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Website planning

When Craft CMS is not the right choice for your website

Craft CMS. Secure, flexible, scalable, performant, reliable plugins and great support. What's not to like about these amazing benefits that will surely tick the boxes of the most demanding of website briefs? In truth, these are all great reasons to choose Craft as your content management system, but there are still a few reasons why Craft CMS might not be the right platform for your website. Here are 3 such scenarios where looking at other platform options may save you time and money.

Projects with a low budget

Craft CMS is not expensive for the amazing value it provides. However, costs are relative and unlike some platforms, Craft itself is not free. With a licence fee of US$299 and an annual renewal of $59 to ensure you continue to benefit from ongoing releases, for many projects this isn't an insurmountable cost. However, if your website budget is seriously limited (let's say less than $4,000/£3,000), then even though the licence fee represents a small-ish percentage of your budget, getting the extra value from Craft's features may prove difficult to achieve. Bear in mind there may also be plugins that can save on development, but still add to the overall cost.

What are the alternatives to Craft CMS?

We've long been fans of Statamic for smaller sites that might not need the heavy lifting from everything that Craft offers. The name Statamic is derived from the words static and dynamic; essentially it provides dynamic content from static files, so there's no database needed! At the time of writing, version 3 is in the works which sounds like it will introduce some innovative new features, but Statamic is designed to be simple, while maintaining the flexibility with plenty of custom fields for holding different types of content. This means that you still have granular control over how your content is structured which makes for a great author experience, and with content stored in text files (rather than a database) its fast - but only up to a point. Too much content to sift through and performance will start to suffer, but smaller budget sites will usually have less content, so that shouldn't be a major concern.

Statamic is more than capable of running larger sites, but from our perspective, we've used it for micro-businesses who might typically have a handful of content pages plus a blog.

Another option to consider is Ghost. Billed as a publishing tool, it's perhaps more of a blogging platform than a fully fledged CMS, but it has an impressive range of features and is easy to use. It's ideal for personal websites and has the option of being fully hosted, so you don't have to worry about setting it up or even finding a server to run it, although that remains an option.

Both of these products have lower cost licences, although the self hosted version of Ghost is free.

Website planning on a whiteboard

A website shouldn't be seen as purely a 'tick box' exercise. Having a plan ensures you can get the maximum benefit from the technology for your organisation.

Websites that need to be deployed quickly

Craft CMS is essentially scaffolding giving users a variety of different approaches and features that can be layered on top of its core functionality. However, once you've built your scaffolding (ie. installed Craft), there's still not a lot to show for it. There are no templates, no themes, no drag and drop widget to add a contact form to your site - heck, there aren't even any sections where you can start to add your content!

The point here is Craft needs to be built around your content. Its a content management system in the truest sense of the word (content before management), but once this has been done, it opens up a world of options to completely customise the front-end visitor experience. In fact, Craft doesn't care about what the front-end might look like, but you do need to tell it what to do and this takes time and experience to learn. Not only that, if for each site you need to plan out your content, build your fields and then build out the templates - all of this might be too much time and effort for a site with a limited shelf-life or urgent requirement.

Quick setup options compared to Craft CMS

This is where fully hosted solutions such as SquareSpace or Wix have matured massively over recent years, and for around $20 a month, you can quickly set up and customise a professionally designed theme without needing any development experience. There's obviously the cost of someone's time to consider and you can't expect the same feature set that might be available in a customised solution like Craft, but again, where lower budgets are concerned, or a quick proof of concept might be needed, these will often be a better route to take for the shorter term.

Projects that don't emphasise content first

Craft CMS is by name, a content management system. Its purpose is to enable people to publish, manage and promote their content, so if content doesn't feature highly in a list of requirements, then Craft may turn out to be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Single field solutions like WordPress allow you to throw in your content, apply some basic formatting and boom, you're pretty much done.

Website planning

Every website should have a plan, but if there's no time or resource to consider content on the site, then Craft CMS may end up being overkill for the requirement.

Granted, you could still use Craft and enjoy the author experience it offers, as well as other benefits, but you're likely to find yourself in a position where you're missing out on many of Craft's killer features that make managing content easy and stress free. These features will only come into their own when content had been planned and mapped out, so if this part of the process is skipped over or de-prioritised, Craft will still work, but will be less likely to offer the promise of an efficient and performant workflow.

Andrew profile

Andrew is the founder of multi-award winning A Digital and believes that technology should be an enabler, making a positive impact on the way people live and work.

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