If you're a web developer or virtually any other digital creative, you're no doubt familiar with WordPress.
Since launching in 2003, the old-school king of content management systems has been the default CMS of choice for millions of creators – approaching half a billion sites. The CMS market share claimed by WordPress is somewhere north of 60 percent, commanding more eyeballs than all other systems combined.
It's quite mad to think about, but according to these same studies, that also means WordPress powers some 35 percent of the content of the entire internet.
Flexibility vs Ease of Use
But there are plenty of good reasons why WordPress is such a popular CMS: out of the box, for time-crunched creators who want to get their site up and running quickly and don't need much customisation, WordPress is a godsend. You can find WordPress at the heart of sites ranging from the most basic mom-and-pop blogs to sophisticated multi-million dollar enterprise websites.
But even with the popularity and ease of use that WordPress brings to the table, more and more devs are turning to Craft CMS as a reliable, flexible, and more easily-adaptable solution to their needs.
We'll highlight the differences between Craft CMS vs WordPress, and look into some of the pros and cons of each. But first, let's take a closer look at exactly what Craft CMS is, where it comes from, and what it aims to achieve.
The History of Craft CMS
Craft is a relative newcomer to the arena of content management systems, having launched in 2013. But even in the crowded CMS field, Craft has proven quite popular.
Born out of an Oregon-based boutique software development firm called Pixel & Tonic, Craft is the brainchild of a company that had previously been lauded for developing a number of popular premium add-ons for ExpressionsEngine CMS. Pixel & Tonic founder Brandon Kelly and his team have been interested in developing their own CMS from as far back as 2010, initially creating a CMS they called 'Blocks.'
That early effort – and the enthusiasm Kelly and his team had for the kind of CMS customisation they refined while working on ExpressionsEngine – later morphed into Craft.
These days it's estimated that some 70,000 sites are currently using Craft, quite a respectable number in such a crowded field. But perhaps the raw numbers aren't as important for understanding the appeal of Craft as it is to know just who is singing their praises.
Craft has long been a favourite of developers and content managers who are fans of its unique combination of flexibility and user-friendliness. Devs who have found an affinity for Craft cite the fact that it's designed to be fully customisable, giving the user control over every aspect of the site, including the ability to use your HTML.
Smaller to medium-sized companies and independent developers who don't need a fully bespoke CMS but still want to have more creative input into their sites’ layouts are Craft's bread and butter. Another plus for smaller operators is that you only need one Craft installation to run content for several websites, so if you have multiple projects on your plate at once, it's ideal.
Top off all the positive anecdotal reviews for Craft with its reception from critics, and it quickly becomes apparent why it's a top choice. For instance, it was in 2015, only two years after launch, that Craft won the award for Best CMS for Developers from CMSCritics.
And the accolades have kept right on coming ever since.
Craft CMS vs WordPress: Delicious Simplicity with a core center of Complexity
Much has been said over the 17 years since WordPress launched about the system’s clean interface and ease of use. That’s precisely why it’s so popular with people who just want to publish their thoughts and post some photos, or otherwise get their creative endeavours out into the world in the simplest way possible.
For many developers, it’s that much-lauded simplicity – and the restrictive environment it creates as a byproduct – that's also WP's greatest limitation.
On the other hand, Craft CMS vs WordPress brings a Goldilocks 'just right' situation to the user. Craft does have the simplicity and ease of use that WordPress has out of the box – but only if that’s where you want to leave it. Craft is also highly customisable if you prefer to spread your wings as a developer.
You have the option to build much more complex sites that are more reliant on PHP, query optimisations, and databases, for instance. In other words, users can create something with a little more complexity to it with Craft, and the system isn’t going to fight you every step of the way as can occur with WordPress.
Significant Differences Between Craft CMS vs WordPress for Developers
We’ve already touched on a few of the more apparent differences between Craft CMS vs WordPress, but here we’ll break them down in more detail.
Why Developers Choose WordPress:
● WordPress Is Free – Watching your budget is always important. But keep in mind that Craft’s Pro license is quite cheap. It's also important to remember that in order to create a site on WordPress that goes beyond the most basic, you’ll have to buy at least a handful of premium plug-ins just to get started.
● Massive Community and Resources Available – Obviously, with a CMS that’s as ubiquitous and with such longevity as WordPress, the resources available are much broader and deeper.
● Ease of Managing Plug-Ins – Along with WordPress’ simplicity comes a super clean and easy-to-navigate system for searching for, installing, and updating plug-ins directly from the dashboard.
● Quantity of Plug-Ins – Speaking of WordPress and plug-ins, it's like Rule 34 for CMS: if you can imagine a WordPress plug-in, it already exists. There's always a plug-in for that.
● High-Quality Media Uploader/Image Editing – With 17 years to hone their UI, not to mention the system’s clear design bias toward blogging and other less developer-oriented uses, it comes as no surprise that WordPress has done a great job on how it handles media.
● WooCommerce – Launched in 2011, the WooCommerce plug-in for online merchants on WordPress is still one of the most widely lauded options for people hawking their wares online.
● Dashboard – WordPress has devised and revised a clean and simple-to-use dashboard that is beloved by creatives of all stripes from around the world.
Why Developers Choose Craft CMS vs WordPress:
● Craft Is Actually a CMS– At the end of the day, when considering Craft CMS vs WordPress, most developers would agree that, at its heart, WordPress is a blogging platform, not a true CMS. That's okay, and it's great at what it does. But if you're looking to develop a custom site that goes beyond a traditional blog, you'll find yourself constantly doing battle with the system's core, unlike with Craft.
● Templating Engine – With WordPress, you have no PHP templating engine built in, and you'll need to use a plug-in like Timber to then use Twig. Craft, on the other hand, uses Twig as its templating engine.
● Totally Customisable – With Craft, you never feel like you're constantly adapting your content to fit the constraints of the CMS, but rather creating the look you actually want.
● Extensibility – Craft is built on the Yii Framework, which is a PHP framework that's well known to be fast as well as resilient.
● Author Experience – Craft gets consistently high marks from actual creatives who made the sites that use it. Authors cite Craft's system of easily created and adjusted, fully-customisable fields and sections, it's version control (easily roll content back to any previous revision) and ease of localisation.
● Craft's Community – It's true, WordPress' community is also listed as a 'pro,' understandable given WP's vast and mighty user base. However, you might be surprised to learn (or maybe not, after reading this) that Craft's community is also robust, enthusiastic, and supportive. Craft CMS StackExchange is active and has lots of great conversations and tips. But also look to their Discord, where you'll even find devs from Pixel & Tonic, Craft's creators interacting with people who love what they've made.
The bottom line is that choosing to use Craft CMS vs WordPress comes down to two things: 1.) What is your skillset, and 2.) What do you want to do?
But even if you aren't a totally confident developer, or if you are but just pressed for time, let us know. Laracle offers a Craft CMS Development Service that can take your ideas for your site and make them a reality. Our team of highly skilled devs can work with you to create a near-bespoke site using all the custom options Craft CMS features, including many hard-to-find ones.
If creativity and crafting a site that truly reflects your vision without cutting corners is what you're after, Laracle and Craft CMS might be right for you.