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October CMS Vs Craft - Which Is Better?

10 min read
Craft CMS Vs October CMS

Choosing the right CMS is crucial for any website. October CMS and Craft CMS are two popular options, but which one is better for your needs? This article compares the pros and cons of these systems. Gain insight into key factors like flexibility, security, and performance. Discover which platform is the best fit for your next project. You’ll learn everything you need to make an informed decision.

Based solely on the objective data, Craft CMS edges out October CMS in performance benchmarks, while October CMS provides more flexibility and customization as open source software. However, both are excellent PHP-based headless CMS options.

Technical Architecture and Foundations

Built on Laravel Framework

Both October CMS and Craft CMS are built on top of the Laravel PHP framework. This provides them with a robust and flexible backend architecture for core capabilities like routing, caching, database access and more.

Laravel is one of the most popular PHP frameworks, known for its elegant syntax and expressive design patterns. By building on Laravel, October and Craft inherit many advantages right out of the box. The framework handles a lot of low-level plumbing, allowing the CMS to focus on higher-level CMS functionality.

Some key benefits the Laravel foundation provides:

Built-in caching for improved performance. Laravel has robust caching support out of the box, which is critical for fast page loads.

Migrations and schema building make evolving the database easy. Laravel's schema builder and migrations allow seamless changes to the database as the CMS evolves.

Queues and task scheduling.
Queue jobs with Laravel's queues for improved application performance. Schedule cron jobs with Laravel Task Scheduling.

Route configuration offers flexible URL routing for the frontend. Define routes easily and parameterize them.

Laravel Eloquent ORM for working with database records through PHP objects vs SQL. Expressive and intuitive active record implementation.

Support for multiple database systems - MySQL, Postgres, SQLite and SQL Server. Not locked into one database.

Overall, having a robust framework like Laravel at its core allows October and Craft to focus on high quality CMS capabilities, content management workflows, designer-friendly templates and developer extensibility. The CMS authors can rely on Laravel for the foundations.

Headless CMS Approach

Both October and Craft adopt a headless or decoupled CMS architecture. This means that the backend CMS and frontend presentation layer are separated.

The CMS exposes content through APIs and focuses solely on content management capabilities. The frontend consumes the content through the API and focuses solely on presentation and UI.

Some benefits of this headless approach:

  • Frontend is decoupled from backend and not locked into one technology or framework. You have the flexibility to build the presentation layer with any frontend framework - React, Vue, Angular etc.

  • Frontend and backend development can happen in parallel. The frontend developers can build the presentation layer using mock data, without needing to wait for the CMS project to be ready.

  • The CMS content is available to any frontend that wants to consume it - websites, mobile apps, IoT devices, etc. Content is centralized while multiple frontends can leverage it.

  • Faster iteration on UI/UX without needing to modify CMS itself. Make frontend tweaks and changes without touching backend CMS.

Both October and Craft expose content via JSON APIs that frontend applications can consume. They embrace this decoupled approach fully, making their CMS offerings focused exclusively on world class content authoring, management and organization. The frontend layer is completely separate.

This headless architecture represents the modern way of building websites and applications, providing great flexibility.

Local Development Environments

Both October and Craft recognize that developers need robust local development environments for building websites. This allows developing, iterating and testing websites locally before officially launching on live production servers.

Some key features they provide:

  • Integrated local web server - Apache/Nginx are bundled right within their environments.

  • Frontend tools like Webpack or Laravel Mix for asset bundling and preprocessing Sass, TypeScript etc.

  • Local queues, schedules and caching to mimic production environment for realistic testing.

  • Debugging and profiling tools available right in local dev.

  • Git integration so you can track changes to site contents.

  • Staging environments to test finalized changes before pushing live.

These streamlined local dev environments enable much faster development of October/Craft based sites. Developers can replicate the live CMS and site locally and build iteratively without needing to constantly push to live servers for testing.

The flexibility to prototype, experiment and test extensively in local environments is invaluable before launching live. This leads to smoother launches and less buggy experiences.

Overall, the robust technical architecture and foundations like Laravel, headless APIs and local dev allow October and Craft to deliver flexible and customizable CMS experiences. Developers have great latitude when building sites powered by these platforms.

Feature Comparison between October CMS and Craft CMS

Frontend Theming Support

Both October CMS and Craft CMS provide robust theming capabilities to fully customize the frontend presentation and site designs. However, they differ in their approach.

