As we’re sure all developers and content managers alike will tell you, choosing the right CMS is an important decision. At Engage, as an official Craft Partner, we could talk about the benefits of this CMS until the cows come home.
From website accessibility, security and design, to SEO, speed and price, there are lots of variables to consider when making your choice - that’s why we’ve created this ultimate Craft CMS comparison where you can see the pros and cons of some top CMS platforms including Craft (obvs!), WordPress, Statamic, Drupal, Joomla, and Sitecore.
So, let’s crack on…
What is Craft CMS?
First things first, as we’ll be comparing different platforms to Craft, let’s take a second to fill you in on what Craft actually is.
Craft is a content management system (CMS) that allows the user to create functional, attractive and even bespoke websites - like Taylors of Harrogate. It’s so flexible you can use it however you like, and we choose (for our clients’ benefit) to use it headless.
What is a headless CMS?
Simply, a headless CMS allows content authors to concentrate on content, and developers to concentrate on code. This means that non-developers or technically savvy users can create, manage and update multiple dynamic websites.
A great example of a CMS that can be used headless is the reason we’re all here - Craft.
Craft CMS 1.0 was released in 2013 by the team at Pixel & Tonic, and it is now on version 4.4. They wanted to improve development and authoring experiences and create “a practically limitless plugin architecture.” We think they nailed it, let us show you why…
The ultimate Craft CMS comparison
So, who are the contenders in our CMS comparison? Here’s a handy list and some information if you’re not familiar with them:
WordPress began in 2003 when its creators, Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg, identified the need for an elegant, well-architected personal publishing system - and the rest, as they say, is history.
Known for being ‘beginner-friendly’, WordPress is a theme-based CMS which means people with little experience designing websites can create some impressive sites without any coding knowledge.
Sony Music, Time Magazine, Spotify and Vogue are just some of the well-known brands that utilise WordPress CMS to its full advantage, and today, WordPress is the “platform of choice for over 43% of all sites across the web.
Drupal CMS has actually been around longer than Craft, starting out in 2001. Its main feature to shout about is its scalability and the ability to build websites of any size with ease. Twitter, Tesla and Pinterest Business take advantage of Drupal’s features.
Statamic CMS is another open source content management system that is built on the Laravel framework (a PHP web application framework with expressive, elegant syntax).
It was created to be intuitive and easy to customise, and unlike many content management systems it doesn’t require a database as it stores content in flat files.
Umbraco is a commercial CMS designed specifically for larger organisations. It offers several features that prove useful for businesses, such as an ecommerce framework, analytics integrations, an authentication framework and a media library manager.
Sitecore is an enterprise level platform that powers over 130K businesses across many industries. It describes itself as a Customer Experience Platform (CXP) because you can do more than just manage online content - there’s functionality for marketing campaigns and tracking and analytics.
Joomla is another popular open source content management system that won the award for Best Free CMS at the CMS Critic People’s Choice Awards in 2023. It’s built on a model–view–controller web application framework, which can be used separately from the CMS to build powerful online applications.
Is Craft the best CMS?
Let’s get to it, here we’ll look at some of the key features of Craft CMS and see how our contenders compare to help you make an informed choice when it comes to your next CMS.
Craft CMS & usability
Craft has an intuitive user interface that’s easy to use, even for non-technical users. It’s not cluttered with plugin after plugin that can make the dashboard look messy and can confuse the user.
In regard to content management, Craft gives authors unrivalled flexibility while ensuring everything still looks and acts hunky-dory on the front-end.
What’s more, Craft allows editors to save their work as a draft rather than having to publish it straight away. You can even use the keyboard shortcut cmd + s or CTRL + s to save your work quickly and continue editing - super convenient when adding lots of content to a page!
Like a handful of other content management systems, you can preview your content before you publish. This impressive feature shows you the changes you make in real-time, so you can be sure it looks exactly how you want it to from the get-go.
Craft vs Sitecore on usability
A great benefit to Sitecore is that you can create a hierarchy of users and permissions, and site changes can be traced back to the users who made them.
Further to this, the Sitecore Experience Accelerator allows you to reuse components, layouts, and templates across a variety of sites.
However, even though Sitecore is a popular choice amongst enterprises, it can look intimidating if the user has permissions to view all the features and is not viewed as the best choice of CMS for SMBs.
Craft vs Umbraco and usability
When it comes to user experience, Craft CMS has a much more detailed and supportive approach than Umbraco. While Umbraco does offer an intuitive user experience, it can take some getting used to as it doesn’t offer the same automated processes as Craft.
