As an agency who are regularly weighing up the pros and cons of WordPress vs Craft CMS for our own client projects we thought we’d share an insight into what we consider when reviewing the options.
There truly are some great reasons to use both WordPress and Craft CMS depending on the requirements of your website. We review the objectives and purpose of each client’s project and recommend which CMS is best suited for their needs.
As it’s so popular, many clients prefer to have their site built on WordPress, however more and more agencies and developers are jumping ship to Craft as it offers many out-of-the-box features and functionality. Something that you can only get through expert development or plugins via WordPress.
In your journey to find out the best CMS for your project, read through our unbiased experience of both platforms to help you choose the one suited for you…
Let’s talk about everyone’s favourite topic first, price! What is the difference between WordPress vs Craft CMS when it comes to costs?
As an Open Source software, you can actually download WordPress and start using it absolutely free. However, if you want to start developing or building via an agency, a freelancer or yourself then you will have to start paying for hosting fees and some plugins along the way.
Once you total these costs then the price of your project can quickly add up. We do a lot of development work with WordPress and you can read a full cost breakdown of a high-converting WordPress build with us here.
With Craft CMS you can technically start using it for free too, however for business purposes and to access the functionality you probably need you’ll need to pay a licence fee of $299.
What’s great about Craft however is that there are many out-of-the-box functionalities that you’ll get included in that price. For example easy-to-format content blocks, rapid loading times and even a localisation feature which allows you to offer your site in multiple languages and/or currencies.
In saying all this, for us to build a new site on WordPress or Craft CMS, the cost of our design and development is usually very similar.
This leads us nicely to one of the main sources of website costs…
With 10 years longer on the market, it’s safe to say that WordPress beats Craft CMS when it comes to the number of plugins available. There are over 60,000 different plugins on the marketplace, from contact forms to email integrations enabling you to do pretty much anything.
As we mentioned, WordPress is open source and one particular downside of that is that you cannot always guarantee plugin quality. Anyone can create and upload pretty much anything to the marketplace. To help you review plugins thoroughly before you buy and download them, here are our quality assurance guidelines:
- Is it receiving regular updates and maintenance?
- Check how many downloads it has had (>1000 is best)
- Read the reviews (are they positive?)
- Does it have lots of 5⭐️reviews? (>100 at least)
- Does the system look well-supported?
On the flip side, Craft CMS also has plugins but a lot fewer than WordPress. This is mostly because of the out-of-the-box functionality Craft provides there is less need for them.
There are two great features of Craft plugins:
- They are vetted more thoroughly prior to uploading to the marketplace to help ensure only great quality code is submitted
- You can try it before you buy to check it’s the right plugin for you
Again it really does depend on your site as to which is best suited for you.
Recently, we built a brand new site for our client Potton on Craft CMS.
With so many 3rd party plugins available for use, and with many not being supported, they can pose a security risk. This is one of the disadvantages of WordPress – sites built on this platform are more likely to get hacked.
In fact, in 2018, 90% of sites that were, were powered by WordPress.
That’s not because WordPress isn’t secure per se, it’s because there are SO many sites built on WordPress that it’s just generally an easier target. On top of that, improper deployment, out-of-date and unsupported plugins and a lack of security knowledge can mean more vulnerabilities.
However, despite these negative stories, there are plenty of great security plugins you can install to protect your site, we recommend using WordFence.
On the other hand, as Craft CMS is a less popular CMS, it naturally receives fewer attacks. Again, security plugins are important and working with a developer who can ensure your site is built well and is protected securely.
Protecting your website is important no matter which platform it’s built on, so be sure to discuss this with your agency or developer.
WooCommerce makes running an online store through WordPress pretty straightforward. It’s the best e-commerce plugin and we use this regularly to build online stores for clients such as Battle Systems.
Thanks to the range of plugins that we’ve mentioned, there are a lot of opportunities to customise and personalise your e-commerce store through WooCommerce and it easily integrates into any existing WordPress site with the same backend system. This can help businesses grow without the complication of moving platforms etc.
On the flip side, Craft CMS offers Craft Commerce, another out-of-the-box solution to e-commerce. Without the need for any additional plugins, you can manage products, customise your checkout, offer discounts, coupons, a secure payment process and much more.
