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Craft CMS Vs Wordpress - Which Is Better?

10 min read
Craft CMS Vs Wordpress

Choosing the right CMS can make or break your website. Craft CMS and WordPress are two popular options, but which suits your needs? This comparison of features, flexibility, costs and more cuts through the noise to highlight the key differences. Gain the insights you need to decide if Craft or WordPress is the best CMS for your next project.

Comparing Craft CMS and WordPress yields no objective winner - both platforms have distinct pros and cons. Craft excels for customized experiences, structured content and developer focus. WordPress wins for affordability, ease of use and plug-in ecosystem. Evaluate strengths aligned with specific project needs and constraints to decide which CMS solution fits best.

Comparing Craft CMS and WordPress

Overview of Purpose and Scope

This article provides an in-depth, side-by-side comparison of Craft CMS and WordPress. The aim is to analyse the key differences between the two content management systems to help readers determine which platform may be better suited to their needs and goals. We'll look at factors like ease of use, flexibility, scalability, security and more. Whether you're considering migrating from one CMS to the other or choosing for a new project, this guide aims to give you the details to make an informed decision. Strap in for an extensive feature-by-feature appraisal.

Brief Background on Craft CMS and WordPress

First, a quick intro to each CMS. So, what is Craft CMS? Craft CMS is an open source, flexible content management system designed specifically for developers, designers and digital agencies. Released in 2013 by Pixel & Tonic, it's built on the Yii PHP framework and uses Twig for templating. Craft offers a clean content editing interface and aims to provide freedom and flexibility for developers.

WordPress, on the other hand, is the world's most popular CMS powering over 40% of all websites. Originally created as a blogging platform, it has evolved into a versatile open source CMS suitable for all kinds of sites. Backed by Automattic, WordPress is built on PHP and MySQL and uses custom templates. It aims to be easy and intuitive for all users.

So in a nutshell, Craft CMS caters more to developers while WordPress focuses on simplicity and ease of use. Both have their strengths which we'll analyse throughout this comparison.

Defining the Evaluation Criteria

To comprehensively compare Craft CMS and WordPress, we will analyse the two platforms across several key criteria:

  • Ease of use - How intuitive is the CMS for content editors and site administrators? How steep is the learning curve?

  • Flexibility and customisation - To what extent can the platform be customised for complex, bespoke site builds? How much freedom and control does it provide developers?

  • Scalability - How well can the CMS handle large amounts of content and traffic? How easily can it integrate with various third-party tools and apps?

  • Security - What security features and hardening does the platform offer natively? How vulnerable is it to exploits?

  • SEO capabilities - How SEO-friendly is the CMS out of the box? Does it allow fine-tuning metadata, URLs, etc?

  • Ecosystem and support - How rich is the community and marketplace around the CMS? What official and third-party support options exist?

  • Pricing and licensing - What are the costs involved in using the CMS, including core platform, add-ons, hosting etc?

By comparing Craft and WordPress across these parameters, we'll paint a holistic picture of their respective strengths and weaknesses. Let's dive in.

Evaluating Backend and Administrative Experience

Dashboard and Admin UI

The backend dashboard and administrative UI can make or break a CMS platform. It needs to be intuitive yet powerful for users of all technical abilities.

Craft CMS provides a clean, uncluttered admin interface focused on content editing. The sidebar navigation gives quick access to all core areas like Entries, Assets, Users etc. Inline editing allows making changes directly on the front-end. The UI is highly customisable for different user permissions. Overall, the Craft backend prioritises simplicity and ease of use.

WordPress has a more utilitarian admin panel with denser menus and settings. It can feel a bit overwhelming initially but is packed with options. Navigation relies on nested menus rather than a sidebar. Customisation requires installing admin themes or plugins. The UI works well once you get used to it but has a steeper learning curve than Craft.

For most content editors, Craft's admin interface would likely seem more user-friendly and intuitive on first view. For developers, WordPress offers more configuration options but at the cost of some UI complexity.

Content Authoring Workflows

When it comes to actually creating and publishing content, both CMS platforms have robust but slightly different workflows.

Craft offers flexible authoring options through its modular content approach. Content types, fields, sections and entries allow modelling complex content structures. Relationships between content elements can be defined. Multi-site publishing is supported out of the box. Overall, Craft provides fine-grained control over content workflows.

In WordPress, content authoring revolves around posts and pages. Custom post types and fields can be added for further flexibility. Publishing options like scheduled posts and contributor access provide solid workflow management. But being able to quickly view and create related content takes more work in WordPress compared to Craft's content relationships.

For complex editorial workflows, Craft's structured content approach has an edge. But for blogs and simpler sites, WordPress offers a familiar and straightforward authoring experience.

Administrative Customization and Configuration

When using a CMS, the ability to adapt it for specific use cases is critical. Both WordPress and Craft offer extensive administrative customisation, but in different ways.