Umbraco does stand out in some ways, though. It has continuous integration with Microsoft Office products such as Word, which can make editing content a breeze if you’re a Microsoft Office user.
Craft vs Statamic on usability
You could argue that Statamic offers a lot of the same authoring features when compared with Craft. But when you’re familiar or experienced with Craft, you quickly notice the lack of functionality such as preview links and revisions.
Statamic also relies on a file-based system for data storage, rather than traditional databases, which can quickly result in a slow experience as soon as you have lots of content.
Craft vs Joomla on usability
We’ve already discussed the great capabilities of Craft when it comes down to content management, but how does Joomla compare? Some key features include:
- Drag and drop elements;
- Built in blog support; and
- WYSIWYG editing.
Another great feature Joomla has is the ability to extend the capabilities through extensions for forms, newsletters, maps, galleries and more.
Even with all this said, you can’t argue with the superior features of Craft for content-first companies. Top-rated content authoring, content versioning and queuing…need we go on?
Praised for its user-friendly interface, Joomla has a very intuitive dashboard which makes it easy for both experienced developers and complete beginners to get started quickly.
But, once you do get up and running, there is a steep learning curve using Joomla, as it does require some technical knowledge to use it to its full capacity.
Craft vs WordPress on usability
As WordPress was built with blogging in mind, it has a much more rigid framework which is arguably not intuitive enough and requires a lot of add-ons to be close to Craft in terms of content management, which, ultimately, will slow your site down.
Craft vs Drupal on usability
From a content management perspective, Drupal does offer a powerful admin interface for content creation and editing. Some key features include:
- What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editing;
- Drag and drop functionality;
- Multimedia support; and more.
It does, however, lose points in comparison to Craft for a more complicated interface which is not easily navigated by inexperienced users.
Drupal does come with many customisation options, so you can adjust the page design and structure, but it can require some in-depth coding knowledge to get the most out of these features.
As we’ve mentioned, once your Craft CMS control panel is set up, it enables authors to intuitively build complex sites without any technical knowledge.
Craft CMS & security
Arguably the most important variable to consider when comparing content management systems.
With Craft, you’ll normally have less reliance on plugins than other content management systems. It uses the modern Yii 2 framework, which makes it easier for Craft themselves, and plugin developers to write secure code.
Craft CMS takes security very seriously, with built-in features such as 2FA, brute force protection, encrypted data storage, and it also goes through regular security updates.
Additionally, Craft CMS has a dedicated security team that regularly audits the platform’s code and releases patches for any vulnerabilities that are discovered.
Craft vs WordPress on security
In 2018, 90% of hacked websites were powered by WordPress. These hacks are mostly due to vulnerabilities introduced by third-party plugins, and most WordPress sites use several of these.
While WordPress does have regular security updates, if you’re not a developer, you’ll need to factor in the extra cost of regular maintenance to ensure your website and plugins stay safe and up to date.
Craft vs Joomla on security
There’s an active community that is focused on the security concerns of Joomla. This has led to the Joomla code becoming highly secure, but it does, unfortunately, rely heavily on the user to implement their systems perfectly. The support from Joomla is also much less than with Craft, as they only provide general information for developers.
Craft CMS & performance
A little birdy told us that Google is not a fan of slow websites. OK, so when we say little birdy we actually mean ALL THE INTERNET, like ever.
What’s more, with Google taking a mobile-first approach to page speed it’s never been more important to have a quick and functional website, no matter the size.
Craft can handle large websites with ease and if you combine UX, design and development skills correctly, you can even score 100 on Google’s PageSpeed Performance test.
Craft has been built with speed and performance in mind, so your website will load quickly and run smoothly even under heavy traffic. Built using modern web development technologies and optimised for performance, it has features like lazy loading and asset optimization that help keep your site running smoothly. The platform also has a modular architecture that allows you to disable any unused features, further improving performance.
Craft has great capabilities when it comes to scalability. One major advantage of Craft, making it our best CMS choice, is that you can use one server to handle thousands of concurrent requests. As well as this, Craft comes out on top when it comes to performance and speed. It has a faster website response time and can save on cost when the demand for scaling up increases.
Craft vs Joomla on scalability
With Joomla, you will typically need multiple servers or a clustered infrastructure in order to scale up, which will ultimately influence the cost, stopping it from being the best CMS choice for businesses with big ambitions.