In saying this though, if you’re a larger enterprise client with millions of pounds running through your e-commerce site, we’re more likely to recommend an e-comm-specific platform instead. Shopify and Magento offer specialist services, tools and functionality that are focussed on a high-converting online store.
Generally, both platforms do quite well in terms of out-of-the-box functionality when it comes to SEO.
However, WordPress is well known for having great SEO capabilities and there’s a range of high-quality plugins to support this. Yoast is our favourite, this great plugin offers an easy-to-follow traffic light system, helps with meta information and gives you recommendations on how to improve your site and content.
In comparison, Craft CMS also supports a great plugin to help you improve your SEO. SEOMatic offers you a similar experience to ensure your site is optimised for those all-important Google crawls.
Both are free too which is great news!
Speed & Performance
Outside of keywords and relevance, speed is also an important factor when it comes to Google recognising your website.
There are many ways to make your website faster; speedier server, better hosting, compressed images, fewer plugins, in fact, we’ve written about it before. However, some platforms in general are just faster.
In the case of WordPress vs Craft CMS, we have to say Craft is naturally a speedier, more modern system.
To give you a little bit of technical background, by default, developers will use Twig PHP to build templates and themes for Craft. Twig has a very concise syntax, it condenses the templates to plain, optimised code meaning it can run and load much faster.
The first line of code is what you’d use in WordPress and the second line of code is what you’d use in Craft to execute the same action. You can see the latter is simplified and much cleaner.
When you’re dealing with thousands of lines of code, the amount of more complex WordPress code really adds up meaning there’s more to load and interact with, therefore making the website slower in general.
Whilst Twig can also be used for WordPress to simplify this syntax, it’s more complicated to set up.
Levels of Support
Both WordPress and Craft CMS are incredibly well supported with huge networks of passionate developers sharing their experiences, answers and code to help others.
On Stack Overflow, you can find questions and answers to just about everything WordPress-related. There’s a huge community of WordPress enthusiasts globally with support available in multiple languages.
When you pay for that Craft CMS licence, one huge benefit is that you’ll receive one year of Basic Developer Support which can help you solve any issues in those first 12 months. On top of that, there’s another great supportive community. Their discord channel is active with users from around the world sharing insights, support and projects.
Given we’re discussing content management systems, how good are these platforms at, um, actually managing your content?
Well in the case of WordPress which was originally built as a blogging platform, the standard approach to uploading content looks and feels more like entering your content into a Word document. Simple to use but tricky to format exactly how you like it…
Luckily, however, tools like Advance Custom Fields (ACF) enable you to include custom boxes and content styles making it much easier to upload and manage. We’ve worked hard to develop handy tools and processes to make WordPress easier to manage for our clients, however, this does take time and expertise to do so.
On the flip side, Craft has crafted (ha) the platform to be a user-friendly, blank canvas for content managers. This means they can customise the content blocks and types in the back-end straight away without the need for plugins like ACF.
In general, WordPress can feel a little slow when you’re administrating stuff via the back end, whereas Craft is a lot speedier.
We integrated podcasts, an events system and a truly mobile-first design through our work for Cornerstones Education – all built on WordPress.
When you get started with WordPress that has to be a base theme to work with, so for example we have a base theme called ‘skeleton’. We have built this internally and we use it as a starting point for all our WordPress builds.
In comparison, Craft doesn’t typically use themes – so a developer will build the design completely from scratch.
For both platforms, however, you can buy ready-made themes/designs to just insert in and edit. Great for smaller projects or businesses who just want to create and manage the website themselves – you can do it quite easily.
When it comes to hosting, both WordPress and Craft CMS can be hosted on pretty much any server you want. Whilst some specialise in particular platforms, for example, Siteground only hosts WordPress sites, there’s still a wide variety of hosting options to choose from.
Conclusion: WordPress vs Craft CMS?
A lot of other blogs that compare WordPress vs Craft CMS are very biased towards the latter. Whilst it does have a lot of handy out-of-the-box features, there are lots of great reasons to use WordPress too.
We hope this has given you a balanced overview of the two platforms so you can make an informed decision for your site. As with all big business decisions, it’s always important to review a few options.
If you’re planning to work with a developer or agency like us here at Strafe, they too will guide you through the most suitable systems that will help you achieve your objectives.