We use cookies to make your viewing experience better. By accepting you consent, you agree to our Cookie policy

Improve your Craft CMS skills

Craft Vs Kirby CMS - Which Is Better?

10 min read
Craft Vs Kirby CMS

Choosing the right CMS is crucial for any website. In this comparison of Craft and Kirby, we cut through the noise to highlight the key differences between these two popular options. With insights into their strengths and weaknesses, plus an objective view on which offers better value, this post provides an indispensable guide for developers and site owners making this important decision.

Overview of Craft CMS

Flexible Content Modeling in Craft CMS

Craft CMS, created by Pixel & Tonic, enables flexible and customised content modelling through its use of Sections, Entry Types, Fields and Categories.

With Sections, you can define the overall structure and organisation of your content. For example, you may have Sections for blog posts, products, case studies etc. Within each Section, you can create multiple Entry Types that allows you to model very specific content structures.

For a blog Section, you may have Entry Types like Standard Post, Video Post, Guest Contribution etc. Each Entry Type contains custom Fields like title, body text, author, tags etc. The Fields control the actual content being input.

Categories provide a way to group and filter content. For example, you can assign Categories like News, Updates, Case Studies to blog posts for easy filtering.

Overall, this content modelling functionality enables total flexibility to create structured content tailored to your needs. You get fine-grained control over content architecture.

Intuitive Admin Interface and User Experience

Craft provides an incredibly intuitive admin interface and user experience for those managing and editing content. The UI is clean, uncluttered and very user-friendly.

Key areas like Entries, Categories, Assets are conveniently accessible from the sidebar. Inline editing makes it easy to quickly update content. Drag and drop functionality offers easy reorganising of content structure.

The UI provides clear interfaces for all stages of content creation - drafting, reviewing, approving, publishing. Workflows can be customised to match organisational needs.

There's also a Live Preview mode that updates in real-time as you edit content, meaning you can immediately see how changes will appear on the front-end website.

Overall, Craft removes friction from the editing experience with flexible workflows and intuitive UX that empowers both novice and expert users to efficiently create and manage content.

Plugins and Add-Ons Ecosystem

A huge advantage of Craft is the extensive collection of Craft CMS plugins and add-ons available to enhance its functionality. With over 500 official plugins, the ecosystem provides solutions for almost any need.

Popular plugins include SEO plugins like SEOmatic for optimising content, Redactor for visual editing, Contact Form for creating forms. There are plugins for e-commerce, marketing automation, integrations and more.

The add-ons marketplace features premium extensions for capabilities like multi-site management, advanced user permissions and dynamic content.

For developers, Craft also makes it easy to create custom plugins tailored to a specific project or website. The documentation covers plugin development extensively.

This vast ecosystem ensures the CMS is highly extensible and can scale to meet needs. You can customise Craft with exactly the features you want, avoiding unnecessary bloat.

The vibrant community behind the ecosystem also provides support in forums and Discord. Overall, the plugins and add-ons ecosystem is a huge strength that expands what Craft can achieve.

Overview of Kirby CMS

Simplicity and Ease of Use

Kirby CMS, created by Bastian Allgeier, is designed from the ground up to be a simple, easy to use CMS. The core goal is to offer a minimalist content management experience that is intuitive for clients and removes complexity for developers.

For site owners, Kirby provides a streamlined admin interface to create and manage content. The dashboard offers clear options to add, edit and organise pages and site structure. There's no clutter or confusing menus to understand. Non-technical users can comfortably make edits and updates.

For developers, Kirby uses plain text files for content rather than databases. This simplifies the editing process as content can be managed in files via Git or directly on the server. There's no need to interact with databases or manage schemas. The frontend templating also uses simple PHP without complex frameworks. This enables rapid building of custom sites according to project needs rather than convoluted CMS conventions.

Overall, Kirby's purposeful design focus on simplicity results in a CMS that is easy for both site owners and developers to use productively. The learning curve is minimal.

Flexible and Rapid Development

Kirby enables flexible and rapid development of custom sites thanks to its structured files and folders, plain text content files and templating capabilities.

Site structure is defined through a straightforward files and folders organisation. Pages, snippets, templates are handled as files that can be easily managed.

All content is stored in plain .txt files rather than complex databases. This human-readable format means content editing is simple and version controlling intuitive.

Templating uses PHP, allowing complete control over frontend markup while also taking advantage of PHP's speed and widespread use. HTML and CSS can be crafted to custom needs.

