PHP Developer

My notes and thoughts about Linux, WordPress, PHP, WPML, Toolset and many more.

PHP Framework vs CMS: Which one you choose for your website project?

One of the most commonly asked questions by online entrepreneurs in starting an ambitious website project: “Which is better, starting a site using PHP framework or using CMS directly?”.

The best answer to this question depends entirely on the following:

a.) Your technical skills
b.) Your budget
c.) How your website will be used
d.) The complexity of your website
e.) The technical background of the people working behind you

Let’s examine one by one.

TECHNICAL SKILLS: If you are going to start a website and you do not have web design/development knowledge; you will end up hiring a developer to work on your website. Of course, once your website will be completed,you will be the one that will be managing the website. Using a PHP framework in starting a website requires you to be “proficient” both in PHP programming language and the framework. And if you are not technically proficient, I recommend you will choose CMS (Content management system) instead in starting your website.

The primary reason is that, when your website is done. Using CMS is a more user friendly approach to non-technical users like you. You can do basic task very easily such as: updating your website software, adding and editing content, adding videos and music, user management and adding basic features.

YOUR BUDGET: For big budget projects, you can choose both either PHP framework and CMS. But, not all CMS in PHP are released open source. However most of the released PHP framework are open source. This implies that if you have a budget, you can purchase even the best commercially available CMS for your website using PHP. And you can even get full technical support in installation, maintainance, troubleshooting. This is useful for non-technical entrepreneurs with big budget.

USE OF YOUR WEBSITE: If your purpose is sharing and publishing content in the web, the best choice is using CMS. But if your purpose is other than sharing content ; for example creating search engine, code library, etc; you can explore appropriate PHP framework to get started.

If your purpose is selling something on the web, there are a lot of CMS that fully supports e-commerce. In my experience, it can be technical tricky to a non-PHP user to use PHP framework and integrate e-commerce functionality such as selling products and services.

WEBSITE COMPLEXITY: PHP framework is more flexible in terms of website implementation. PHP framework can do a lot of things that CMS won’t. CMS is dictated strongly by its core source code which have specific functionality – serving and managing content.

If you are planning to create a very complicated website with hi-end features that cannot be found in CMS, you should select PHP framework. But bear in mind that since you are planning to create a sophisticated website beyond managing content, you should have the technical skills to manage it.

TECHNICAL BACKGROUND OF YOUR TEAM: If you have a dedicated technical team (such as a team of PHP programmers), there is no problem installing a PHP framework provided it can serve your content management needs.

However, if your team are non-technical persons- using a content management system will be sufficient for most task. There are a lot of successful websites on the web run by non-technical persons and it is using content management system. It does not need to be complicated like installing PHP framework. For example most notable bloggers, key speakers, economist and even engineers are running their own website using either Drupal, WordPress or Joomla which are a content management system.

The simplest way you can determine whether you need a PHP framework or CMS is look at the self-explanatory matrix below:

CMS vs PHP framework recommendation

For example; a beginner would like to set up a website with intention of purely publishing content. The recommendation is to use CMS only.

Featured image credits: javier.eguiluz

5 thoughts on PHP Framework vs CMS: Which one you choose for your website project?

  • Works for me!

    Might I strength at least ONE part of the article with respect to CMS vs. Framework? :

    I would like mention that it is based on the amount of time spent on organizing data as opposed to writing and updating the code. If more of your time is to be spent on managing large amounts of data ( as may be typical of the not-so-technically-proficient business-minded ), then most definitely YES, a CMS would be the best way to go.

    The one drawback that I understood clearly pointed out: A CMS is more specialized, and less flexible an option than a framework, but requires much less technical knowledge to use, once it is installed and ready for use.

    A framework would serve more as a “foundation” on which to build a new application ( or, set of applications ) where programming experience ( in PHP, especially ) is needed. There again, “with power, comes responsibility.”

    Good article! 🙂

    – Jim

    • Agree with the CMS being more specialized, you cannot expand its technical horizon once you installed that in the server unless you are changing its core source code which is usually not a great practice. Frameworks are the only options if you want a complex and high customizable site that you want. Cheers!

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