There is a dizzying array of website-building technologies available in the market and choosing the right one for your project can be a daunting task. Each CMS has its strengths, weaknesses, and best use cases so it’s important that you find one that suits your needs before getting started on your site. This can save you a lot of hassle later on if you discover that you want to use a different CMS and have to go through the strenuous task of migrating your entire website to a new system.
In this article, we’ll provide you with some insight into two of the major players in the CMS market: WordPress and Craft CMS. We’ll compare both solutions in terms of their ease of use, business adoption, extensibility, security, support, and pricing. By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of the main distinctions between the two systems and whether either of them is suited to your needs.
WordPress is at its core an advanced open-source CMS that simplifies the creation of websites and the management of content (text, images, videos, etc.)
WordPress began its life as a humble blogging platform. It provided simple, accessible site-building functions as well as an intuitive creator interface. Over the years, however, it has expanded to include massive amounts of functionality and evolve into a versatile CMS that now powers over half of the websites on the internet.
Craft CMS shares some similarities with WordPress but with a greater focus on creative development.
Craft CMS was released in 2013 by Pixel & Tonic as a developer-friendly alternative to WordPress. It aimed to offer more freedom when it came to developing websites and managing content. Craft is also written in PHP using the Yii framework, which simplifies the implementation of many PHP features.
Craft CMS vs WordPress: Which Is Better?
Ease of Use
Built for everyone
The fact that WordPress is so widely accepted already gives an indication of how easy it is to use.
All your content is managed through the intuitive dashboard interface. This makes creating pages, writing and editing posts, and uploading media extremely simple to do.
For the average user, WordPress doesn’t require any coding skills or advanced technical know-how. Even setting up WordPress is easy, with major hosting companies like Bluehost offering one-click installations. All you need to do is enter the information for your website and the rest of the process is automated: from purchasing and integrating the domain name to going live.
For design and page development, WordPress uses pre-made themes that can be installed and customised. These themes are powered by drag-and-drop page builders like Elementor and Divi which provides a code-free experience for managing content.
However, there’s also more advanced options for developers. WordPress features a robust code infrastructure with detailed documentation, meaning there are existing actions and filters for everything a developer would like to modify or extend.
Built for developers
Craft CMS, on the other hand, is geared towards more technical users with coding skills so there are fewer restrictions or laid-out paths to take when developing a website.
When it comes to setting up Craft CMS, you need basic command line skills, as it requires using a terminal to install and configure.
So, unless you have an experienced developer on your team, working with Craft CMS is impossible.
Overall, even though both WordPress and Craft CMS use PHP, only WordPress can be used by both Developers and average users.
Most of the features in Craft require developer-level understanding to work with, unlike WordPress, which provides basic functionality for average users alongside a well-documented code infrastructure for developers to extend the software as needed.
Enterprise & Business Adoption
For many small business owners, WordPress is the first thing that comes to mind when they think about website development technology. Not only does WordPress power 64.3% of websites online today, but it also has a low cost to set up and mostly requires only basic maintenance.
You won’t need a dedicated developer to keep a WordPress website running and when you do, most hosting providers offer technical support as part of their plans.
Craft CMS, on the other hand, offers flexibility and is lightweight compared to WordPress. This is why it sees more adoption from medium to large-scale companies. Since it’s so barebones a dedicated developer is required on standby for performing upgrades, fixing bugs, and editing content.
Though Craft CMS is not as robust as WordPress out of the box, its lean infrastructure can be an advantage, especially when building applications that require high performance.
In a nutshell, small businesses tend to go for a low-cost and low-maintenance solution like WordPress, and medium to large-scale businesses that require more flexibility with the required staff to back it up go for solutions like Craft CMS.
Extensibility & Integrations
WordPress, with the help of its plugin repository, can have its functionality extended to extraordinary lengths.
As a content management system, WordPress houses the most plugins in the world.
You don’t even need to have coding skills to use plugins, as most developers include a dedicated visual dashboard for ease of use.
A good example is a plugin like WordPress DXP (WP-DXP) which allows you to craft a unique experience for each user visiting your site based on advanced criteria like location and user type.
With regard to enterprise WordPress development, companies often create their own custom plugins using WordPress’s code infrastructure.
Using WordPress’s code infrastructure at the enterprise-level cuts down the time and cost required to implement new features as developers do not need to start from scratch.
With the introduction of WordPress’s Rest API in 2016, developers gained the ability to use WordPress as a Headless CMS. This added endless integration possibilities and made WordPress a viable solution for enterprise development.
A Headless approach involves implementing different frontend technologies to work with WordPress. This is mainly possible because of the WordPress API, which allows you to send GET, PUT, POST, and UPDATE requests to WordPress endpoints.
This way, a developer can access any post, page, product, or custom post type available in a Headless WordPress instance and use it in a mobile or web application as needed.
Craft CMS: Headless approach and plugins
Craft CMS by default was created with the intention of being as extensible as possible.
While Craft CMS also offers plugins, there are significantly less of them available than what you get with WordPress.
This is because it’s geared towards developers who are expected to have the skills required to create their own custom functionality.
That aside, Craft CMS does have free plugins that integrate with most modern web apps like popular payment gateways, data visualisation tools, and storage solutions.
Craft can also be used as a Headless CMS through their GraphQL API.
The main difference is that you need the paid Craft CMS Pro licence to access GraphQL API which costs $299.