In Craft, custom fields, sections, entry types, user groups etc allow tailoring the CMS for different content models. Configurations are available for image and asset management, SEO, user permissions and more. But Craft's approach is more centred around content structure flexibility.

WordPress offers perhaps even greater breadth of configuration options - everything from appearance to writing settings to media management can be adapted as needed. The plugin ecosystem expands possibilities exponentially. However, customisation often requires tackling individual settings across various menus.

For focused content structuring freedom, Craft provides robust customisation. For maximum site configuration adaptability, WordPress is hard to beat.

Comparing Front-end Design and Customization

Templating Languages and Capabilities

Craft CMS uses the flexible Twig templating language for front-end design. Twig allows full programmatic control over display logic and presentation while still being designer-friendly. Templates provide complete access to all content elements and site data for display.

WordPress uses PHP templates complemented by HTML and CSS. The templating relies more on themes and custom code rather than Twig's logic-driven approach. While PHP provides precision, it can be less accessible for non-developers. Overall, Twig offers a more powerful front-end templating experience.

UI and UX Flexibility and Control

When it comes to customising the front-end UI and UX, Craft gives developers extensive control thanks to its templating capabilities and frontend agnosticism. The presentation layer is completely separate from the backend. UI components can be built from markup and stylesheet foundations.

With WordPress, UI/UX flexibility relies more on modifying existing themes or building custom ones. While absolutely possible, it requires working within the constraints of different starter themes and existing PHP templates. There is less separation between backend and frontend.

So for developers who want to craft completely customised user interfaces with minimal constraints, Craft provides greater adaptability and control.

Responsive Design Options

Responsive, mobile-friendly design is crucial for any modern website. Craft CMS fully supports building adaptive, multi-device experiences through its flexible templates and device previewing. Grid system integrations like Bootstrap can be leveraged for responsive frameworks.

In WordPress, responsiveness depends more on the theme chosen. Most premium themes come with responsive or adaptive designs. Plugins and frameworks like Bootstrap can also add mobile-friendliness, but the CMS itself doesn't handle it natively.

While both platforms allow mobile-optimized sites, Craft provides a bit more flexibility for adaptive responses out of the box. But with the right theme and plugins, WordPress can match Craft's capabilities.

Evaluating Core Features and Functionality

Plugin Ecosystem and Offerings

One major difference between WordPress and Craft CMS is the breadth of available plugins and add-ons.

The WordPress plugin repository boasts over 55,000 free plugins covering every conceivable functionality. Premium plugins expand capabilities even further. There's a plugin for just about anything you could want to add to a WordPress site.

Craft has its own library of free and paid plugins but it's smaller, numbering in the few hundreds. The modules are generally more focused on integrating specific features like ecommerce or SEO optimization. The scope is not as wide as WordPress, which could be considered a disadvantage of Craft CMS. 

For extending site functionality, WordPress provides an unparalleled wealth of plugin options from security to performance to design. Craft's offerings are more selective but deeply integrated.

Built-in SEO Capabilities

Good SEO is critical for traffic and rankings. Out of the box, Craft CMS comes with robust SEO capabilities through its native Search Engine Optimization module. It allows configuring titles, meta descriptions, optimizing entry URLs and more.

WordPress has some basic on-page SEO functionality like editable page titles. But for advanced optimization, SEO plugins like Yoast SEO are required. The native capabilities are decent but Craft includes more built-in optimization.

Native Commerce Support

If you need to sell products or services online, how do the two CMS platforms handle ecommerce needs?

Craft doesn't have native shopping or payment handling, but its Craft Commerce plugin delivers complete shop and cart management. Paid extensions like Stripe or PayPal integrations are also available.

WordPress natively supports neither commerce nor payments. WooCommerce is the standard plugin for building stores accepting payments, handling shipping etc. Lots of extensions exist for payment gateways, shipping calculators and other ecommerce functionality.

So neither platform has pure native commerce, but established plugins provide robust ecommerce solutions for both Craft and WordPress sites. The experience is quite comparable

Comparing Platform Performance

Website performance is a vital metric, impacting everything from user experience to search rankings. How do Craft and WordPress compare on key performance parameters?

Page Load Speed and Caching

Fast page loads are essential, and caching is the prime way to accelerate display times.

Craft CMS has robust native caching for elements, templates, CSS/JS and more. Varnish integration further optimizes cache handling. Page caching plugins like Cache Warmer also available. Overall, solid caching capabilities.

WordPress has basic object caching but more extensive caching requires plugins like WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache etc. The plugin ecosystem provides a wealth of caching options tailor-made for WordPress's architecture.

Both platforms allow optimized caching strategies for rapid load times. WordPress likely has a slight edge with its wide array of specialized caching plugins.