October CMS relies on PHP templates for theming, similar to WordPress. Designers familiar with PHP/HTML will feel at home creating October themes. It also has out of the box support for the Twig templating language. Twig encourages cleaner, semantic templates over PHP's mix of logic and presentation.

Craft CMS uses Twig templates exclusively for its theming layer. Twig forces a strict separation of business logic from presentation, leading to more maintainable themes long-term. Craft also provides HTML-based {{ variables }} vs PHP's mixed syntax.

Both systems support the Bootstrap CSS framework for rapid development of responsive designs. Custom Sass/CSS can adapt the frontend styling infinitely.

Overall, October may appeal more to developers used to PHP theming, while Craft offers a cleaner approach with Twig-only. Both allow extensive theming flexibility - the choice comes down to preference for PHP vs Twig templating.

Plugins and Components Ecosystem

Plugins and components allow for the extension of the core CMS functionality significantly. Both October and Craft have extensive ecosystems here.

October CMS has a first-party plugin ecosystem with over 100+ plugins available. These tightly integrate with the core and enhance major subsystems like users, SEO, forms, social media and more. There are also hundreds of third-party plugins.

Craft CMS takes a different approach - all plugins are third party. But Craft curates and promotes select plugins it sees as core to the system. Examples are SEO, Contact Forms, E-Commerce. The first-party feel makes these effectively part of Craft's core experience.

Both CMSs also provide a modular component architecture. Developers can create reusable components for common blocks like hero sections, testimonials, cards etc. These modular blocks accelerate website development.

Overall the plugins and components ecosystems are rich and mature for both systems. October's first-party offering contrasts with Craft's curated plugins model. Both facilitate extending the CMS in major ways.

Content Modeling and Fields

The content modelling capabilities are robust for both October CMS and Craft CMS. The flexible field and content section systems allow the modeling of all types of structured content.

In October CMS, content types are created as sections which contain specific field blueprints. For example, a "Blog Post" section can have fields like "Title", "Body", "Featured Image" etc. The blueprints enforce structure.

Craft CMS takes a similar approach but with additional flexibility. You create individual fields and field groups first. These can then be reused across multiple content types and sections. For example, an "SEO" group of fields can be reused across pages.

Both systems provide extensive built-in field types like text, images, files, date/time, categories, relations and more. There are also add-on field types, e.g. for maps, Markdown, and slider inputs.

Overall, the modelling capabilities are mature and allow flexible structuring of all types of content. Craft's reusable fields have an edge for complex sites but October's sections also get the job done.

In summary, while both October CMS and Craft CMS take slightly different approaches, they both enable developers to build sophisticated websites powered by structured content models, flexible templates, and extendable plugins. They represent robust modern PHP-based CMS options.

Ease of Use Comparison

Learning Curve and Ramp Up Time

For developers first building sites with October CMS or Craft CMS, the initial learning curve is reasonably manageable with both systems. The ramp up time to proficiency is comparable.

October CMS offers a gentle learning curve for developers familiar with frameworks like Laravel and WordPress. The conventions will feel familiar, making onboarding smooth. Complete beginners may need a longer ramp up but clear documentation helps.

Craft CMS equally has a progressive learning curve, especially for those with some CMS exposure. The frontend Control Panel and templating conventions guide new users. The learning curve steadily builds skills vs overwhelming initially.

For content editors, October CMS provides an intuitive tab-based WYSIWYG Control Panel for managing content. Minimal training is needed to orient writers. Craft's CP is similarly clean and well-designed for onboading editorial teams.

Overall, the learning curves are graded thoughtfully in both systems. Developers with some adjacent experience will ramp up fastest, but beginners are still catered to. The ramp up time to proficiency ranges from weeks to months depending on prior experience.

Documentation and Tutorial Resources

Both October and Craft provide extensive learning resources like documentation, tutorials, videos, and courses for ramping up developers and users.

October CMS prides itself on in-depth documentation with over 200 articles explaining concepts, guides for common tasks, references for all parameters and configuration options. It offers multiple learning pathways.

Craft also provides detailed documentation organized by user type - developers, designers, content editors etc. The concepts are explained clearly with useful visuals. It's kept updated consistently.

There are ample community tutorials and courses available for both systems, given their popularity. Paid premium courses provide structured learning pathways for those seeking more formal training.

Overall, the documentation and learning resources are comprehensive for both October and Craft. They provide multiple avenues for developers and users to get up to speed and ramp up their proficiency with guidance.

Technical Support Options

October and Craft both provide technical support through multiple channels to help troubleshoot issues, guidance for complex implementations etc.

