WordPress CMS vs PHP Framework

If there were a clear ‘best’ choice when choosing a method for publishing your site, there’d be no need for a discussion. In reality, of course, there are plenty of options at your disposal. Each can be appropriate, depending on your needs, expertise, and budget.

We’ve discussed WordPress many times within our Resource Center, and it’s our favorite option for getting a website up and running. However, a PHP framework – essentially a basic structure or platform for development – also offers plenty of flexibility, although at the cost of additional time and possibly money.

In this piece, we’ll look deeper into each of these solutions, and help you decide which one is best for you. Let’s get started!

What Is the WordPress CMS?

It’s difficult to sum up WordPress in just a few paragraphs, but let’s try. In a nutshell, it’s a type of program called a Content Management System (CMS). What CMSs do is help you create content and design your site, all within a visual user-friendly interface.

You can also extend the functionality of the core feature set in most CMS platforms. When it comes to WordPress, this is done through ‘plugins’ and ‘themes’, many of which are free to download.

There are also premium plugins and themes, offering more features along with better support and regular updates (in most cases). For example, StudioPress offers a collection of themes that each provide a unique look for your site, at fairly low prices.

The goal of WordPress is to give you practically everything you need to create a website out of the box (or within easy reach), regardless of your technical knowledge. As such, you’ll find many different types of users trusting in the platform, and a wide variety of sites built with it

In fact, WordPress is even considered an enterprise-level CMS, and powers many Fortune 500 and other business sites. This is mainly due to its extendable and heavily-customizable nature, along with its large community and plethora of quality hosting options.

What Is a PHP Framework?

To understand what a PHP framework is, you’ll ideally need a working knowledge of coding. PHP itself is a programming language, which helps you create websites, applications, and other tools. It’s actually the language that powers WordPress itself, so it’s more than suitable for the task at hand.

As for a ‘framework’, you can think of this as a flexible template. You’ll often find that certain powerful functions are included within a framework, based around the philosophies and goals of the creator, although that’s not a prerequisite.

In a nutshell, a PHP framework represents a bare-bones foundation that is used to build a site, providing a few of the necessary elements but requiring a lot of work on your end. As such, coding skills are necessary, as is the required budget for the site development process.

CMS vs Framework

Now that we’ve looked at the broad differences, let’s discuss how a CMS and PHP framework differ more specifically. What follows are four key factors that illustrate the primary distinctions between the two solutions.

1. Security

Security is a primary consideration for practically every website owner. Failure to secure your site properly, regardless of its goals, can result in sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. In turn, this could lead to all sorts of financial and legal difficulties.

On the surface, a CMS could be called more secure, as inherent security can be built into the platform itself. However, a PHP framework is a ‘lower-level’ solution. Given this, you can essentially add whatever security solutions you need into the base functionality of your site.

2. Flexibility

You could argue that flexibility isn’t always a primary concern, especially if you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with the site you’re building. In those instances, a niche-specific solution will often be more suitable.

However, consider the many third-party services you may use – especially if you’re running an eCommerce site. For example, order processing, marketing platforms, and plenty of other tools and features will need to slot seamlessly into the site-building solution you choose.

A CMS usually offers a lot of choices, and this is particularly true when it comes to WordPress. However, adaptability for those with specific requirements is often lower than what a PHP framework provides. Much like with security, a framework offers a greater scope for what you can achieve, largely thanks to its low-level architecture.

3. Upgrades

The internet is a constantly-evolving technology. As such, we’re used to constant updates and bug fixes that keep the wheel turning efficiently, and help website visitors stay secure.

You’ll often find that a CMS will receive near-perpetual updates to add new features, fix bugs, improve security, and implement user feedback. For example, WordPress maintains a roadmap outlining the major release history for the platform, which is very active.

In contrast, a PHP framework is not usually updated that consistently. This is because the responsibility for improving functionality and security is in the hands of the developer working directly with the language. However, this doesn’t make it any less stable in theory.

4. User Experience

Finally, User Experience (UX) is another a key concern for practically all website owners, especially those developing sites in-house. The user-friendliness of your chosen platform is going to play a large part in your efficiency and the effectiveness of the final product.

As you can imagine, given that a PHP framework is designed for developers working with a low-level programming language, the UX is usually quite basic. On the other hand, since a CMS like WordPress serves as a less technical entry point into developing a website, having an attractive Graphical User Interface (GUI) is key. As such, a CMS will be ideal if you need clarity during development and use.

Choosing the Best CMS or Framework for Your Site

At this point, you’re probably leaning towards one side of the fence or the other. Users wanting flexibility and robustness wrapped up in a stable and secure package will likely want to opt for WordPress. Those with coding knowledge (or access to it) are more likely to consider a PHP framework.

Of course, there’s more to the choice than just those two factors. As such, you should endeavor to carry out as much research as possible before making your ultimate choice. For example, we’ve previously written an in-depth article on choosing a CMS, which can offer more insight into your options.

In a nutshell, you’ll always want to choose the option that’s best for your specific site and needs. It’s best to consider the long-term goals for your project, rather than be swayed by transitional factors such as budget or others’ opinions.

Improving the Digital Experience for Your Customers

Ultimately, either a CMS or framework can help you improve the digital experience for visitors to your website. Regardless of the solution you choose for getting your site up and running, however, you’ll need a suitable web host to power it. WordPress users should turn to a company with a proven track record in quality customer support, dependable and scalable functionality, and reasonable pricing.

WP Engine can be the answer to all of those needs. We’re adept at helping users of all stripes set up and run a website, and would love to welcome you into the family. Check out our framework, Genesis Framework, and our plans for more details on what we provide!

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