With the growing popularity of headless CMS solutions, developers today have more options than ever when it comes to choosing a content management system (CMS) for their projects. Two of the most popular CMS choices are WordPress and Strapi. But which one should you use?
We’ll compare WordPress and Strapi across several factors to help you decide which CMS is the best fit for your needs. We’ll look at the differences and similarities between these two platforms in terms of features, ease of use, customizability, performance, scalability, security, and more.
WordPress needs little introduction – it powers over 40% of all websites, making it by far the most used CMS today. Strapi, on the other hand, is a relatively newer open-source headless CMS that has quickly grown in popularity over the past few years.
While WordPress offers a more traditional CMS model, Strapi is designed specifically for headless architecture. This fundamental difference affects how the two platforms stack up across various criteria. Read on as we explore WordPress vs Strapi in detail to help guide your CMS decision when building a new project.
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) that allows anyone to create and manage websites easily. It started as a blogging platform but has evolved to help users build various types of sites, from blogs and portfolios to eCommerce stores. WordPress is the leading website creation tool worldwide, powering over half of the web’s content. It is an excellent website platform for a variety of websites, from personal blogs to business and portfolio websites.
Some key features of WordPress include:
- Themes: WordPress offers a wide range of themes that allow users to customize the look and feel of their website.
- Plugins: WordPress has a vast library of plugins that can be used to add functionality to a website, such as contact forms, social media sharing buttons, and SEO optimization tools.
- Content Management: WordPress makes it easy to manage important aspects of a website, like content, without needing to know anything about programming.
- User-Friendly Interface: WordPress has a user-friendly interface that makes managing a website easy, even for beginners.
To get started with WordPress, users need a WordPress hosting service and a domain name. Once installed, users can choose a theme that appeals to them and what they want to accomplish with their website. WordPress also offers a robust WYSIWYG editor for easy post creation, posts, tags, and categories for creating a rich content organization system, and options for users to leave comments and for website owners to easily moderate them.
Some key features and benefits of Strapi include:
- Headless CMS – Strapi is designed as a headless CMS, meaning it separates content from presentation. This makes it ideal for distributing content to any device.
- Developer-friendly – Strapi is designed with developers in mind, providing a quick learning curve and lots of flexibility.
- Customizable Content Types – Strapi makes it easy to create and manage custom content types without coding.
- Role-based Permissions – Users can be assigned granular permissions and access to content.
- Plugin System – Strapi has a plugin system that allows extending functionality.
- API-first Approach – Strapi surfaces all content through APIs for easy consumption across devices.
- Open Source – Strapi is released under the MIT license, meaning it’s completely free and open source.
Editor and content creation
The WordPress editor, often referred to as the “Block Editor” or “Gutenberg,” is a user-friendly and powerful tool for creating content, including posts, pages, and custom fields. It was introduced in WordPress version 5.0 and represents a significant improvement in terms of content creation and customization. Here’s how it simplifies the process of creating different types of content:
- Block-Based Editing: The WordPress Block Editor organizes content into blocks. Each block is a separate element, such as a paragraph, heading, image, video, or custom content. This block-based approach makes it easy to structure and format your content intuitively.
- Simplicity and Usability: The Block Editor is designed with simplicity in mind. It offers a clean and modern interface that is user-friendly even for those who are not experienced with web development. It allows you to create and edit content visually, similar to working with a word processor.
- Content Types:
- Posts: Creating blog posts in WordPress is straightforward with the Block Editor. You can add text, images, videos, and various other content types by simply adding blocks to your post.
- Pages: Pages are used for creating static content like your website’s About Us, Contact, or Services pages. The Block Editor works the same way for pages as it does for posts, making it easy to design and customize your page layouts.
- Custom Fields: While the Block Editor primarily focuses on content within the post or page, WordPress allows you to create custom fields for storing additional data associated with your content. This data can be displayed or used for various purposes, such as metadata, custom post types, or theme-specific features. Custom fields can be added using plugins or themes and are typically managed outside of the Block Editor.
- Customization and Blocks:
- Reusable Blocks: You can save frequently used content or layouts as reusable blocks, making it easy to insert them into multiple posts or pages.
- Block Library: The Block Editor includes a library of pre-built blocks, and you can extend its capabilities with plugins to add custom blocks tailored to your needs. This allows for flexibility and creativity in your content creation.