Scalability and Load Testing

For large enterprise sites, the ability to scale up to handle heavy traffic is crucial.

Craft CMS touts its ability to handle large global sites with millions of pages. Load testing verifies that it scales well with multiple servers and caching. Lightweight architecture optimized for scalability.

WordPress powers over 35% of the web, including some of the highest-traffic sites online. Case studies demonstrate the ability to handle serious loads with proper configuration. A vast ecosystem increases optimization options.

Real-world experience confirms both CMS platforms can be scaled up to serve massive traffic volumes when properly configured.

Uptime Reliability and Downtime

No one likes it when a site goes down unexpectedly. How reliable have these platforms been historically?

Public uptime stats for Craft CMS are hard to find. But reviews praise its stability, and Pixel & Tonic offers SLAs guaranteeing uptime on hosted plans. Downtime incidents appear relatively rare.

WordPress's long track record allows aggregated uptime analysis. Typical stats show 95%+ average uptime, with around 5 total hours of downtime per month. Reliability is generally excellent, given its massive user base.

Both CMS solutions deliver strong uptime when hosted and configured optimally. Overall WordPress likely has a slight edge in proven reliability over time.

Evaluating Platform Security

Running a secure, hardened CMS is an absolute must for any site. How do Craft and WordPress stack up on key security criteria?

Security History and Track Record

Given its massive user base, WordPress's security track record is well publicized. Its open source nature leads to frequent discoveries of exploits. Automattic is responsive with patches but vulnerabilities regularly crop up. Proper hardening is required.

Craft CMS has a cleaner security history with fewer reported issues. Some attribute this to its lower profile. But reviews praise Pixel & Tonic's proactive security stance. Overall, Craft appears less susceptible to widespread exploits.

Based on real-world security records, Craft CMS edges out WordPress in terms of fewer hacks and breaches. But WordPress's openness also ensures transparency when issues arise.

Built-in Security Protections

Every CMS platform should provide native security capabilities to protect user data and prevent unauthorized access.

Craft natively enforces strict permissions for user accounts and user groups. Frontend and backend protection blocks various attack types. User sessions utilize encryption. A solid foundation of security features.

WordPress offers user roles and permissions, salted password hashing, and some malicious input filtering. An integrated firewall module provides additional protection. But more advanced security requires plugins.

Both platforms deliver security fundamentals, but Craft CMS provides more robust native protections overall. WordPress capabilities can be expanded significantly via plugins, however.

Ongoing Security Practices

To stay secure, a platform must be proactive with updating plugins, patches, and vulnerability disclosure.

Craft CMS issues security notices with each release noting patched vulnerabilities if any. Pixel & Tonic is responsive in patching reported issues. Release cadence averages 5-6 times a year.

WordPress has a strong security team that rapidly pushes patches and new versions when threats emerge. Updates are released around once a month. Bug bounty program rewards researchers. Very active in the security space.

To keep up with the ever-evolving security landscape, both WordPress and Craft adopt ongoing practices critical for identifying and closing vulnerabilities before exploits can occur.

Comparing the Development Experience

For developers building and customising sites, the CMS experience can greatly impact productivity and efficiency. How do Craft and WordPress compare on key development factors?

Onboarding and Learning Curve

When getting started with a new platform, the learning curve can make or break developer adoption.

Craft CMS relies on common web dev languages like Twig and PHP. The documentation is excellent, and the architecture is clean and consistent. The onboarding experience is quite smooth for most.

WordPress uses standard LAMP/LEMP stack development skills. But mastery requires learning WordPress-specific architecture like hooks, theming etc. The learning curve is a bit steeper than Craft.

For a developer new to either platform, Craft likely offers a gentler onboarding, while WordPress requires unpacking its unique concepts.

Developer Documentation and Resources

Access to ample documentation and learning resources is invaluable when building with a CMS.

Craft provides extensive official documentation covering all aspects of using and extending Craft CMS. Video tutorials and guides abound from Pixel & Tonic and the community.

WordPress offers thorough codex documentation and handbooks covering theming, plugin development etc. The vast community creates endless tutorials and references for learning WordPress development.

Both platforms deliver excellent documentation and learning materials for developers of all skill levels. WordPress likely has even more resources due to its maturity and ubiquity.

Flexibility and Extensibility

A prime benefit of open-source CMS platforms is developers' ability to mould them to specific use cases.

Craft CMS gives developers control over front-end display while providing well-structured APIs for adding backend functionality. Craft plugins extend capabilities further. Overall, Craft is quite extensible.

WordPress is famously flexible, with a near-infinite array of hooks, filters, themes and plugins for customization. Strong inspection tools aid debugging and modification during development. Extremely extensible.

For developers needing to push a CMS platform to its limits, WordPress offers unmatched modification flexibility thanks to its tried and tested core architecture.