October CMS offers paid premium support plans that guarantee response times and access to core team members. There are also community forums which are reasonably active for seeking help.

For Craft CMS, there is no official support beyond documentation. However the community support is excellent, with Discourse forums that are patrolled by the Craft team to provide prompt assistance.

Third party services also offer support plans for Craft CMS implementations for those needing dedicated assistance. There are also conferences and meetups to connect with other developers.

Overall, while Craft relies more on community support vs dedicated assistance like October, the channels available facilitate resolving technical issues. Developers have options to get help with both CMSs as needed.

In summary, October CMS and Craft CMS aim to provide smooth onboarding for new users, ample learning resources for ramping up, and solid community/technical support for resolving issues. For most use cases, the ease of use is comparable between both.

Extendability and Integration Capabilities

APIs and Webhooks

Given their headless architecture, both October CMS and Craft CMS offer robust APIs and webhooks for integration.

October CMS provides a complete REST API for managing content, users, forms and navigation. This facilitates building custom CMS integrations and frontend experiences beyond the out of the box capabilities.

Craft CMS also has a GraphQL based API for querying content from any application. It supports webhook events for things like new entries being published or updated. This enables automation flows with external services.

For example, when new blog content is published to the CMS, a webhook can trigger that content to be automatically shared on social media channels. Product updates can be pushed to an external catalog automatically.

Overall, the consumable APIs and automation-focused webhooks allow deep integration between October/Craft and external services or custom-built applications.

JavaScript and Frontend Framework Support

On the frontend layer, both CMSs provide integrations with popular JS frameworks like React, Angular and Vue.

For October CMS, there are community-built starter kits and boilerplates for integrating React, Vue and other frameworks. These accelerate web development with October powering the backend.

Craft CMS takes integration further by providing official first-party support for major frameworks like Vue, React and Tailwind CSS. This allows Craft's flexibility to combine with the interactivity and performance of these frontend tools.

Developers can choose their preferred framework for the frontend presentation while relying on October or Craft for the content backend. The CMS remains decoupled and headless, serving content to any frontend.

Two-way Sync with External Databases

For managing and syncing content across multiple data sources, both systems have solutions.

October CMS allows bidirectional synchronization with external databases using plugins. For example, entries from a product database can be imported and kept in sync within October CMS.

Craft CMS provides native connectors for synchronizing content with common data sources like WordPress, Drupal, Salesforce. For other databases, developer plugins can enable custom two-way syncing capabilities.

This allows large content portfolios in external systems to be mirrored and managed in the CMS. Content can also be pushed back out to the source databases as its modified in October or Craft.

In summary, both CMSs recognize the need for extensibility and data integration in modern digital experiences. Through APIs, webhooks, JS frameworks support and external database syncing they facilitate highly connected ecosystems.

Performance Benchmarks and Scalability

Page Load Speed Tests

In page load speed tests, both October CMS and Craft CMS perform well for content focused sites. With proper caching and optimization, sub-second page loads are achievable.

In out of the box benchmarks, October CMS has slightly faster load times owing to its simpler frontend architecture. Pages load in 500-600ms generally. With caching enabled, sub-500ms loads are viable.

Craft CMS loads pages in the 600-800ms range by default. By implementing page caching and CDNs, this can be reduced to under 600ms for content heavy pages. For lighter pages, sub-500ms is attainable.

For both systems, optimizing images, enabling GZIP compression, and minifying CSS/JS will improve speeds further. Good hosting and CDN usage also impact load times significantly.

Overall, optimized October and Craft sites both achieve satisfactory sub-second page loads. Craft's more complex frontend has a minor impact but proper caching counters that. There are no major differences in real-world speeds.

Stress Testing

In stress testing, October and Craft both scale reasonably well to handle significant traffic spikes and load - in the thousands of concurrent users range.

October CMS leverages the Laravel and PHP foundations which are built to handle scale. Laravel's caching and queuing architecture allow October to gracefully handle demand spikes. The simplicity of the frontend also helps performance.

Craft CMS is stress tested to handle over 5,000 concurrent logged in users comfortably. The frontend caching options make Craft resilient to traffic surges. Running additional Craft CMS instances also scales horizontally.

Neither system has been benchmarked to handle ultra high loads with hundreds of thousands of users. But for typical medium traffic sites, their performance is satisfactory out of the box and can scale up using common optimization techniques.

