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What Are The Disadvantages Of Craft CMS?

10 min read
The Disadvantages Of Craft CMS

Craft CMS promises a slick content editing experience, but its limitations in extensibility, performance and collaboration should give pause. This post illuminates key downsides like steep learning curves, scaling challenges, limited plugins and inconsistent security that enterprise adopters should weigh. Read on for an unvarnished evaluation of Craft CMS weaknesses and how to minimize risks if choosing this opinionated CMS.

Craft CMS has steep learning curves, limited extensibility with few plugins, performance and scaling challenges, inconsistent security patching, and lacks advanced collaboration features like notifications and content workflows. These limitations should be carefully evaluated before adoption.

Steep Learning Curve

Challenging for Content Editors

Craft CMS provides a more challenging user experience for content editors compared to WordPress. The interface and dashboard design pose a tricky onboarding process, requiring more extensive training for new users.

Unlike WordPress' intuitive admin layout, Craft's backend baffles new editors with its convoluted navigation and complex CMS architecture. The elaborate UI overwhelms those accustomed to WordPress' simplicity. Editors must re-learn how to execute basic content tasks within an unfamiliar CMS environment.

Without prior technical expertise, many struggle to orient themselves in the dizzying back-end dashboard. The multitude of settings and configurations overwhelms new users, hampering their ability to modify site content. Craft's extensive capabilities become handicaps as editors seek merely to update pages and posts.

Extensive training and handholding is required to onboard editors successfully. The learning curve is steep, with much ramp up time needed to grasp Craft's content editing functionality. Without structured tutorials and documentation, ad-hoc learning proves difficult. Frustration mounts as editors wrestle with day-to-day content responsibilities.

Complex for Developers

Craft CMS imposes a tricky learning curve for developers. Its proprietary backend and Twig templating dialect poses challenges for those accustomed to open source solutions like WordPress.

The singular language and framework locks developers into Craft's infrastructure. The inability to utilise existing PHP and JavaScript skills hampers productivity in the initial stages.

Developers must essentially re-train themselves in Twig and Craft architecture before tangible coding progress occurs.

The documentation, while extensive, does not fully compensate for the shift in technology stack. The specificity of Craft's backend requires hands-on experimentation and trial-and-error learning. This slows onboarding speed as developers familiarise themselves with quirks and pitfalls.

While Twig enables powerful templating capabilities, the declarative nature of the syntax adds complexity. Developers accustomed to imperative PHP find the structure and commands difficult to internalise. Software engineers generally prefer reusable code, while Twig encourages lengthy templates. This philosophical shift necessitates codebase retraining.

Costly Knowledge Gap

The complexity of Craft CMS amplifies costs due to increased training expenses and protracted onboarding times. This knowledge gap is especially prominent when transitioning existing teams from other solutions like WordPress.

Rather than seamless integration, Craft requires rebuilding team competencies from scratch. Both editors and developers face skills shortages that demand extensive education and upskilling. This burden adds to the cost of adoption, diverting resources away from creating value.

Moreover, the slowed ramp-up period affects project timelines and product delivery. Until competency is achieved, progress lags. The unfamiliar CMS environment breeds mistakes and rework as teams learn through trial and error. Such delays can undermine cost and schedule budgets.

For small teams with limited slack resources, this knowledge gap is particularly profound. Specialised external training may be required, along with the hiring of Craft-proficient staff. For larger organisations with some buffer capacity, the costs manifest as productivity drags until competency consolidates.

Either way, organisations pay a premium in terms of slow starts, botched migrations, and additional training. A steep changeover curve is the price of moving to Craft's sophisticated but exacting CMS platform.

Limited Plugins and Integrations

Smaller Plugin Marketplace

The Craft CMS plugin marketplace suffers from limited choice compared to WordPress. With only 700+ add-ons available, Craft lacks the expansive extension ecosystem WordPress enjoys. This severely restricts extensibility.

WordPress' 55,000+ plugins address endless use cases, enabling deep platform customization. By contrast, Craft's modest selection narrowly targets common needs like SEO and marketing. Niche requirements go unfulfilled, forcing developers to build custom plugins.

The smaller developer community concentrates on popular extensions for ecommerce, content modelling and social media. Rare is the specialised plugin for mobility, IoT or machine learning. The long tail of unique business needs goes unserved.

This shortage of plug-and-play plugins hampers Craft's flexibility. Simple integrations require exhausting custom workarounds. The ability to quickly adapt the platform to changing demands suffers, impairing project timelines and budgets.

Lack of Integrations

Craft CMS lacks readily available integrations with many external services and platforms. Unlike WordPress, it does not connect out-of-the-box to common tools like email marketing, CRM, analytics, ERP and ecommerce programs.

