, especially compared to the more popular CMSs.
Alternative No 4: Textpattern
And here’s our second-to-last CMS alternative to WordPress. Textpattern is one of the most fitting WordPress alternatives: its origins are pretty similar to those of WordPress.
Textpattern was originally built as a platform for blogging and was released as a CMS in 2003. It’s certainly grown in its capabilities since then, like WordPress has, but like WordPress it’s retained a strength and identity in blogging.
Textpattern, like the previous option on this list, is still a relatively small CMS. And like CMS Made Simple (next!), Textpattern is unique in offering both simplicity for some and power for advanced users.
This makes it good for teams with disparate levels of proficiency, but it’s also great for users who want a simpler CMS.
- Textpattern is really good for accommodating different users, kind of like CMS Made Simple. However, Textpattern is even better for really small teams or individuals than CMS Made Simple in terms of its simpler side.
- Textpattern has a lot of more advanced plugins that are good for knowledgeable users.
- For beginners and advanced users alike, Textpattern is good at making things expedient. It doesn’t feature too much clutter and makes things very easy for quick posting and editing.
- In my opinion, Textpattern’s “easy parts” aren’t as capable as CMS Made Simple or WordPress.
- WordPress has recently updated its post editor, making it more capable and easier to use. Textpattern’s interface for content creation hasn’t kept up with this development, though it’s still overall good.
- Small selection of templates.
- Plugins are generally more advanced in nature.
- WordPress is updated a lot more frequently than Textpattern, though this is mostly due to the differences in size and popularity and probably can’t be helped.
- You’re probably used to this one: because of its size, Textpattern requires beginners to go out of their way to set up than they would have to with WordPress.
Alternative No 5: CMS Made Simple
From the name alone, you’d probably expect CMS Made Simple to be the super easy alternative CMS. Well, it kind of is.
CMS Made Simple is probably my favorite CMS underdog. It’s been around since 2004, but only hit a million downloads in 2010 (it’s a small number compared to WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla!).
However, it’s a highly acclaimed CMS, not just from everyday users but from CMS experts and developers as well.
This is a good hint of my overall take on CMS Made Simple: it’s simple and easy to use, but also has a ton of flexibility and power for developers.
Some of its weaknesses are those natural to a less popular CMS, and I expect these weak points to fade as CMS made simple becomes more popular.
CMS Made Simple is easy and powerful for both the inexperienced and proficient developers, which makes it stand out among CMSs and a great tool for teams struggling to accommodate a diversity of web experience.
- If it’s not already clear, CMS Made Simple is very user friendly. In fact, it’s probably as easy to use as WordPress or even easier depending on your tastes. For a content management system, this is a great feat.
- CMS Made Simple’s user-friendliness doesn’t restrict editing capabilities too much, and in fact can in some cases be more capable than WordPress (especially given the drag-and-drop builder).
- CMS Made Simple is really great for developers who want to work on design. Actually, CMS Made Simple was designed with the goal of reducing dependence on premade themes. However, CMS Made Simple has added tools that make it easier for developers.
- Because CMS Made Simple is intended to reduce dependence on premade templates, this naturally means there is a smaller selection of templates available.
- There’s also a smaller selection of plugins compared to WordPress, though enough for even niche needs.
- Although CMS Made Simple can work with many hosts, not too many are specifically optimal for CMS Made Simple. Hopefully this will change soon.
- This also means that while it’s overall easy to use once it’s in place, installing it and setting it up is more complicated than installing WordPress.
Best blogging platform alternatives:
Alternative No 1: Ghost
Ghost is easily one of the most unique names on this list. It was founded by a Kickstarter campaign aimed at creating a platform for professional publishing. The software itself is open source, but keep in mind that open source does not always equal “free.” In this case, it does not.
Ghost(Pro) is what I’ll be talking about. This is the version of Ghost that you pay for, and includes everything out of the box (including hosting). Note: if you’re an advanced user, you can run the Ghost code and self-host without the costs of Ghost(Pro).
One of the things I find most eye-catching about Ghost is the sheer number of big names that use Ghost for their blogs.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other organizations include Tinder, DuckDuckGo, The Stanford Review, TunnelBear, OkCupid…frankly, the list goes on and on.
A lot of names on this list have notable clients. I think Ghost may simply have the longest list, which is especially impressive considering its focus on blogging. I can’t think of a more reputable blogging software. Well, aside from WordPress…
The pros and cons, however, follow the general trend set up so far. Overall, it’s incredibly robust, but also can be pricier than WordPress.