Caching and Optimization

Both CMSs provide ample caching and optimization capabilities for improving performance:

  • Server-side caching of pages, database queries, API requests

  • Asset bundling, minification, compression

  • Client-side caching through headers

  • Image optimization plugins

  • Multi-server load balancing

  • Optimized MySQL/database configurations

  • CDNs for offloading static assets

Craft CMS also offers a read-only optimized “Previews” environment for maximum page speed during testing and development.

Overall, developers have all the standard tools and techniques needed to optimize October and Craft-powered sites for blazing fast load times and scales. Performance can be tuned smoothly based on traffic demands.

In summary, while not built for massive scale like WordPress, for typical mid-sized sites, October and Craft offer satisfactory load speeds out of the box and have tooling in place to handle spikes in traffic. Their performance is adequate for most use cases.

Licensing Models and Pricing

Open Source vs Proprietary License

A major difference is October CMS is open source under the GPLv3 license while Craft CMS is proprietary software.

October's open source license allows free use, modification and distribution of the code. Developers can customize the core platform directly as needed. The tradeoff is no official support services.

As proprietary software, Craft's source code cannot be modified or distributed freely. You rely on their development team for fixes and enhancements. But you get reliable technical support and training options.

For some organizations, open source access is mandatory. Others prefer supported proprietary systems. This factor may drive the choice between October vs Craft.

Self-Hosted vs SaaS Options

October CMS is designed exclusively for self-hosted installation and management. You download, install and run it yourself.

Craft CMS offers both self-hosted and fully managed SaaS editions. The SaaS version means Craft hosts and maintains the control panel and infrastructure.

The SaaS option reduces DevOps overhead for teams wanting to focus on the CMS application layer only. However, control over infrastructure is also reduced.

Self-hosting allows full server access but requires maintaining and scaling infrastructure. Craft's dual options provide flexibility while October is self-hosted only.

Pricing and Editions

October CMS is free open source software. You only pay for hosting costs. This allows building CMS solutions with no software licensing fees.

Craft CMS pricing works on a subscription model pricing with options for self-hosted or SaaS editions. Self-hosted plans start at $299/year for Pro and $899/year for Business. Enterprise pricing is customized.

The SaaS options range from $39/month for Pro to $299/month for Enterprise. This removes infrastructure costs in return for a recurring fee.

Craft also offers local development licenses, staging licenses and add-on modules for additional fees. Support plans are extra.

October CMS is fully free and open source. Craft CMS offers paid editions and premium add-ons - the value being premium support and reduced infrastructure overhead. The commercial model contrasts with October's community driven approach.

Development Roadmap and Future Outlook

Recent Major Releases

Both October CMS and Craft continue to iterate with major version releases that bring new capabilities.

October CMS recently released v1.1 with improvements like out-of-the-box authentication scaffolding, over 50 new CLI commands, enhanced APIs and developer tools. It advances the core platform.

Craft CMS 3.7 was a landmark release that introduced major editor enhancements, accessibility auditing tools, custom fields builder, entry duplicating, and hundreds more improvements. The rapid development continues.

These major updates show both platforms are under active development and adding powerful new CMS capabilities in every release. The core systems continue to evolve and mature.

Planned Improvements

The public roadmaps give insight into upcoming planned improvements.

For October CMS, planned additions include new charting widgets for the control panel, improved routing and controllers, expanded API coverage, and continuing to modernize the core architecture.

Craft focuses on enhancements to structured content modelling, expanded integrations, custom field types, advanced localization, external data connectors, and additional refined CMS workflows.

Both platforms recognize there is always room to improve the authoring experience, developer tooling, and content modelling capabilities. The rapid iteration cycles will continue delivering value regularly.

Long Term Outlook

Looking at the future landscape, October CMS and Craft CMS are likely to continue thriving. The demand for headless and decoupled CMS solutions will only grow.

October is well positioned with its free open source approach to keep gaining widespread adoption, especially among developers. Its community driven model gives it staying power.

Craft CMS will keep strengthening its position as a premium enterprise CMS. Adding value through official integrations, high quality support and new SaaS offerings. It will stay ahead of proprietary competitors.

Both maintain an intense focus on developer experience, modern architectures, and customizability which will stand the test of time. They fill different needs in the marketplace.

Barring any major competitive disruption, October and Craft are poised to consolidate positions as leading PHP CMS options for the decoupled CMS space. They exemplify the modern CMS landscape.

In summary, October and Craft continue to rapidly evolve major capabilities with an ambitious roadmap. The next few years will see them strengthen positions as top CMS contenders for a headless world.

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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