As a web developer in the industry, I wanted to discuss content management systems (CMS) options and summarise what options we have, what works well and what doesn't.
Before we get into the comparison, we can't talk about CMS' without talking about Wordpress. It has it's place in the industry; it's great for blogs and running one-click install themes. Though, it's not a true CMS out of the box. It gets tricky with custom advanced sites as they need plugins and add-ons to do basic things easily like adding content, which I've never been a fan of.
However, both Perch and Craft have the opposite approach. It focuses on data, giving developers flexibility both admin side and front-end side which allows for cleaner and quicker manipulation of data.
Both Perch and Craft are popular CMS' for many types of websites and I do continue to use both here at Made by Kingfisher and both are excellent products for developers and editors!
I wanted to write a post that tried to summarise the two without becoming boring. It highlights the advantages and disadvantages of both, and thus helps you choose between the two.
Starting with Craft, the development learning curve is a little deeper than Perch. The data structure is more complex with the need to learn the jargon such as singles, structures and channels. Each of these are data types and serve a purpose which makes editing flexible, which then allows for greater flexibility.
In comparison, Perch uses a simpler structure in terms of content. It's broken down into pages, regions and shared regions to manipulate data. Perch Runway (the larger version of Perch) also has Collections, data not tied to a page or region, but data that can be reused and referenced across the site, a bit like structures and channels.
Perch utilises PHP functions to request data front-end, combined with HTML templates to render content using Perch tags.
Craft uses Twig, a fast, secure, flexible template engine for PHP. It's a bigger learning curve than Perch tags, but it does allow for greater data manipulation and more advanced template layouts. Nesting & math calculations in the templates themselves is just one of the areas where Twig tends to come out stronger of the two, however Perch does offer Template Filters to give developers complete functionality in template manipulation and offers basic template nesting.
Both sets of admin systems make editing really easy. Both platforms have clear easy to use designs that focus on content and provide an excellent tool for website content editors.
Perch's UI is quite basic, which makes it good for non-technical users and also puts a focus on editing. It works well on mobile and promotes a clean, simple feel which is what Perch is at it's core.
In comparison, Craft tends to be more refined, with more intuitive user experience features. I particularly like the way Craft handles assets in terms of drag & drop and the picker. The UI tends to scale better with larger amounts of data as it provides greater tools and flexibility for displaying data.
Craft has some fantastic features that puts it ahead for me in the editing department. It allows for greater flexibility with how you want content to be displayed in the admin; allowing developers to break content inputs into tabs and the Matrix field gives the developer choice which helps with larger sets of data.
In comparison, Perch has blocks and repeaters which give editors complete flexibility to structure the admin panel in whichever way they want, which gives developers limitless flexibility and it's super easy to implement. This data is then very easily pulled into templates, which is brilliant when data structures are quite simple.
Documentation & Support
Both Perch and Craft have an online documentation to reference. They also both have great communities with open-source code and access to chat to other developers through tools such as Slack.
Having had experience with both sets of support, Craft's documentation seems more full and more up to date. However, further research is often needed, especially for developers new to Twig. Information is freely available and often easy to find, so there's no real worries there.
In comparison, Perch has a very detailed documentation on both templates and page functions, but I do find it does lack just a little bit in certain areas, mainly when building add-ons really. The forum often patches these gaps and the support on there is fantastic, as is the community on the Perchology Slack channel.
Both Perch and Craft are both fantastic options for developers as well as for businesses. They offer a full suite of editing tools which give users flexibility whilst being lightweight and incredibly flexible.
When looking at Craft, it tends to be just that bit ahead in terms of features. If you take key areas of each of the management systems, often Craft turns out to be that little bit better in implementation, from Assets to the editing experience.
For smaller sites, Perch seems to fit the bill. The speed of which you can create sites is simply fantastic and it's pricing is more than reasonable. It also gives developers enough tools and options to create fantastic admin panels that provide most everything a smaller website needs.
For medium to large sites with more data types and dynamic data, I find Craft that bit more flexible and clearer to structure in the admin panel. The inputting of data in large amounts is just simply much better in Craft. It also has some more advanced features for larger sites and with the launch of Craft 3, it's is going to further push them ahead in this department.
So who's the true CMS winner? Both.