(Note: This blog post was updated September 3 after receiving additional information about Joomla! accessibility.)

Content Management Systems (CMS) play a big role in determining how accessible a website is. Ensuring you choose a CMS which champions accessibility is an important method of making sure your website can adapt and meet digital accessibility requirements both now and in the future.

What Exactly is a CMS?

The term "content management system" refers to the systems used to organize digital content for the purpose of administration, organization, and control. While most people may think of websites when they think of CMS, there are actually several different types of CMS:

-Component Content Management System (CCMS)

-Document Management System (DMS)

-Digital Asset Management System (DAM)

-Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)

-Web Content Management System (WCMS)

Why Use a CMS?

A CMS can benefit your organization by making it easier to create a website and build a presence online, while improving productivity. Benefits include:

1. No Coding Knowledge Required:  Pre-made website template designs, drag-and-drop interfaces and other advanced tools are made available with CMS. This transforms the web design experience by allowing users to customize their website's design and manage its content without coding.

2. Easy Updates & Collaboration:  A CMS will allow you to make updates to your website whenever necessary. This way, you'll ensure your site's content is always fresh and relevant. When working with a team, a CMS can streamline the workflow by giving access to multiple members of your team at once.

3. Predesigned Templates:  Most CMS platforms come with a selection of predesigned templates you can use to quickly customize the appearance of your site. They can also affect the behavior of your site.

4. Extensions:  The average CMS will offer various app extensions that can enhance the functionality and performance of your website.

What are the Best Accessible WCMS Options?

While there are many CMS options available today, few support accessibility out-of-the-box or with minimal configuration. Let's compare three WCMS that claim Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG versions 2.0/or 2.1) conformance.

WordPress

WordPress is currently the most popular WCMS in the world. In fact, usage statistics and market share indicate that WordPress powers more than 43% of all websites on the Internet. WordPress.org, aka "the real WordPress" (vs. wordpress.com hosting service), is open-source and it's free to use. 

Wordpress.org has dozens of free accessibility ready themes to allow for accessibility out-of-the-box, and the WordPress community has made web accessibility a priority.

Joomla!

According to recent usage statistics and market share, we see that Joomla is used on 1.6% of all websites. Just like wordpress.org, Joomla is a free, open-source solution. At first glance, Joomla doesn't seem to offer much in the way of accessibility themes or extensions. However, members of the Joomla accessibility team contacted me after this blog post was first published to let me know that they do care very much about accessibility (see Joomla 4 and Accessibility: give back the web to everyone). According to a member of the Joomla accessibility team, they are currently working on writing developer documentation for building accessible templates or plugins/extensions/etc to improve the overall accessibility in the Joomla ecosystem. Kudos to Joomla for showing that they care about accessibility!

Drupal

Looking at usage statistics and market share, we see that Drupal is used on 1.2% of all websites. Like WordPress and Joomla!, Drupal is also a free, open-source solution. On visiting drupal.org, it's apparent that accessibility is taken seriously by this community. Unfortunately for many non-technical users, ease of use is one of Drupal's weak spots. Beyond very basic site customizations, most of the additional changes require users to know how to program in PHP, HTML, and various other languages.

Interested in Learning More?

This blog post only scratches the surface of accessible WCMS options. We will cover several more CMS platforms and discuss accessibility options as well as issues. Not a developer? No worries - there are options for non-techies and techies alike. Want to learn more? Join our next "Be a Digital A11y" session, September 15 at 5 PM Central Time (US and Canada). Register through Humanitix.