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Craft CMS vs Wordpress: Which is Better for Your Website?

Jarad Johnson, President

Posted on November 19, 2019

We compared eight major features Craft CMS and Wordpress share to declare a victor.

Wordpress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world, accounting for 34% of all websites and 60% of websites using a CMS. Since being introduced in 2003, Wordpress has grown from a fairly simple blogging platform into the largest ecosystem for building websites of all kinds.

Craft CMS began in 2011 as a mission by Pixel & Tonic to help web professionals build and maintain better websites. Since launching, Craft CMS has become a top CMS for web agencies because of its innovative approach to managing website content. Craft CMS was selected as the Best Wordpress Alternative in CMS Critic’s 2017 People’s Choice Awards, making it the perfect option to weigh against the CMS giant.

At Mostly Serious, we’ve worked with both Wordpress and Craft CMS (along with many other options) to build a wide variety of websites over the nearly decade we’ve been building websites.

For the purposes of this article, we’re comparing the two content management systems in the following eight categories we believe provide our clients significant value:

  1. Content Creation & Management
  2. Search Engine Optimization
  3. Built-in Functionality
  4. Plugins & Integrations
  5. Performance
  6. Security
  7. Ecommerce
  8. Pricing

So, which is right for you? Of course, that depends on your company’s goals, needs, and budget, but if you’re hiring our team to rethink your digital strategy in order to gain measurable results long-term, odds are pretty good we’ll advocate for Craft CMS and Craft Commerce.

This illustration introduces the content creation feature for Craft CMS vs Wordpress.

Content Creation & Management

The primary purpose of a CMS is to manage the content on a website. (You probably figured that out already). Both Craft CMS and Wordpress allow users to manage content. However, Craft makes it a hell of a lot less frustrating.

Wordpress has continually added features and options since originally launching as a blogging platform, and over time the patchwork of new features and plugins to plug the holes has resulted in a cluttered mess.

While we’ve met many experienced Wordpress users who have suffered the CMS long enough to learn how to navigate the site without constant headaches, we’ve yet to meet an experienced content manager who didn’t fall in love with the ease-of-use Craft CMS provides right out of the box.

Craft achieved such a great experience by building the system from the ground up with a very specific goal to make the life of content managers better. Features such as the matrix, live preview, one-click updating, and intelligent page building tools all make using Craft CMS a great experience for our clients. And, really, what’s better than a happy client?

🎉 Winner: Craft CMS

Search Engine Optimization

Wordpress is known for having one of the best SEO plugins in Yoast SEO, which has long given it an advantage in this category. However, Craft CMS has not just caught up in the SEO game, it has blown past Wordpress with its own elite SEO plugin, SEOmatic.

SEOmatic provides more than just common SEO tools, like alt attribute and link title attribute fields. It goes further to automatically render metadata and create sitemaps for Google, all while providing a range of advanced SEO options. These tools are so great that even Moz.com, the go-to resource for SEO experts, enthusiastically uses Craft CMS and SEOmatic over Wordpress and Yoast SEO.

Craft CMS has an advantage over Wordpress in other areas that benefit SEO performance, such as page load times and site security. As we described in our Why We Choose Craft CMS article, “Instead of manipulating code that the CMS spits out with every new website, Craft CMS generates nothing, allowing developers to create rather than manipulate. The result is less bloat, faster load times, and less expense to clients for developers to fix mistakes created by a CMS.“

When we start new relationships with our partners, we identify early on how important SEO is to achieving their business goals. And, while we love the return on investment SEOmatic provides, we are also careful to point out that the SEO tool is only as great as the SEO strategy and tactics executed. No plugin will replace the attention and care of SEO experts continually improving rankings through on-page and inbound SEO efforts (at least not yet). Lucky for you, we provide SEO services with a proven track record of success.

🎉 Winner: Craft CMS and SEOmatic

Built-in Functionality

For this category, we’re assuming built-in functionality applies to how a website would be built by a digital agency because, well, we’re a digital agency. 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’d already been including on all of our websites for years before this recent addition. 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 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.

This category is likely the most difficult to determine because both platforms are easy to set up for even amateur developers. However, with Craft CMS and an experienced website development agency, you can be sure your website is going to simply work with intuitive and powerful features baked in.

🎉 Winner: Craft CMS

Plugins & Integrations

This is one category in which Wordpress is inarguably the winner. As of 2019, there are 54,775 plugins available on Wordpress. And, while plenty of those plugins are broken, outdated, or simply not worth using, there are a lot of well-maintained and hugely beneficial plugins available to Wordpress developers and users.

Because Wordpress is so popular, there is massive demand for developers to build plugins for Wordpress, including a few options that have become required installs when creating a new Wordpress website.