Strapi content modeling
Strapi’s content modeling is significantly different from the traditional WordPress approach, as it takes a more developer-centric, headless CMS approach. Strapi doesn’t provide an out-of-the-box website like WordPress but serves as a powerful content management system designed for decoupled or headless architecture. Here’s an explanation of Strapi’s content modeling and why it differs from WordPress:
1. Content Modeling in Strapi:
- Customization: In Strapi, content modeling begins with the creation of custom content types, which are sometimes called “models.” This allows you to define the structure of your content exactly as you need it. For example, if you’re creating a blog, you would create an “Article” model with fields like ID, title, content, creation date, author, etc.
- Flexible Schema: Strapi offers flexibility in designing your content models. You can define different fields and data types, relationships between models, and validations for the data, making it suitable for various types of content, from blog posts to e-commerce products.
- API-First Approach: Strapi is API-first, meaning it focuses on providing a well-structured RESTful or GraphQL API to deliver content to various front-end clients. You define the data structure in Strapi, and it generates APIs for you.
To display content created in Strapi on a website, you need a front-end application or client, such as React, Next.js, or any other framework. This client consumes the API provided by Strapi and handles the presentation of content.
Flexibility and customization
Both WordPress and Strapi are highly flexible and customizable CMS platforms. WordPress has a time-tested history of being extended and customized to suit virtually any website need imaginable through its plugins and themes architecture. Of course, being powered by PHP, it does come with some of the language’s inflexibilities that can occasionally frustrate developers.
One area where Strapi provides more flexibility is in its database integration. Strapi allows the developer to choose which database type makes the most sense for their project, whether MongoDB, PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, or others. This gives projects more options in terms of performance, scalability, or using a database developers are most comfortable with.
In contrast, WordPress is powered by PHP and deeply integrated with MySQL databases, specifically requiring MySQL or MariaDB. While these traditional SQL databases are time-tested and work well at scale, some developers may prefer the flexibility of NoSQL document databases like MongoDB for certain modern web projects.
The ability to choose from various SQL and NoSQL databases based on the needs of each project is a key advantage of Strapi’s headless CMS approach. WordPress offers less database flexibility being tied to MySQL, though plugins exist to integrate external databases if needed.
File Upload Handling
WordPress File Uploading
Here are some key points about how WordPress handles file uploads and media:
- The Media Library – WordPress has a dedicated “Media” section in the admin dashboard that serves as a file library. All uploaded images, videos, documents, etc get organized here.
- Uploading Files – Files can be uploaded directly to the media library in several ways:
- Using the “Add New” button in the Media section
- Dragging and dropping files into the media uploader
- Selecting files when editing posts and pages
- File Types – By default, WordPress supports common image, video, document and audio file formats like JPG, PNG, GIF, MP4, PDF, DOC, MP3, etc. Plugins can extend supported types.
- Inserting into Content – Uploaded media can easily be inserted into pages, posts, and custom post types using the media library. The files can be sized and positioned.
- Media Settings – There are settings to specify max upload sizes, enable automatic resizing, set thumbnail sizes, and more related to media handling.
- File Storage – By default files are stored on the hosting server’s filesystem. Plugins allow saving to cloud/remote services.
So in total, WordPress provides a robust media library for uploading and organizing files central to the CMS, with convenient insertion into content. Developers have ample ability to configure and customize media handling as needed.
Strapi File Uploading
Unlike WordPress, Strapi does not come with built-in file upload handling capabilities out of the box. However, it is designed to integrate with external file storage services like Cloudinary, AWS S3, or your own custom server setup.
- More complexity for developers to setup, but the flexibility to use virtually any file storage system.
- Ability to leverage optimized cloud storage services like S3, which can improve performance.
- File storage costs, especially when exceeding free tiers on services like Cloudinary and AWS S3. This can add overhead expenses to projects.
- Often easier global CDN distribution of files stored on cloud services.
So while WordPress makes uploading and managing files simpler to get started, Strapi provides more backend flexibility. Developers can choose optimized storage systems that make the most sense for each project. The tradeoff is added complexity, and potentially increased costs at scale when using paid cloud services.
An ideal solution for many projects may be starting with Strapi’s free Cloudinary tier for development, then upgrading to a paid AWS S3 or similar production storage system when traffic grows. There are pros and cons to each approach.