Plugins and extensions are also available to provide additional functionalities like search, forms, authentication etc.

Together, these capabilities allow developers to quickly build robust static sites perfectly tailored to project requirements. There's no need to wrestle CMS conventions and restrictions. Kirby stays out of the way while providing necessary core CMS capabilities.

Lightweight System and Performance

A key advantage of Kirby is its lightweight system and optimised performance. The codebase is compact and efficient, rather than bloated.

This lean core results in low server resource usage and the ability to handle large amounts of traffic and scaling. Sites built on Kirby have high load capacity given the reduced bloat.

Page speeds are also fast thanks to straightforward PHP templating without slow runtimes. HTML and CSS files can be heavily optimised for quick loading. Caching support further improves performance.

In addition, Kirby decouples the admin interface from the frontend site delivered to users. This segmentation improves security and enables optimising the frontend purely for speed and visitor experience.

The lightweight nature also enables Kirby to work well on budget shared hosting. There's no need for complex server infrastructure to run efficiently.

In summary, Kirby's lightweight system design, simplified codebase and decoupled architecture enable it to deliver high performance and efficiency in real-world sites. Speed and scaling are primary advantages.

Comparing Ease of Use

Craft CMS's Intuitive Interface

One of Craft CMS's biggest strengths is its highly intuitive user interface and editing experience. The admin area uses familiar conventions and interactions, meaning non-technical users can comfortably manage content.

The interface provides a WHAT-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editor for writing and formatting content. This resembles commonly used word processors, lowering the learning curve. Inline editing also enables quickly updating content right on the page.

Navigation and menus use simple, recognisable options like "New Entry" and clear icons. The sidebar organises all key areas conveniently. Drag and drop functionality makes reorganising content very intuitive.

Overall, the UI removes complexity and frustration for non-technical editors and publishers. The experience focuses on user-friendliness and accessibility above all else. This makes adoption easy across organisations and teams.

Kirby CMS's Plain Text Files

In contrast, Kirby CMS uses plain text files for managing content. This provides developer flexibility but means some technical knowledge is required for content creators.

All pages, posts, media etc. are stored as .txt or .md files. Content is written in Markdown syntax which provides some formatting but requires learning. More complex formatting requires HTML knowledge.

The files system also means editors need understanding of directories, file naming conventions etc. Content structure depends on organising the files and folders logically.

This approach enables developers to use version control for content and full control over their stack. However, it does mean non-technical editors may find the technical complexity a hurdle.

Impact of User Technical Knowledge

Ultimately, the ideal CMS depends on the technical proficiency of the intended content editors and publishers.

For teams with little technical knowledge, Craft provides the most accessible, intuitive editing experience. The familiar UI and interactions make it easy for novice users to adopt.

For developers or editors with HTML/Markdown knowledge, Kirby gives more direct control and flexibility. The plain text files are simple yet require some learning.

Organisations should consider the background of their content creators when choosing between Craft and Kirby. Technical teams may prefer Kirby while non-technical teams would benefit more from Craft's UX focus. The learning curve can be longer with Kirby.

Both CMSs can work for varied users in the right contexts. However, Craft's user-centric design especially suits common content teams with little technical expertise. Kirby's developer experience appeals more to technical teams willing to learn.

Comparing Features and Functionality

Content Modeling and Structuring

Craft CMS and Kirby take different approaches to modeling and structuring content that each have their strengths.

Craft enables fully custom content models through its Sections, Entry Types, Fields and Taxonomies. You can define specific structures for different content types and relationships between them. The modeling is extremely flexible.

In Kirby, content structure is defined through files and folders. Pages and snippets are files, while site sections are folders containing those files. The architecture is simpler but still extensible.

For complex sites with diverse content needs, Craft's customizable modeling provides fine-grained control to tailor content workflows. Kirby's simpler section-based approach still allows flexibility while requiring less upfront modeling decisions.

Both systems allow powerful structuring of content, with Craft offering more custom models while Kirby focuses on straightforward files and folders.

Templating Languages and Options

Craft CMS uses Twig filters for templating, which offers full control over markup along with the benefits of a templating language like inheritance.

Kirby templates use plain PHP, so developers have complete access to PHP capabilities and logic in templates. This enables precise control over markup and output.

Twig provides some high-level abstractions like layouts and macros that can speed up building templates. But PHP allows tapping into a widely known language for full flexibility.