Cost Considerations and Comparison

Beyond just features, the costs involved in using and maintaining a CMS platform are important considerations for any organisation. How do WordPress and Craft CMS compare in this regard?

Licensing and Pricing

WordPress is open-source software licensed under GPLv2, meaning it is free to use without any license fees. Craft CMS pricing offers both a free open-source version and paid licensed versions with additional features, support etc. Pricing starts at $299 for a personal license.

So WordPress provides its core platform entirely free, while Craft offers broader capabilities and support through affordable paid licenses.

Hosting and Infrastructure

WordPress's LAMP/LEMP stack requirements are widely available from most shared hosts, starting at around $5/month. Optimized managed WordPress hosting plans are also prevalent. Lots of cost-effective options.

Craft CMS also runs on standard web servers, though optimized Craft hosting from Pixel & Tonic or partners may be preferable. Expect comparable hosting costs to WordPress sites.

Overall, required web infrastructure costs are very similar for both platforms - phable and scaling is possible as traffic grows.

Professional Services and Labor

Due to its ubiquity and maturity, WordPress benefits from a thriving marketplace of designers, developers, agencies etc offering competitive rates on services. An abundant labour pool keeps costs in check.

With Craft's smaller but growing community, hiring talent requires a more targeted search. But Craft expertise commands strong rates given demand. Average project costs likely fall between WordPress and custom builds.

For large projects needing many professional hours, WordPress may carry a cost advantage for now due to its expansive talent pool. But for smaller sites, Craft's speciality talent delivers equal value.

So in terms of overall lifetime costs - licensing, hosting, services etc - WordPress likely carries a slight edge currently thanks to its cost efficiencies. But for certain use cases, Craft CMS provides advantages worth the premium investment.

When to Choose WordPress

Based on our extensive comparison, for which types of websites and use cases does WordPress make the most sense as the CMS of choice?

Use Cases for WordPress

For blogs, news sites, and basic brochure sites, WordPress absolutely excels. Its custom post types and fields provide just the right content flexibility without unnecessary complexity. The familiar UI and multitudes of themes get sites up quickly.

For sites needing a huge array of functionality via plugins, WordPress delivers endless options. Complex web applications can be built leveraging the WordPress core, even if not a conventional blog or content site.

For sites on a tight budget, WordPress's free open-source core and affordable hosting/services make it hard to beat financially. The cost savings vs custom builds can be substantial.

For developers with PHP/MySQL skills but lacking frontend design abilities, WordPress makes it possible to build powerful sites solo thanks to available themes. Customization potential is also ample.

For non-technical users who just need a simple, attractive site, WordPress empowers anyone to publish online with minimal learning curve. The CMS was built for this.

For organizations planning a large multi-site network, WordPress has proven performance at scale to handle the workload. Enterprise-grade sites are absolutely feasible.

And for nearly any established site looking to migrate from an outdated or inflexible CMS, WordPress offers a clear upgrade path thanks to its importers and vast theme/plugin selection. The transition can be relatively smooth.

So in summary, WordPress excels at everything from simple blogs to advanced applications, all while maintaining a user-friendly angle and affordable costs. For many use cases, it remains hard to beat as a content management system. The worldwide popularity speaks to its versatility and approachability.

When to Choose Craft CMS

Based on our detailed comparison, for what types of projects and use cases does Craft CMS represent the smarter choice over WordPress?

Use Cases for Craft CMS

For complex, structured content models with versatile front-end presentation needs, Craft provides the flexible content architecture required. The focused approach shines here.

For sites where the developer experience trumps ease of use for end clients/editors, Craft CMS delivers. The clean codebase, extensibility, and customization empower developers.

For organisations seeking a future-proof, modern CMS aligned with Jamstack principles, Craft fits the bill. It embraces modern web development philosophies.

For teams needing granular editorial workflow control, Craft's Sections, Entries, Drafts etc allow crafting custom workflows for content creation/approval. Multi-site publishing also built-in.

For sites where slick custom UI/UX design is a priority, Craft's front-end focus gives designers immense control over presentation and interactivity.

For projects with complex, large data sets powering the site content, Craft's versatile data architecture can elegantly model content relationships.

For sites seeking a finely tuned SEO experience from URL structures to metadata, Craft provides robust optimization abilities out of the box to maximize search visibility.

For organizations unwilling to compromise on security protections, Craft CMS delivers stringent measures to harden sites against modern threats and vulnerabilities. Peace of mind here.

In summary, Craft CMS shines when flexibility, customization, and developer experience are paramount. For complex sites where WordPress may become unwieldy, Craft provides a leaner alternative true to modern web principles. Its focused approach pays dividends for the right projects.

Shape April 2022 HR 202
Andy Golpys
- Author

Andy has scaled multiple businesses and is a big believer in Craft CMS as a tool that benefits both Designer, Developer and Client. 

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