- Ghost is explicitly for blogging, which makes it a great competitor to WordPress. Its whole premise is focused and put to good use.
- Very friendly to developers. Ghost has a lot of tools that are great for coding directly. WordPress is also developer-friendly, but again—you may need to install plugin x or y to get what you want. Ghost includes really robust tools out of the box.
- Ghost is open source! Now, an important note here is that Ghost isn’t free…However, it is free if you self-host. It’s a bit like WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com in this regard, except everything is from the single Ghost organization. Self-hosting is more complicated than installing WordPress, though, so Ghost is only less expensive for advanced users.
- Probably one of the best things about the Ghost is that it’s extremely feature-filled, out of the box. It’s easily on par with the other big names here—like Shopify or Wix—but dedicated specifically for blogging and is thus in a class of its own.
- A bit expensive: plans start at $29 and go up to $199. This is Ghost(Pro), meaning the fully managed Ghost software that includes hosting and all the features out of the box.
- Ghost is geared towards professional journalists and writers. Obviously, anyone can use it if they want to, but it’s pretty clear this is who Ghost caters to. People who aren’t interested in explicitly professional publishing are unlikely to make the most of Ghost’s capabilities.
Alternative No 2: Medium
If Ghost is the ultra-professional blogging platform, Medium is on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Medium was founded in 2012 and has become immensely popular since then. Medium articles have become ubiquitous on my social media feeds and the feeds of my friends.
Part of Medium’s uniqueness is the way it fuses reporting, simpler blogging, and social media in one platform.
If you’re familiar with its background, this should come as no surprise: Medium was founded by Evan Williams, the guy who also founded Twitter and Blogger. It’s easy to remember if you think of that context: Medium is a medium-sized solution.
Medium certainly stands out on this list for being a little more relaxed and informal in its approach. The overview for Medium: it’s affordable and well-connected to lots of internet readers right off the bat, but might be too simple for some.
Actually, writing on Medium is free: paying for Medium means paying for access to publications and a few settings that will optimize your posts for readership.
- Unlike a lot of other alternatives on this list, it’s not too expensive. Actually, you can make an account and start writing for free, but to get more out of the service, you’ll need to upgrade.
- It’s easy to connect to an audience because you’re already part of the Medium site and network. However, you may want to pay more to make full use of Medium’s network.
- Medium is a popular platform, and it’s quite possible a lot of your friends use it. It integrates well with social media for this reason.
- Here’s an unusual benefit: paid membership includes access to content from a lot of reputable newspapers and magazines. To name a few…
- You’re not going to be working with your own site. Medium is almost a social networking site as much as it’s a blogging platform, so what you write is all part of the Medium website.
- Although you can sign up “normally” (i.e., using an email and creating an account) Medium strongly pushes signing up with social media accounts to the point that you have to go out of your way to not do so. I found this frustrating, but it makes sense given the social media-nature of Medium.
- Although Medium has customization options, some elements of it social-media nature are demonstrated with its simplicity in blog-set up. In fact, you won’t have nearly as much control over your blog as you would with other services. For example, this is what the post creating page looks like:
- On the note of simplicity and user configuration, the simple fact of the matter is that Medium restricts the ownership you have over your blog, especially compared to someone who’s purchased hosting and installed WordPress.
Wow! We’ve taken quite a journey, my friends. Let me recap things as succinctly as I can.
You might want a WordPress alternative because WordPress is too complicated, or not complicated enough.
You might find calculating the costs of setting up an online store more unpredictable because there are no set pricing plans.
You might not be a developer, and find the page-builder on WordPress doesn’t give you enough editing power.
Whatever the reason, there are a variety of alternatives.
If you want solutions that are easier out of the box—meaning, they contain most (if not all) of the features you need and include the hosting—you should check out the ecommerce, website builder, and blogging alternatives I suggested.
They all overlap—blogging platforms can include ecommerce functionality, ecommerce and website builders usually include blogging features—but have their own strengths.
If you want a different content management system—something more complicated than website building and typically separated from hosting, akin to WordPress.org more than WordPress.com—there’s still some variety.
Drupal is on the extreme end of user control, but it has a steep learning curve, whereas Joomla! is sort of in between WordPress and Drupal in user-friendliness.
Craft CMS, CMS Made Simple, and Textpattern are at least as easy as WordPress and sometimes easier, but provide more control than website builder would.
Phew! The good news is that you don’t need to take a shot in the dark. If you know what your goals are, a lot of the battle of finding a WordPress alternative is won.
To win the rest—try them out! Almost all of them are either free software, have free versions, or money-back guarantees. Happy hunting!