Both systems allow crafting semantic, accessible markup and custom frontend experiences. Craft's Twig environment offers more out-of-the-box for faster templating, while Kirby provides the power of raw PHP for precise needs.

Handling URLs and Routing

Craft handles URLs and routing through its Entries system - entries are assigned URLs, and requests get routed to the appropriate template based on the entry.

Kirby uses folder structure to handle URLs - pages are files that sit in folders representing the URL structure. Requests get routed to the matching file.

Craft's approach separates content from URLs, so URLs can be changed independently of content. Kirby's file-based URLs are simpler but changes impact files and folders.

Both systems allow total control over URLs, with Craft decoupling content and URLs while Kirby directly aligns the two. Craft requires more configuration while Kirby URLs arise more automatically from file structure.

Comparing Plugins and Add-Ons

Craft CMS Plugins and Add-Ons

Craft CMS has an extensive collection of plugins and add-ons that expand its capabilities for nearly any need. Popular options include:

  • SEOmatic - Optimizes content for search engines and social media. Provides full control over meta information.

  • Redactor - Enables visual WYSIWYG editing and formatting of content. Improves UX.

  • Contact Form - Allows creating customized contact forms for lead generation. Handles form processing and submissions.

  • Commerce - Provides complete e-commerce functionality for products, carts, payments etc.

  • Feed Me - Imports content from external sources like RSS/Atom feeds, CSV, XML etc. Automates content ingestion.

There are also plugins for marketing automation, integrations, analytics, mobile-readiness, administration and more. The ecosystem enables nearly endless extensibility of Craft's core CMS capabilities.

Kirby CMS Plugins

While smaller than Craft's ecosystem, Kirby also offers various plugins and extensions to expand functionality:

  • SEO - Provides SEO optimizations like sitemaps, meta tweaks, open graph tags etc.

  • Sassy - Enables Sass styling for cleaner, more maintainable CSS.

  • Cookies - Manages cookies for compliance, privacy notices, opt-in requirements etc.

  • Redirect - Handles configuring and managing redirects for improved site navigation.

  • Revision - Allows version controlling of content through Git or Kirby's panel. Maintains edit history.

Kirby plugins provide more focused capabilities that nicely complement the core CMS without bloat. The marketplace is still growing.

Comparing Plugin Capabilities

The wider range of Craft plugins caters to nearly any site need - e-commerce, marketing, integrations, content workflows etc. Kirby's plugins offer more granular functionality for specific needs.

For large complex sites, Craft provides plugins for full-fledged capabilities via dedicated add-ons. Kirby aims to satisfy core needs while avoiding bloat.

Craft's approach offers more out-of-the-box while Kirby encourages custom-building for particular requirements not covered by plugins.

Both provide extensibility but Craft enables pre-built solutions while Kirby focuses on a lean, modular approach to extensions. The needs of the project and team determine which philosophy is a better fit.

Comparing Security

Craft CMS Security Provisions

Craft CMS provides several key security provisions including a robust user permission system, password encryption, and vulnerability patching.

The user permission system allows granular control over what users can access and edit within the CMS. Permissions can be set globally or on a per-user basis.

All passwords are encrypted using the strong bcrypt hashing algorithm. This protects against plain-text password theft.

Craft also aims to quickly patch any discovered vulnerabilities and release security updates. New versions are rolled out regularly.

Additional protections like two-factor authentication, CSRF tokens, and HTTPS encryption further harden Craft sites against threats.

Overall, Craft's layered security model provides comprehensive protections against risks and unauthorized access. Defenses are designed to lock down systems and data.

Kirby CMS Security Measures

Kirby leverages file-based access controls, avoidance of databases, and minimal exposed surface area for security.

The admin area uses file permissions to control access rather than complex user accounts. Users must have filesystem rights to take actions.

Without a database layer, there is no database vulnerability surface. Kirby's content files have low risk compared to databases.

The small codebase and simplicity of Kirby also avoids bloat that can introduce exploits. The lean nature increases security.

While not providing elaborated defenses like Craft, Kirby's foundational architecture and simplicity enable locking down systems effectively.

Vulnerability and Threat Management

Both Craft and Kirby emphasize responding quickly to patch newly discovered vulnerabilities. Craft offers more frequent security releases while Kirby relies on discretionary patching.

For proactive threat management, Craft's layered model and pre-built protections provide more levers to reduce risk and lock things down.

