CMS vs Framework – which one should you use for web development?
Published on October 15, 2020
Last modified on June 10, 2022
Published on October 15, 2020
Last modified on June 10, 2022
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Having trouble choosing between a CMS and a framework for your web development project?
It’s very important to understand the difference between the two. Making an uninformed decision could result to you choosing a platform that’s not right for your business, eventually requiring you to start over and increasing the cost of your project.
In this article, we lay out the difference between CMS and frameworks, their pros and cons, and some factors to consider in making a choice between the two.
(For the purposes of this article, we consider “websites” and “webshops” the same and use the two terms interchangeably.)
A Content Management System (CMS) is an application that consists of features and functionalities that enable you to easily manage and publish content in a website or webshop without needing a developer.
A typical CMS has two major components:
1) a content management application (CMA), which allows you to add, modify, and remove the content on your site; and
2) a content delivery application (CDA), which is what works behind the scenes, compiling the content you input in the CMA, updating it, and delivering it to the frontend of your site—which is what your site visitors will see.
Widely used open-source CMS platforms include:
1. WordPress – WordPress is an open-source CMS based on PHP and MySQL. Launched in 2003, it is still considered as one of the simplest ways to create a website.
2. Umbraco – Umbraco was launched in 2004 and is one of the leading CMS built systems with a .NET framework. It boasts user-friendly features and flexible content management strategy.
3. Magento - Magento is an open-source ecommerce platform written in PHP. It's now one of the most popular ecommerce platforms due to its rich features and scalability.
3. Drupal – Drupal is another open-source CMS. It is often used in content-heavy systems or for social publishing sites. With its large selection of plugins, Drupal offers extensive opportunities for customization.
4. Joomla! – Joomla is the second most used CMS platform. It is recommended for either beginner or advanced users, even if it’s considered more challenging than WordPress. Like Drupal, it offers a large selection of plugins and SEO-friendly features.
5. DNN CMS – Formerly called DotNetNuke, DNN CMS is the most used CMS platform based on ASP.net (C# language). Although having limited free plugins, DNN’s best feature is that it is structured as portals, which is helpful if you need multiple websites under one umbrella. It also allows for multiple installation and hosting options.
Widely used closed-source CMS include:
1. Sharepoint – Sharepoint is a simple yet powerful closed-source CMS that integrates with MS Office. It offers a clean flow of managing your content, as well as communication between individuals and teams in your company.
2. CushyCMS – CushyCMS is designed for fast editing of websites and content. There are no add-ons available as everything is built in. CushyCMS is known for its simplicity and is best for smaller websites.
3. Sitecore – Sitecore is a CMS developed in 2001 using .NET. It boasts a customer-centric approach with features that support marketers to enhance UX through analysis. It is used mostly by enterprises with a bigger budget and those interested in content personalization and marketing.
4. Kentico – Kentico is a relatively new CMS developed in 2006. It prides itself as the only platform that is fully integrated with ASP.NET, ecommerce, and other marketing solutions. Because of its newness, it still lacks the functionality of other CMS and is not as easy to use.
5. Shopify – Shopify is another closed source ecommerce platform. With Shopify, hosting, payment integration, and even a content platform is provided out of the box. However, you have limited control of the changes you can make.
A CMS can be extended through website plugins or integrations to 3rd party systems. You can get plugins for free or purchase them from dedicated marketplaces, like:
A framework is a set of codes used to build websites and web applications.
Unlike a CMS, it doesn’t have ‘ready-to-use’ tools to manage and update content. However, a framework does come with ‘common codes’ that serve as building blocks for developing your website, making it a relatively easier option compared to coding completely from scratch.
Frameworks can also be extended using the “libraries”, which are collections of functions installed with frameworks, to create new functionalities by extending the framework’s core features in a similar way that plugins do for CMS.
Examples of frameworks include:
1. .NET – the NET framework from Microsoft supports C#, F#, and Visual Basic programming languages. It is a software development framework for building and running applications primarily on Windows servers.
Its new implementation .NET Core is a cross platform framework that extends the building and running of applications in Windows, Linux, and macOS servers.
2. Laravel – Laravel is a PHP framework developed in 2011. It has been a preferred framework by developers for years for its vast ecosystem.
3. CodeIgniter – CodeIgniter is another PHP framework known for its hassle-free installation and small footprint. It is best used for beginners and developing light-weight applications.
4. Phalcon - Phalcon is a full-stack PHP framework written in C- and C ++. Its most important asset is its speed—it uses fewer resources compared to other frameworks, which results in less memory consumption and enables it to handle more HTTP requests.
5. Symfony - Symfony is one of the oldest used PHP frameworks. It’s often the first choice for many developers for large-scale enterprise projects due to the extensive availability of reusable libraries and components.
Now that you know what CMS and frameworks are, we’ll share with you some factors you must consider before you choose which one to use for your website or webshop.
If your project doesn’t have too complex requirements, you can choose a CMS. For instance, if you want a blog, small webshop or website, then WordPress is an excellent system that would suit your needs.
If your project is more complex and has specific requirements that a CMS can’t handle, then a framework such as Laravel or Phalcon is more suitable. (For instance, if you have more than 10,000 users at the same time, etc.)
A CMS already comes with the basic features necessary to build a website or webshop, making development time shorter compared to frameworks. So, if you’re working with a minimum viable product (MVP) and you’re aiming to go live as soon as possible, then CMS may be the better option for you.
Since CMS-based web development take less time, it costs less too. With framework, not only is development time longer but most functionalities and features you want for your website must be developed, leading to higher cost.
Websites or webshops created through frameworks are more scalable since you’re not limited by an architecture not meeting your requirements like in a CMS.
In our 22 years in the industry, we’ve gotten to work with both CMS and Framework-based websites. When you start a new project with us, we typically start with reviewing your requirements and then recommending the right platform to use.
Check out some of projects we’ve done in the past using CMS and frameworks.
Scanlux Packaging’s ecommerce site was developed using WordPress with WooCommerce. It operates as a standard ecommerce site, with basic features for adding and managing products and order management—all of which are readily available with WordPress and WooCommerce.
Scanlux also actively updates their blogs and articles, which makes using a CMS like WordPress (with intuitive features for easily updating content) the better option.
Scanlux Packaging has been our client since 2018. Read what they have to say about 1902 Software’s WordPress team.
We did the development, support, and design of Sommerhus Danmark’s web application using Phalcon.
Sommerhus Danmark acts as a portal where users can rent summer houses from different agencies and private owners. As such, the site requires pulling data like property description, rental rates, availability dates, and upcoming deals or discounts from various Sommerhus partners.
This functionality is not available in CMS or off-the-shelf plugins, so our team decided to use a framework.
Read what they have to say about our service.
There is no right or wrong option between CMS and frameworks for developing your site.
The choice between using a framework or an open source CMS lies on what it will be used for and what your business needs are. If your website or webshop’s features can be achieved using CMS like WordPress, Magento, and Umbraco, then you’d be better off using them.
However, frameworks like .NET or CodeIgniter lets you build a website or webshop that’s customized for your needs. Although it will require much work, you get the ability to develop a system 100% the way you want it – with features and functionalities not found in standard CMS.
To get started on your website or webshop, contact us and get a free consultation. Our project managers are experienced in working with both CMS and frameworks. We will help you assess your requirements and determine which is best suited for your needs.