Performance and scalability
Strapi is generally faster than WordPress when it comes to making API requests. Strapi is built on Node.js, which is known for its speed and scalability, while WordPress is built on PHP, which is generally slower than Node.js. Strapi’s headless architecture also allows developers to optimize the backend specifically for their project’s needs, resulting in high-performing applications. However, the speed of Strapi can be affected by various factors, such as server performance, database optimization, and the size of the request. WordPress, on the other hand, has a larger community and more resources available, including plugins and themes, which can help improve its performance. Therefore, while Strapi is generally faster than WordPress when it comes to making API requests, the speed of both platforms can be affected by various factors, and users should take steps to optimize their server and website to ensure optimal performance.
As two popular open source CMS platforms, both WordPress and Strapi require taking security precautions.
WordPress powers over 40% of all websites, making it an attractive target for hackers. While core WordPress is secure, vulnerabilities can come through plugins, themes, or outdated software. Keeping WP sites updated and limiting plugins is key. You will likely get a lot more spam using a WordPress site. There are also security services and plugins like Wordfence available.
Strapi is newer and less common than WP, meaning fewer attacks targeting it specifically. However, like any Node.js software, proper authentication, input validation, rate limiting etc need to be implemented to avoid exploits. Strapi’s permissions system provides access control.
Overall, neither platform has glaring security flaws, but precautions need to be taken:
- WordPress – Update frequently, limit plugins, strong passwords, security plugins.
- Strapi – Implement authentication, validation, rate limiting correctly in development. Limit admin panel access.
With proper precautions taken during development and maintenance, both WP and Strapi sites can achieve a high level of security.
Search Engine Optimization
Moreover, when working with React or Next.js, you are responsible for creating your own sitemap, which is essential for search engines to discover and understand the structure of your site. In contrast, WordPress offers the advantage of well-established SEO plugins like Yoast and Rank Math, which are among the most popular and trusted SEO tools in the WordPress community. These plugins simplify the process of optimizing your content for search engines, generating sitemaps, and providing valuable insights to improve your website’s SEO performance.
While React and Next.js can deliver highly dynamic and fast performant websites, it’s important to be aware of the additional effort required for SEO, including manual sitemap creation. WordPress, on the other hand, offers user-friendly SEO plugins that can streamline your SEO efforts, making it a preferred choice for those who prioritize strong search engine visibility. The choice between these technologies should align with your specific project needs, including your SEO strategy and the complexity of your website.
Which is Better for Your Needs?
When it comes to choosing between WordPress and Strapi, the decision hinges on your specific needs and the nature of your project. In the vast majority of cases, WordPress proves to be the best choice for websites that require simplicity and a quick setup. For small businesses, realtors, restaurants, or anyone in need of a basic site, WordPress is like a ready-made solution. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; just install WordPress, choose a theme, add some essential plugins, and you’re good to go.
However, where Strapi truly shines is in the realm of heavy data-driven, dynamic sites. Think of complex applications, SaaS products, or any project that involves intricate user interactions and custom backends. Strapi offers unparalleled customizability and scalability, allowing you to create powerful, tailor-made solutions. The downfall of WordPress in these scenarios is its inherent bloat. Adding numerous themes and plugins can lead to a sluggish site, making it unsuitable for complex applications where performance and efficiency are paramount.
WordPress boasts a colossal advantage in the form of its extensive community and developer network. With millions of users and developers worldwide, there’s a treasure trove of knowledge, resources, and solutions available online. Whether you’re seeking answers on forums like WordPress.org or looking for guidance on a particular issue, you’re likely to find a wealth of information.
On the flip side, while Strapi has a growing and passionate community, it may not match the vastness of WordPress’s community. Additionally, finding Node.js developers with expertise in Strapi might be a bit more specialized. However, this specialization can be an advantage in itself, as it ensures that those working with Strapi often possess a deeper understanding of complex, data-driven applications. So, while WordPress offers a readily available pool of developers and resources, Strapi’s more specialized community can excel in handling intricate, custom backend needs.
In essence, for about 90% of websites that lean toward simplicity, WordPress is the natural choice. For that remaining 10%, where the demands are more intricate and data-driven, Strapi emerges as the optimal solution, offering the versatility and performance needed to build highly complex and dynamic web applications. The key lies in recognizing the specific requirements of your project and choosing the platform that best aligns with your goals.
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