by Casey Reid
One of our clients recently asked us if we could document the pros and cons of using Craft CMS versus WordPress to help their executive team decide on a path with an upcoming merger. Given that WordPress is a household name and only a small segment of the market is aware of Craft, we decided it would be useful to share our findings for others who are weighing the options.
There are thousands of CMS solutions on the market, and there is likely a use case for each one. As designers, developers, and content managers, our ideal content management system has a combination of features that make it worth using: Security, SEO, Performance, Flexibility, Ease of Use, Community Support, and more.
At Clearfire, we’ve worked on hundreds of sites, and spent tens of thousands of hours doing design and development. All of that experience does create a bias, as we’ve seen first-hand the pros and cons of working with these CMS platforms. Because of that, we've found that Craft CMS tends to be the ideal platform for most CMS-based websites. Here's why.
Before we dive into the pros and cons of Craft, we want to address an elephant in the room: If you automatically think of WordPress any time you hear the words “content management system,” you're not alone.
WordPress has been around since 2003 and is currently the most popular CMS. It has a roughly 64% market share of CMS-based websites on the internet, a portion that’s significantly larger than any other platform. Even other well known platforms like Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, Joomla, and Drupal, have less than 7% of the global CMS market.
By comparison, Craft CMS has less than 1% of CMS market share. However, since its launch in 2012, Craft has quickly become an increasingly popular choice for agencies and businesses alike. Tens of thousands of websites are running on Craft CMS.
Choosing a massively popular CMS like WordPress has its benefits, but also a host of issues. That's why it's important to look at more than just market share when it comes to choosing a CMS platform.
Because WordPress is such a widely used CMS platform, it has become a major target for hackers. In fact, about 90% of all hacked CMS sites are WordPress sites. This is truly one of the biggest downsides of WordPress. Every third party integration, theme, or plugin is a vulnerable entry point for hackers to access your data, or potentially take over your site altogether. When you consider the 50,000+ WordPress plugins built by thousands of different developers, it starts to become clear why we’ve all heard so many horror stories of WordPress websites getting hacked or held at ransom.
Unlike WordPress, Craft CMS benefits from consistent updates provided by a dedicated team, along with a much smaller and higher quality plugin ecosystem. Craft takes a proactive approach to preventing security threats to ensure that this doesn’t happen on their platform. Their development team routinely checks lines of code and tests for vulnerabilities using third-party automated auditing software.
Since launching in 2012, Craft has experienced less than 40 minor security issues, and none on the scale of issues WordPress has had to deal with. WordPress, on the other hand, has had more than 4,000 documented exploits ranging from minor to very, very major.
This is a big reason Craft is entrusted by some major companies, including:
About 90% of all hacked CMS sites are WordPress sites."
First, the CMS you choose doesn’t make or break your search rankings. Ultimately, your Google page position depends on a dizzying amount of other factors, from the content you publish to your site’s load speed, and much, much more. However, what your CMS should do is make it easier for you and your team to manage all of those factors.
WordPress is known for having a great SEO plugin, Yoast SEO. The plugin handles all of your technical and on-page SEO needs, from generating sitemaps and canonical URLs, to identifying keyword gaps in your blog content. Yoast does have a free version that works well, but to really take advantage of its features, you need to pay for the premium version.
Craft also has a very similar, and in some ways, superior SEO plugin called SEOmatic. SEOmatic provides more than just common SEO tools. It goes further to automatically render metadata and create sitemaps for Google, all while providing a range of advanced SEO options.
SEOmatic bills itself as a “turnkey SEO system,” and rightly so. As soon as it is installed on your Craft site, it automatically renders metadata on all of your pages and creates sitemaps for anything with a public URL — all without the need for any extra template code. If you have a large site with hundreds or even thousands of pages, this is invaluable.
It also implements:
Perhaps the biggest testimony to Craft and SEOmatic's superiority is the fact that Moz.com, the go-to resource for SEO experts, uses Craft CMS and SEOmatic over WordPress and Yoast SEO.
You might remember that WordPress started as just a blogging platform. Unfortunately, in the years since, it hasn’t evolved significantly beyond that original purpose. In WordPress, key tasks of a true CMS - like creating custom post types, using custom fields, creating structured content editing, or building taxonomies - can involve writing a lot of code, installing many 3rd party plugins, or can be a cumbersome process.
WordPress has bandaged some of its shortcomings, thanks in large part to the WordPress theme and plugin market. Inarguably, WordPress has better built-in functionality for the do-it-yourself crowd, with many templates and plugins to quickly get a website up and running, even if it’s a bit of a mess.
But what about several steps beyond a DIY website? WordPress still includes some respectable features, such as the new page editor, Gutenberg. But the blocks and responsive design are features we’ve already been including on all of our Craft CMS websites for years before these recent additions. To bring WordPress up to speed with Craft CMS, you’ll immediately be swimming in plugins just to achieve what should be base functionality.
Craft CMS has one massive advantage in this area and, as with content editing, it stems from the fact that Craft CMS didn’t begin as a blogging platform, but rather as an entirely new way to manage websites. Because of this approach, Craft CMS includes power features right out of the box, including matrix fields to easily build flexible pages, categories and tags to keep content organized, and relations to build intelligent connections between content throughout a website.
Craft keeps customization at the forefront of what they do. They famously make no assumptions about your content — instead, they allow designers and developers like us to set up the exact custom fields you need for each section or element.
WordPress has a huge third party market that offers pre-packaged plugins, themes, and dummy data that allows you to get up and running fairly quickly. Much like the iTunes App Store, there’s practically a WordPress plugin for everything. This can help mitigate development costs significantly.
Craft CMS has a smaller ecosystem compared to WordPress. However, Craft includes a very supportive community made up of mostly developers, content managers, and the Craft support team. Craft has its own plugin market, which makes it easy to manage updates and licensing directly from the CMS. It’s quickly growing in size and new high quality plugins are added almost daily. Because it is regulated within Craft’s market, all purchasing goes through your Craft ID. Having a singular location to manage all your licensing and payments is very useful. WordPress plugins, on the other hand, are managed at the third party level, which can be a pain to keep track of.
The Craft community is heavily supported in Discord (a chat program similar to Slack). Craft also has its own StackExchange, which is a community-powered Q&A platform that developers can use to find answers to development questions or to post answers for others. Since Craft is open-source, developers can also interact directly with the Craft team and other developers via the Github repository. Feature requests, issues, enhancements, and product changes can all be viewed and discussed in a public setting, creating a direct continual improvement feedback loop between Craft's users and its developers.
In a number of cases, WordPress makes sense as a no-frills, no-nonsense, get-your-site-up-and-running CMS platform. DIY-ers can quickly install a theme, make some adjustments and have a new website live in a short time.
In most cases though, and especially when the site needs some level of flexibility or custom design, Craft CMS is a far superior platform. It is more secure and more versatile. And any perceived features that Wordpress has, Craft also has, oftentimes implemented in a more intuitive way.
Documentation is a crucial part of successful project communication – and even more so when you have a remote team. We know that it’s impossible to deliver a complex project successfully without documenting it from inception through post-launch.