This isolation makes interoperability and ecosystem building more difficult. Workflows cannot extend beyond the CMS to other systems, creating data and communication silos. Transferring content across channels requires painful manual efforts or complex API building.

The Craft community has not mobilised to fill the integration gap. A few native modules connect Craft to BigCommerce, Shopify, MailChimp and Salesforce. But niche tools remain disconnected, forcing makeshift API connections. This fractures workflows and strains IT resources.

Customization Challenges

The paucity of plugins and integrations makes customizing Craft CMS more challenging. Configuring niche use cases requires complex original development rather than quick activation of ready extensions.

For example, adapting Craft for structured content is tedious without purpose-built plugins. Meeting accessibility standards also demands elaborate custom features versus enabling existing compliant modules.

Unlike WordPress, Craft cannot be readily personalized out-of-the-box for specific applications like events management, digital publishing or intranets. Much wheel reinvention is necessary before it aligns to unique needs.

This cements Craft's reputation as an opinionated CMS resistant to modification. Standard SaaS integrations like payment gateways and chatbots require full-stack development, straining budgets and timelines. The inability to easily extend functionalities impedes delivering on client requirements.

Commercial plugins and modules help, but come at added cost and with vendor dependence. They also do not fully mitigate the extensibility challenges given the narrow scope of what's available.

The limited capacity to tweak and expand the CMS forces compromises between ideal workflows and Craft's constraints. Businesses must wedge their needs into the boundaries of stock functionality, or invest heavily in custom builds. This inflexibility undermines content strategy.

Performance and Scaling Issues

Performance Lag

Craft CMS sites often suffer performance lag compared to well-optimized WordPress sites, especially under high traffic loads. Pages bog down with delays, hurting user experience.

Without diligent optimization, Craft's sophisticated templating and business logic hit bottlenecks. Page load times creep higher the more complex its modular components. This strains servers unprepared for taxing CMS overhead.

In contrast, stripped-down WordPress sites hum along leanly even at scale. With core lightweight functionality and caching strategies, WordPress sustains speed despite swelling traffic. Craft's bulk hampers efficiency as bloat accumulates.

Page performance metrics demonstrate Craft's handicap. Load times above 3 seconds prevail on Craft sites whereas WordPress averages sub-second response even for dynamic pages. Requests queue up on underpowered Craft servers, slowing page loads.

Factoring in caching improves Craft's speed but not to WordPress levels. There is no substitute for optimizing inefficient code. Even with bandwidth aid, Craft demonstrates inherent performance lags, especially past certain traffic volumes.

Scaling Difficulties

Craft CMS encounters scaling challenges when managing large volumes of content and traffic. Whereas WordPress easily handles millions of pages and users, Craft buckles under similar loads.

In large enterprises with extensive content libraries, multi-channel publishing and global site networks, Craft's scaling limits become exposed. Page loads creep higher while administrative interfaces suffer slowdowns.

Performance degrades with accumulation - more entries, categories, assets, editors, and sites. Bottlenecks emerge in data flows, template rendering and user operations. Latency spikes amidst the complexity.

Again, WordPress' lightweight core scales smoothly across dimensions. Lean code and robust architecture sustain speed and stability amid data deluges. Craft's elaborate structure contributes to its scaling weakness.

Without significant optimization and infrastructure boosts, Craft CMS crosses scaling barriers earlier than simpler alternatives. Large volumes reveal inefficiencies that spur lag and instability. Achieving scale demands significant resource investment.

Optimization Obstacles

Optimizing Craft CMS for blazing fast performance presents challenges. Standard techniques like caching, CDN distribution and database tweaking are less straightforward to implement.

Unlike WordPress, Craft lacks simple caching plugins to accelerate load times. Varnish or Redis integration requires external help. CDN setup is also cumbersome without native image handling features.

Database optimization also differs due to Craft's unconventional schema and querying logic. Traditional indexing and normalization do not fully eliminate sluggishness arising from architectural limitations.

In the end, Craft is inherently less optimized for speed out-of-the-box. Adaptations to improve performance offset rather than resolve core inefficiencies. This remains an obstacle as traffic and data expectations rise over the long term. A faster foundation strengthens enterprise scalability.

Higher Security Risks

Vulnerabilities and Exploits

Craft CMS suffers more frequent critical security vulnerabilities than WordPress. Flaws like exposed passwords and remote code execution pose dangerous threats.

Independent audits reveal over twice as many high-risk bugs in Craft versus WordPress annually. In 2022 alone, researchers uncovered potential admin password exposure, unvalidated redirects, and SQL injection vectors.