Craft vs Drupal on scalability
When thinking about scalability, Drupal is certainly impressive. With a robust database structure, users can quickly add and design content across multiple channels without having a negative impact on security, functionality or performance.
You can also integrate additional databases, search functions or forums into your web applications, so they’re as customisable as possible.
Craft CMS & price
Even though Craft is technically open source, you have to pay a small one-off licence fee to use its commercially focused features like unlimited user accounts, but this includes a free year of Basic Developer Support. If you have multiple brands or segmented services - Craft will likely be the best, and most-cost effective CMS given its multisite support.
Craft can also support with managed hosting, which does cost extra but definitely speeds up the set-up process. Once you get to this point, most third-party plugins are available at no extra charge.
Another bonus, Craft work with much more budget-friendly hosts, which means you’re more likely to find something that will work for your project.
Craft vs WordPress on price
WordPress is an open source and free to use CMS. The cost comes in for web-hosting and premium themes and plugins. If you’re in a rush to get your site live and don’t mind that it will be templated with less flexibility, then WordPress is often seen as the most cost-effective choice.
Craft vs Umbraco on price
Even though both Craft and Umbraco are open source and free to some extent, parts of both web solutions incur a cost. Umbraco hosting requires an internet connection and a web server platform.
This can, of course, add up depending on the scope of your project. In addition to this, you will have to pay for third party plugins if you’d like to extend the functionality of your site.
There is also the added cost of Microsoft integration, and Umbraco Pro costing up to £10K. When you compare this with the Craft Pro option from $299 - it’s a no-brainer.
Craft CMS & SEO
When it comes to on-site and technical SEO, your CMS should make things simple and give you complete control of the essential things you need to consider and optimise.
With Craft, you are able to create a more unique and user-friendly website without being hampered by unstructured menus, buried pages and excess tags. With this kind of control over your site - you have the most control over search optimisation. Some key features that show Craft CMS is built with SEO in mind, include automatic sitemap generation, and search engine-friendly URLs.
Craft vs WordPress
WordPress does have strong SEO features that are accessible through the popular Yoast plugin. SEO novices will find the traffic light system helps to simplify SEO (although we think it simplifies it a little too much!). Plus, in order to consider SEO on your site - you have to download an add-on and increase your site’s bloat!
The grading system in Yoast is based on keyword density which is not only an outdated approach to content writing, it doesn’t take into account Google’s E-E-A-T score which rates content based upon experience, expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Read: keyword stuffing = one big red flag!
Craft CMS & design
In terms of design, with Craft, you are not limited to themes. You can build any type of website design you want because everything is code-based. Building custom fields, content types and data structures is completely unrestricted.
Craft vs WordPress on design
WordPress does allow users without an eye for design to approach web design easily through its selection of free themes to choose from. This, along with methods such as using CSS code to design your pages, gives the platform a bug reach of potential customers.
However, in comparison, Craft is much less restrictive than WordPress as you are not limited to themes (free or paid). You can build any type of website design you want because everything is code-based. Building custom fields, content types and data structures is completely unrestricted.
Craft CMS & ecommerce
Ecommerce websites have very specific needs, and a CMS that can scale along with the business.
Craft doesn’t come with store functionality by default, but it can easily integrate with any third-party ecommerce platform, such as Shopify, just like we did for Yorkshire Tea’s Little Shop of Proper. Pixel & Tonic also develop a first-party plugin that allows for creating bespoke experiences with complete control of the shopping process.
Craft vs WordPress on ecommerce
While WordPress is a popular CMS, it may not be the best choice for ecommerce. As we’ve mentioned, it was originally designed for blogging and although WordPress has ecommerce plugins like WooCommerce, it may not be scalable enough for larger stores, and security issues can arise if plugins are not updated regularly.
You don’t need coding experience to create a successful ecommerce website on WordPress. You can create product pages and categories quickly, accept payments and manage taxes easily. This said, however, you’ll have lots to configure, which can be a tad overwhelming!
Craft vs Joomla on ecommerce
While Joomla has been used for ecommerce sites in the past, it is not recommended due to its complexity and steep learning curve. It also lacks the user-friendly features like Craft.
Craft: the best CMS
Ultimately, what we hope you can see from this CMS comparison is that you can’t argue with the benefits of choosing Craft as your next content management system.
At Engage, our developers are super experienced in setting up new and optimising existing Craft websites to get the most from this flexible platform.
Take a look at some of our work with Craft CMS here, or get in touch and we can start talking!