Craft, ExpressionEngine, and WordPress - A CMS Comparison

Posted by Ben Fjare on Mar 3, 2016 8:00:00 AM

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Here at Prime we have experience with three open source Content Management Systems.  These systems  allow the maximum level of customization for your front and backend management.  This article will be a simple CMS comparison.

WordPress

There are plenty of people out there bashing WordPress in blogs and I don't want this to be one of them.  WordPress is a great platform if you are blog driven. The problem is that most commercial sites aren't. Sure, they have a blog, but that is a small part of what their digital identity is and having your entire CMS centered around that is probably not ideal. WordPress natively handles SEO very well and in my opinion, is its biggest strength.  Other huge positives are its community.  Well over a quarter of the web is managed with WordPress and the community involved can be considered dedicated. 

Themes are generally what I would consider both the best and worst part of WordPress.  The good... they give you a great starting point for the website.  The bad... everything else.  Content entry and the way content is displayed are intertwined, which makes it difficult to redesign a site. Content is usually connected to the design so this prevents drastic changes from happening to one with out the other being modified as well.

For most however the best part of WordPress is the price.

Cost: $0 + Plugins

Reasons to use WordPress

  • You want a blog and not much else. 
  • You like to install plugins to add features that should be part of a CMS by default.
  • You like to rapidly remove these plugins as they destroy your entire site.
  • You are not a developer, don't have a developer or don't know what a developer is.

Reasons not to use WordPress

  • Your site does not have a blog or the blog is a minor part of the site.
  • You (as a developer) like simple clean templates that you can easily modify and understand.
  • You don't like plugins and think all functionality should be native.

 

ExpressionEngine

I've been using ExpressionEngine since 2010.  I'm a "fanboy" and I fully admit it.  I've been lucky enough to have attended an EE Conference twice now and really enjoy it. ExpressionEgine changed my business. Before we really depended on LightCMS that had a robust functionality and easy custom templating. It worked and we still love LightCMS.  They even did an awesome case study on us. However, EE took us to the next level on what we could provide our clients.

The biggest advantage EE has over other CMS is the true separation of content management and how its displayed.  I could have the same dashboard interface and content entry points and then display it a thousand different ways, a thousand different times.  As a designer by education this makes me happy. The functionality is robust and the limitations are minimal.  Clients can handle it easily and training is a snap.

The problems are few but there are some things to note.  It's not a free CMS (which is actually a strength ... try getting a hold of WordPress tech support) so there is a monetary barrier.  It's not a plug and play system.  You will need to know at least HTML, CSS and probably Javascript.  The community is smaller but pound for pound better then most in my opinion. From a technical standpoint the integration and templating system is elegant and looks nice.  It's easy to read and quick to pick up for front end developers.

All in all if you know HTML, CSS, JS and nothing on the server side, this is a great place to build you abilities and give people what they need.  If you looking for a company that knows this system, your in good hands.

Cost: $299 + Plugins

Reasons to use ExpressionEngine

  • Flexible, Scalable, Easy
  • It's been around awhile
  • Great security
  • Great Community
  • You think that at some point... sometime... things might need to change

Reasons not to use ExpressionEngine

  • You don't code or don't have a developer
  • Your site is super simple
  • You don't have a ton of content
  • Your site has very minimal functionality
  • Require pre built themes

CRAFT

When it comes to commercial CMS's, Craft is the new kid on the block.  I think many people would agree with me when I say that this product is a close cousin of ExpressionEngine. It's similar and different all at the same time.  There is a separation of content and display, as well as a clean, simple user interface to manage content. The biggest advantage is extensive flexibility and minimal need for plugins.   With the exception of advanced features, most of what you'll need is right there. The live preview feature alone is an incredible tool that makes this a whole different experience from other management systems.

Craft has the prettiest admin interface and the most functionality out of the box. However, it's biggest downfall is it's adolescence.  The community, although passionate, is small.  There are several great plugins for the advanced functionality you will need but the security of quality development from third-parties is less then perfect. 

All in all Craft is one of the fastest growing CMS's in history and will be used more and more.  Any misgivings should be taken with a grain of salt and will only get better with age.

Cost: $199 - $299 + Plugins

Reasons to use CraftCMS

  • Great starting price
  • Robust and easy to use
  • Little need for plugins
  • Scalable and fast

Reasons not to use CraftCMS

  • No developer or little experience with front end development
  • Site has very little content
  • Require pre built themes

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