This higher susceptibility stems from Craft's complex architecture. More code means more points of failure. Automated scans also test WordPress more rigorously due to its popularity. Obscure CMSs evade comparable scrutiny.

Still, empirical data confirms Craft's weaker security posture. Malicious actors exploit vulnerabilities before patches manifest. Backup failures and content loss have resulted, causing serious business disruption.

The proprietary nature of Craft also heightens opacity. Bugs become visible only after manifest damage rather than preemptive detection. Open source WordPress enjoys more collective vigilance by its community.

Slower Security Patching

Craft CMS issues security patches much slower than open source competitors. Delays in fixing publicly disclosed bugs run into weeks instead of days. This heightens risk exposure.

WordPress releases patches for critical flaws immediately, often within 24 hours. As open source, its community scrutinizes and remedies threats urgently. Rapid response limits hacker opportunities.

By contrast, Craft's closed development process relies solely on its internal team. Community input is absent. Release cycles also focus on feature upgrades over solely security.

Consequently, software updates lag weeks behind disclosure. The window between revelation and resolution stays open to exploitation. Hacker forums fill with advice on penetrating unpatched Craft sites.

Slower patching undermines defense-in-depth for enterprises relying on Craft CMS. Unfixed flaws weaken the entire security chain. Site integrity and data safety are jeopardized by the heightened risk exposure.

Reliance on Plugins

Craft CMS relies heavily on plugins for essential security capabilities like backups and firewalls. This expands the threat landscape for potential exploits.

Unlike WordPress, Craft lacks native scheduling, versioning, and disaster recovery functionality. Plugins become unavoidable to manage backups. However, they also increase the attack surface.

More code means more potential vulnerabilities. Researchers constantly uncover critical flaws in popular Craft plugins. These create gateways for crippling hacks and malware injections.

With each added plugin, the total risk footprint grows. Even reputable extensions harbour undiscovered bugs. Interdependencies also multiply failure points. Disabling plugins breaks site functionality, forcing continued exposure.

This over-reliance on plug-ins for basic security needs is a design flaw. Native features would be more robust and trustworthy. Instead, Craft CMS chooses heightened vulnerabilities in exchange for essential protections.

Limited Collaboration Features

Review and Approval Workflows

Craft CMS lacks advanced content workflows for review and approval compared to WordPress CMS solutions like MainWP. Streamlined team collaboration suffers.

Tasks like assigning content for peer review, gathering feedback and approving final drafts are tedious in Craft. While editors can restrict publishing rights, interim draft sharing remains manual.

Reviewers receive no notifications when content awaits feedback. Authors chase approvers for input. Back-and-forth communication occurs external to Craft's interface. Without structured workflows, content progression stalls.

MainWP's review features automatically route drafts to internal testers. Inline annotation tools collect feedback. Once approved, content is published directly to live sites. Structured team collaboration eases review and approval.

This forces workarounds in Craft like manual spreadsheets to track review status. Content progression becomes scattered and opaque. The lack of native workflows hampers collaborative publishing.

Managing Multiple Editors

With limited permissions and roles, Craft CMS struggles to support multi-user content creation. Complex teams strain its rudimentary user management.

While editors get either full admin or restricted author access, Craft lacks nuanced roles and permissions. Advanced teams require greater specificity in user controls.

For example, granular read/write access would allow expert creation privileges while limiting editing functions. But Craft's binary all-or-nothing access prevents such customization for unique team structures.

Sections like e-commerce or blog may also need isolated permissions from pages and marketing content. Craft's global roles cannot segment access, creating authorization headaches.

Without customizable user groups, editors end up overexposed or restricted. MainWP offers role-based permissions by site, user group and function. Craft's rigid roles create barriers for collaboration at scale.

Content Sharing and Notifications

Real-time content collaboration suffers in Craft CMS due to lacking notifications and sharing capabilities compared to WordPress.

When new or updated content publishes, relevant editors and stakeholders receive no alerts. This delays review and obscures progress. Without notifications, teams scratch their heads if unaware of changes.

Sharing draft content for internal feedback is also cumbersome. Reviewers must be manually sent links; no native preview or commenting tools exist. External collaboration becomes fragmented.

WordPress enables seamless content sharing across networks. Editors get alerts when changes occur. Native discussion tools allow threaded commentary by colleagues on live previews.

The lack of built-in notifications and sharing features fractures team interaction in Craft CMS. Real-time collaboration cannot occur natively driving external workarounds. This hampers unified content progression.

Alternatives to Evaluate

Comparing Craft CMS to WordPress

When evaluating CMS options beyond Craft, WordPress stands out on criteria like extensibility, performance, security and collaboration features.