The creators of Craft CMS knew they would be at a disadvantage in this category. To combat that fact, they’ve made creating new plugins and integrations very easy for developers. Because most companies selecting Craft CMS as their platform of choice are also working with an agency or in-house developers, the options are limitless in what Craft CMS is capable of doing—you just may not get it as a pre-built plugin.

🎉 Winner: Wordpress

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Performance

On the surface it would seem Wordpress and Craft CMS are fairly even on performance. With the right hosting provider, each solution can result in a fast-loading website for small and large businesses.

However, when looking below the surface, the differences become obvious. Craft CMS uses a standard called Model-View-Controller (MVC), made up of the Controller, Model, and View. Imagine a golf caddie is the Controller, the clubs she is carrying are the Model, and the result of the shot is the View. When you walk up to tee off, it wouldn’t make much sense for the caddie to hand you every club in the bag. The MVC ensures Craft CMS only delivers the necessary components when they are needed, making websites faster and more elegant.

Wordpress does not use the MVC framework. When sending a new request, you will likely get every club thrown at you, along with baseball bats and a few hockey sticks from one of the many plugins you needed to install.

The result of Craft CMS’s performance approach is not just a better experience for developers. It also delivers a blazing fast website, which will improve the experience of your site for visitors and your Google SEO rankings.

🎉 Winner: Craft CMS

Security

Wordpress is in a tough spot on this one. It’s not that Wordpress is worse than Craft CMS at security, or that we even know which is better, but the market share of Wordpress acts as a giant target on its back. Hackers attack Wordpress websites simply because there are so many Wordpress websites to attack.

Add in the security concerns of 50,000+ Wordpress plugins built by thousands of different developers and it starts to become clear why we’ve all heard so many horror stories of Wordpress websites getting hacked or held at ransom.

While Craft CMS benefits from consistent updates provided by a dedicated team, along with a much smaller and higher quality plugin ecosystem, we may not ever know how well its security would hold up to 60% of the CMS market share.

All that said, because Wordpress is a target for hackers and often succumbs to attacks, Craft CMS and Craft Commerce easily take this category.

🎉 Winner: Craft CMS

Ecommerce

Both Wordpress and Craft CMS offer ecommerce solutions. Wordpress does so through a very popular plugin called Woocommerce, and Craft CMS has an ecommerce product called Craft Commerce.

Both solutions would fall under the category of content driven ecommerce. Platforms that fall into this category are most beneficial to businesses that sell products or services online and plan to create a lot of content to attract or add value to their customer’s experience. Each of these systems is a leading option for content-driven ecommerce websites.

Wordpress provides more options in a familiar area: its plugins. Beyond Woocommerce, there are other major ecommerce plugins, including seamless integration with BigCommerce and Shopify. However, these solutions are still plugins and not built into Wordpress natively.

Alternatively, Craft Commerce was built by the same full-time dedicated team that built and maintains Craft CMS. Their mission when building Craft CMS remains to improve the lives of content managers (including anyone involved inordering and fulfillment processes in ecommerce). The result is an intuitive system running every aspect of your online property.

The magic of Craft Commerce (and why it wins this category in our opinion)is how well content and ecommerce fit together in one system. There are many powerful ecommerce options available for companies, such as our favorite for heavy-lifting ecommerce, Shopify. However, the combination of flexibility, scalability, built-in features, and integration with content management makes Craft CMS and Craft Commerce the easy choice for many of our clients.

🎉 Winner: Craft Commerce

Pricing

Pricing is an objective category with Wordpress taking it at $0 (though you’ll need to find a hosting provider). Craft CMS does include a free option, but it’s only for solo people needing a single login.

Craft CMS’s pricing runs as follows:

  • Craft CMS: $299 and $59/year for updates
  • Basic Craft Commerce (limited functionality): $199 and $39/year for updates
  • Craft Commerce: $999 and $199/year for updates

Each platform also includes costs associated with premium plugins.

The price tag associated with Craft CMS and Craft Commerce is typically a non-factor for our clients who are investing in a long-term digital strategy. Choosing the right platform is a vital factor for any new website project. Investing $300 to $1,300 in a quality, reliable platform is a very easy decision for many of our clients to make. And, as we’ve all learned many times, free online services almost always come at a cost to us in the future.

🎉 Winner: Wordpress

Conclusion

We have Craft CMS and Craft Commerce winning six of the eight total categories:

1. Content Creation & Management: Craft CMS

2. Search Engine Optimization: Craft CMS with SEOmatic

3. Built-in Functionality: Craft CMS

4. Plugins & Integrations: Wordpress

5. Performance: Craft CMS

6. Security: Craft CMS

7. Ecommerce: Craft Commerce

8. Pricing: Wordpress

🎉 Overall winner: Craft CMS

While Wordpress has a place for individuals or companies needing a quick, cheap website, we have come to recommend Craft CMS over Wordpress for nearly every new client. And, after walking those prospects through the rationale we have outlined above, they have always agreed.

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