WordPress, on the other hand, is completely free even when being used as a Headless CMS.
Overall, both WordPress and Craft CMS can be integrated and extended to work with a variety of platforms, but WordPress makes it easier because of the sheer number of existing plugins available and its free Headless option.
Security & Reliability
Both WordPress and Craft CMS are both generally secure content management systems.
WordPress on its own is secure, but with the addition of third-party themes and plugins, code vulnerabilities can be exploited.
Security risks from third-party plugins
The vetting process for plugins and themes accepted in the WordPress.org repo isn’t strict. After submitting a plugin for submission, it normally takes between 1 – 10 days to be approved, and even then, vulnerabilities in a plugin’s code can still slip through the cracks.
That aside, the sheer number of outdated plugins present in the WordPress repository is shocking. WordPress releases security updates frequently and once a theme or a plugin becomes outdated, it creates a vulnerability for attackers to exploit.
However, as long as you stay away from poorly coded plugins and themes and use only those from well-established developers and software companies, WordPress should remain relatively secure.
Since Craft CMS has such a limited library of plugins, they are better able to maintain security across its entire ecosystem.
Craft CMS also has a one-click update feature and uses PDO for database querying, which essentially nullifies SQL injection attacks, meaning an attacker cannot easily take over Craft CMS databases.
Overall, Craft requires less maintenance than WordPress to remain secure, but requires a proficient level of coding to work with.
Performance & Speed
WordPress is often criticised by developers to be slow in comparison to building websites from scratch and, to some degree, this is true.
Plugins and themes can be detrimental to performance
This is because WordPress comes with its own set of scripts and stylesheets, which adds more load to each page request. These include theme resources that may or may not be needed across a website.
This by default is not enough to affect performance or slow down a WordPress website, but when you install an excessive amount of plugins that directly affect how your website displays and functions, it becomes an issue.
For experienced WordPress users, this is not a problem as there are ways to optimise WordPress websites like avoiding bloated themes with bells and whistles.
In a nutshell, as long as you keep things simple and perform proper website optimisations in conjunction with using lightweight plugins and themes, you should rarely have any performance or speed-related issues with WordPress.
Better performance through custom-built code
That said, Craft CMS websites are usually faster due to its lightweight code and bare-bones infrastructure.
As a developer using Craft CMS, instead of being presented with a complete suite like WordPress, you can choose exactly what features you want to use and those you don’t.
This reduces the strain content management systems can have on the performance of websites overall.
Another reason why Craft CMS seems to perform better than WordPress is due to it having a ton of features out of the box.
WordPress relies mostly on plugins to extend functionality, even typical features like 2-factor authentication require installing plugins. These additional plugins sometimes have negative effects on the overall performance and speed of a WordPress website.
Furthermore, Craft CMS MVC (Model-View-Controller) model ensures that only necessary components are delivered when requested for. This is important for websites that handle large amounts of traffic as it can help keep server costs low and performance optimal.
This is not to say WordPress isn’t built to handle large amounts of traffic either, but Craft CMS simply does it out of the box.
Overall, both content management systems offer great speed and performance, but WordPress requires more effort to optimise. If you want to run a lightweight WordPress site, then your best bet would be to use the Headless approach so you can build the functionality yourself and avoid bloated plugins and themes.
Community & Support
According to W3Techs, as of October 2022, WordPress still possesses 64.3% of the content management systems market share. Craft CMS in comparison makes up only 0.2%.
As the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress has a large and widespread community. Almost every tech forum on the internet has a WordPress section and there are countless websites, blogs, and YouTube channels dedicated to WordPress.
This isn’t to say Craft CMS doesn’t have a community, it just isn’t as extensive as what you get with WordPress.
When it comes to support for your site, many hosting providers will provide WordPress support as part of your plan. But this is not the case for Craft CMS, which works best on Cloud hosting providers like Digital Ocean and AWS.
These platforms mostly offer server-related support and won’t provide assistance for applications.
The other choice you have for Craft CMS is their Developer Support Services, which starts at $79 per month with a 12-hour response time. In contrast, most major WordPress hosting providers provide responses within the first hour of contact, with some even offering instant replies.
Overall, WordPress is a clear winner when it comes to community and support.
WordPress might be open-source and free to use, but that doesn’t make it entirely cost-free.
Aside from paying for a hosting plan and a domain name, using WordPress tends to attract extra cost, especially when you extend the default features with plugins. Most popular plugins have paid versions with the core plugin being free and filled with limitations.
So, it becomes necessary to pay for annual plugin subscriptions which quickly becomes expensive for large projects.
Craft CMS also features premium plugins that require an annual subscription but offers a lot more functionality out of the box compared to WordPress, at least for developers.
The catch is you have to pay an initial fee of $79 to use Craft CMS for a single commercial project and $55 every year after that to receive updates.
Not to mention, hiring a developer to debug or make changes to a Craft CMS is more expensive compared to WordPress.
The choice between WordPress and Craft CMS largely depends on what you are looking for from your website.
If you are looking for a flexible platform that can scale as quickly as your website grows, Craft CMS may be a better option for you.
If you are looking for an easy way to publish content or power a business website, WordPress might be the better option as it offers more features out of the box without requiring coding knowledge.
However, with the option of Headless WordPress, you can use WordPress for more advanced CMS functions, meaning you aren’t necessarily held back by some of the downsides of traditional WordPress.