Kirby's approach is reactive, responding to threats as they arise rather than pre-emptive hardening. The minimalism limits pre-built defenses.

Craft is likely better suited for high-risk environments needing robust protections. Kirby's simplicity could work for lower-risk scenarios but with more vigilance needed.

The differing philosophies suit different needs. Craft takes a proactive stance while Kirby opts for a lean, unassuming posture.

Comparing Scalability and Performance

Craft CMS Scalability

A key advantage of Craft CMS is its enterprise-level scalability. The system is built to handle large datasets, complex queries, and high traffic volumes.

The codebase is optimized for performance with caching layers, eager loading, and avoiding slow routines. Craft can manage tens of thousands of entries and assets efficiently.

Native support for cloud hosting platforms like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud provides auto-scaling capabilities as traffic grows. Craft sites can scale to support enterprise needs.

The plugin ecosystem also includes further performance tools for optimization, caching, image handling, and more.

For large global organizations and portals, Craft provides scalable power to maintain speed and uptime under heavy loads. It's built for enterprise needs.

Kirby CMS Performance

Kirby CMS is renowned for its lightweight core resulting in excellent performance for small to medium sites.

Without the overhead of a database, Kirby sites load incredibly fast and feel snappy to users. The plain text files allow for ultra-lean operations.

The PHP templating also avoids slow runtimes associated with frameworks. Combined with simple code, Kirby sites achieve great speeds.

For more complex sites, some slowdowns may occur as routing logic and data handling can become more taxing. But Kirby's sweet spot is superb performance for smaller sites.

Large Traffic and Dataset Considerations

For large datasets and traffic volumes, Craft's optimized multi-layer architecture copes better than Kirby's file-based setup.

Craft sites can better handle hundreds of editors, millions of pages, massive asset libraries, and large content workflows. The enterprise design scales well.

Kirby's simplicity starts to hinder heavier loads. Large multi-site structures, complex content modeling, and vast user bases are harder to optimize.

So for complex enterprise scenarios, Craft provides scalability needed to maintain performance. Kirby's purposes focus on more moderate use cases.

Both can work well in the right contexts - Craft where scalability is critical, and Kirby for lean and speedy sites at smaller scales. The use case determines which approach fits best.

Comparing Pricing and Support

Craft CMS Pricing

Craft CMS pricing differs based on site scale and required features/support.

The CMS starts at around $299 for a personal license. Business licenses begin at $699 annually for basic support. Enterprise licenses add premium plugins and enhanced support for larger sites.

Many premium add-ons and plugins also have separate costs. For example, Commerce Pro for e-commerce is an additional $299. Other plugins range from $39 - $199+.

So the overall cost scales up considerably for enterprise sites requiring more capabilities, support and licensing. Expenses can add up but provide professional backing.

Kirby CMS Pricing

Kirby takes a simple one-time purchase approach starting at €35 for a personal license.

Commercial licenses are €499 for a single site and €899 for unlimited sites. Support renewals are optional at €99-€249 annually.

There are no forced recurring fees or complex pricing tiers. Just affordable upfront costs and optional support renewals as desired.

This transparent low-cost model makes Kirby highly accessible. Buying in is minimal compared to Craft's layered plans and add-ons.

Support and Maintenance

Craft provides direct dedicated support and training via its support team and forums. Support costs are built into the various license plans.

Kirby relies more on community forums and email assistance. Direct support requires purchasing reasonably priced annual renewals.

For ongoing maintenance, Craft's managed services ensure sites are maintained but add yearly costs. Kirby leaves maintenance up to the owner beyond optional support renewals.

Craft's approach offers security but requires significant recurring costs. Kirby is more self-managed but has minimal mandatory upkeep costs after initial purchase.

The right option depends on budget and ability to self-maintain vs requiring external ongoing support. Craft offers hand-holding while Kirby provides independence at lower expense.

Comparing Editing and Content Workflows

Craft CMS Editing Experience

A key advantage of Craft CMS is its intuitive, user-friendly editing environment and workflows. The admin provides a visual WYSIWYG interface.

Editors can visually compose and style content with formatting tools, drag and drop, and instant live previews. No coding knowledge needed.

Workflows like approval processes, versioning, localization etc. are visualized through the UI. Less technical users can follow workflows easily.

The Dashboard provides an at-a-glance overview of all content tasks and workflows across the site. Managing large content operations is accessible.