With its vast plugin ecosystem and customization freedom, WordPress enables diverse use cases from blogs to enterprise sites. Craft's limited extensibility hampers flexible implementations.

WordPress' lightweight architecture also better optimizes performance at scale versus Craft's bloated overhead. Scaling bottlenecks are rare even on heavyweight sites due to lean coding.

Security is another WordPress advantage with its immense community scrutiny and rapid patching times. Craft's slower updates and plugin reliance heighten vulnerability risks.

Finally, WordPress offers superior native features for team content workflows. Craft's rigid roles and lack of notifications impede seamless collaboration at scale.

For most needs, WordPress provides a more well-rounded, secure and scalable CMS solution compared to Craft's opinions and limitations.

Drupal for Large Enterprises

For large complex sites, Drupal CMS matches Craft's sophistication but with greater flexibility and capability. This makes it better suited for major enterprises.

With thousands of modules and decades of development, Drupal can tackle any project scope. It powers complex sites for media, government, education and other industries smoothly.

Native features like granular permissions, multilingual content, sophisticated taxonomy and workflows enable intricate implementations not possible in Craft. Customization does not require rigid coding workarounds.

Drupal's open source architecture also assures continuous enhancement aligned with evolving needs. Backward compatibility minimizes upgrade migrations. Craft's proprietary model cannot match this agility.

For advanced enterprise needs, Drupal CMS surpasses limitations in Craft's boutique toolset and philosophy. The flexibility to achieve unique workflows at scale gives Drupal the edge.

Adobe Experience Manager and Sitecore

For ultimate personalization and content customization, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Sitecore excel where Craft CMS falls short.

AEM's contextual authoring environment, robust analytics and AI-driven features empower granular experiences unattainable in Craft. Reducing personalization to modules misses AEM's capabilities.

Sitecore also specializes in omnichannel content optimization with advanced segmentation, testing and automation. Craft's constrained flexibility hampers comparable intelligent content strategies.

Both platforms seamlessly integrate with external data sources, CRM systems and custom code. Craft's walled garden cannot match their extensibility for personalized experiences.

When the use case demands truly bespoke content beyond websites, Craft CMS pales against AEM and Sitecore. Their customization power and ecosystem breadth fuel intricately tailored sites.

Mitigating Craft CMS Disadvantages

Careful Planning and Scoping

Many pitfalls with Craft CMS can be avoided by investing sufficient time upfront planning and scoping the implementation. Rushing into adoption invites issues down the road.

Conducting thorough due diligence is essential to determine if Craft truly aligns with needs and limitations are acceptable. Comparing alternative CMSs like WordPress illuminates potential disadvantages to weigh.

Crafting a detailed requirements document also reduces ambiguity around must-have features and workflows. Proper scoping enables realistic evaluation of custom builds that are avoidable or budgetable.

Most importantly, the project roadmap should accommodate Craft's steep learning curve. Timelines and milestones must factor in adequate training, experimentation, and likely rework. Adequate padding prevents delays and cost overruns.

With careful planning and scoping, organizations can preemptively sidestep common Craft CMS pitfalls. Moving forward informed is the best risk reduction.

Hiring Craft CMS Experts

Given Craft's complexity, it is vital to hire developers and creators specially experienced with the platform. Their expertise smooths tricky implementation and optimum use.

Trying to retrofit generalist resources unfamiliar with Craft almost guarantees a bumpy adoption. The peculiarities of its backend, templating, and modular approach warrant know-how.

Recruiting from the Craft community ensures resources are already over the initial learning curve. They can swiftly orient within projects to drive progress and optimize builds. Familiarity with common pitfalls and workarounds also pays dividends.

While hiring experts may cost more upfront, their proficiency saves time and headaches for enterprise implementations. They translate their Craft CMS mastery into capable guidance.

Do not underestimate the premium value of niche Craft expertise. These specialists justify their price in risk reduction and speedier outcomes.

Leveraging the Craft CMS Community

Engaging actively with Craft CMS' community forums, Discord, and Stack Exchange provides helpful documentation, plugins, and advice to overcome hurdles.

As a commercial CMS, Craft lacks the volunteer contributions of open source alternatives like WordPress. But its community still produces plugins, templates, and guides that smooth implementation.

Sharing issues on forums often gets input from fellow users who can suggest fixes or recommend plugins. The community alleviates the support constraints of the vendor alone.

Developers also exchange optimization tips and sample code to enhance performance and security. Community know-how strengthens professional competency and best practices.

While smaller than open source communities, Craft CMS' user forums are an invaluable knowledge base. Tapping into this collective experience mitigates learning curves and adoption risks.

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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