Overall, Craft allows nearly any team member to efficiently create, manage and publish content thanks to its well-designed editing experience.

Kirby CMS Text-Based Content

In Kirby CMS, content is managed primarily through Markdown, YAML and code files instead of visually.

Editors must be comfortable editing Markdown text files and committing changes in Git. Some coding proficiency is beneficial.

There is no WYSIWYG editor. Creating content and workflows revolves around file edits rather than point-and-click.

This code-focused approach provides developer flexibility but limits accessibility for non-technical editors without coding skills. The learning curve is steeper.

Comparing Workflows

Craft's visual environment enables intuitive content workflows that facilitate rapid publishing and editing even for novice users.

Kirby's text-based model requires more upfront and ongoing technical management. But workflows can be customized as needed programmatically.

For organizations without specialized technical teams, Craft makes it easier to distribute content tasks across multiple editors and authors without coding.

Kirby environments typicallycentralize content through devs and technical editors. Less technical users will face a trickier learning curve.

The ideal fit depends on the technical proficiency and size of the content team. Craft supports larger teams of non-technical editors, while Kirby suits smaller teams with some development skills.

Comparing Site Building Approaches

Templating in Craft CMS

Craft CMS uses the Twig templating language to craft and build the frontend site templates. Twig provides full control over HTML and CSS.

It enables template inheritance for better architecture. Base templates define reusable layout blocks, while child templates override blocks to customize pages.

Macros, filters, functions and other constructs provide modular, DRY ways to build UIs.

The templating is very flexible - developers can build custom page types, componentize UI patterns, tap into CMS data, and deliver complex custom sites.

Twig's specialized web focus and abstractions on top of PHP streamlines building modern sites and UIs faster.

Structured Files in Kirby CMS

Kirby eschews separate templating languages and instead relies on PHP template files that follow its content file/folder structure.

Files like page.php, blog.php define page templates and link directly to content files for rendering. Organization is strict.

This coupled approach provides simplicity but also constraints. You must follow naming conventions and maintain synchronicity between files and folders.

Custom layouts and architectures require planning the content files and template files in tandem. There's less flexibility than separate templating.

But the strict structure promotes consistency and forces discipline in site architecture. And using raw PHP affords precision.

Comparing Flexibility

Craft's Twig layer provides more freedom to customize templates separately from content structure. Frontend patterns can be easily abstracted.

Kirby's content-template coupling delivers simplicity but also rigidity. Deviation from conventions requires more effort.

For complex sites needing extensibility, Craft's decoupled approach makes enhancing templating and UI easier without disturbing content models.

Kirby's unified content-display model suits smaller sites happy to work within its structured constraints for simplicity.

Neither is inherently better - for simpler sites, Kirby's structured rigidity brings order. For more complex sites, Craft's flexibility enables greater customization and growth.

Choosing Between Craft CMS and Kirby CMS

Complexity vs Simplicity

A key consideration is whether Craft's flexible but more complex ecosystem is warranted, or if Kirby's radical simplicity better suits needs.

For basic brochure sites, Kirby's minimalist approach may provide all the CMS capability needed without over-engineering. Craft's vast feature set could become complex bloat.

But for advanced sites needing custom workflows and interfaces, Craft gives more control to build complexity required. Kirby forces working within its constraints.

Determine how much complexity current and future needs demand. Craft adds power but also ramps up initial and ongoing configuration and customization work.

Feature Needs and Gaps

Conduct an audit of required features like search, forms, e-commerce etc. and identify any gaps.

For advanced capabilities, Craft's plugins may be necessary. For a blog and basic pages, Kirby should suffice.

Also assess long term roadmap and growth plans. Will wider integrations or multi-site management be needed eventually? Craft addresses enterprise needs better.

Matching current and future requirements to each system's capabilities will reveal if any dealbreakers exist. Fill any critical gaps.

Budget and Pricing

Craft's tiered premium pricing works better for funded enterprises. Teams that can invest will gain excellent support and scale.

For smaller teams and projects, Kirby's one-time cost unlocks core CMS capabilities at a budget-friendly price.

Factor in ongoing costs too - mandatory Craft upgrades vs. optional Kirby support renewals. Budget for the long term commitment required.

Ultimately both provide value depending on needs and resources. Kirby offers affordability while Craft provides enterprise robustness at a higher price.

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. 

Show us some love
Email Us
We usually reply within 72 hours
Agency Directory
Submit your agency
Affiliate Partners
Let's chat