Wagtail vs Wordpress
How to choose the right CMS for your project
Wagtail and Wordpress are both excellent open source content management systems. Here are some things to consider as you decide which technology would work best for your project.
Deciding which content management system (CMS) to use for a new website can be a hard decision to make because there are so many open source and proprietary CMSs available today. If you're looking at Wagtail and Wordpress, chances are high that you want to use an open-source option. It's not always clear though which open source technology would work well for your particular project. So let's compare the advantages of Wagtail and Wordpress as well as what type of projects work well for each of them.
Wagtail is a CMS that is written in Python and incorporates the open source Django web framework. Django has been around for almost two decades and is used by companies like Spotify and Instagram. Wagtail was created in 2014 and has since been adopted by organisations such as NASA, Google, and the National Health Service. The advantages of Wagtail include:
- Customisation: From the data structures to the frontend, Wagtail is very easy to customize to meet the specific needs of a project.
- Flexibility: Wagtail scales very well and can be extended very easily to incorporate any custom features a project requires.
- Enterprise features: Wagtail includes permissions, workflows, reports, history tracking, and other features that large teams need.
- Security: Wagtail incorporates Django's security features, which includes protection against many common attack methods.
Wordpress is a CMS written in PHP that is typically paired with a MySQL database. Wordpress is nearly 20 years old and is so popular that 42.8% of the top 10 million websites use it. The advantages of Wordpress include:
- Rapid deployment: Because of it's famous, five-minute installation process, Wordpress makes it very easy to get a website deployed quickly.
- Low-code solution: Wordpress can be set up and installed without any coding, so it's a great solution for solo projects or small teams without a developer.
- Well-known CMS: As the most popular CMS on the planet, there is no shortage of people who can provide support for a project.
- Easy upgrades: The Wordpress project has a strong focus on backwards compatibility and making sure upgrades are relatively painless.
Wagtail is open source and has no licensing fees. Startup costs vary but will likely include paying a developer or agency for creating the website.
Wordpress is open source and has no licensing fee. Very cheap to start up and launch.
Incorporates Django, a modern web framework designed for efficiency and security.
Doesn't incorporate a web framework.
Wagtail is highly customisable and can be tailored to the needs of your project right away whether you're creating a blog, an app, or an online service.
Wordpress was designed for blogging. You'll have to do extra customisation to use it for non-blogging projects.
Wagtail is very easy to extend. Functionality can be added with packages or custom Python code. Custom SQL or database code is typically not needed, which reduces security risks.
Wordpress can easily be extended with plugins. Plugin code can involve manipulating SQL or the database in ways that can introduce security risks.
Wagtail is very scalable. Large amounts of content can be managed on most Wagtail websites without severely impacting performance.
Wordpress works best for smaller or intermediate size websites. Large numbers of plugins can affect performance.
Required technical skills
Developer skills are needed to set up and maintain a Wagtail website.
Developer skills aren't needed to set up and maintain a Wordpress website.
Includes workflows, permissions, commenting, reports, history tracking, and accessibility features typically required by large organisations.
Plugins or custom development is required to add advanced enterprise features to Wordpress.
Includes Django's advanced security features and protection against many common attacks.
Wordpress on its own provides good security but plugins can introduce security risks and performance issues.
Support and services
Free community support, paid support for organisations, and a worldwide network of agencies to collaborate with.
Free community support and an extremely large network of paid services, agencies, and self-service options.
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How easy is it to get started?
Both Wordpress and Wagtail are relatively easy to learn for developers and for content creators. They both have strong documentation, thriving communities that offer support, and intuitive user interfaces.
Currently, the key difference between the two is that you will need technical skills to launch a Wagtail website. Wagtail is ideal for teams and organisations that either have developers on staff or who are willing to hire a freelance developer or agency. Even collaborating with a developer, it typically takes at least a week to build a small Wagtail website. Wordpress, on the other hand, can be launched without a developer and can be launched in as little as a day.
So if you need a website really quick or can't afford to work with a developer, then Wordpress might be the best option for your project. If you have a modest budget and care more about investing in a website that will serve you or your organisation well over the long term, then Wagtail is probably a better choice for you.
How customisable are Wagtail and Wordpress?
Wagtail is highly customisable. You can customise your data structures and functions from the very beginning of a project in Wagtail using Django-style models, so you don't have to worry about trying to adapt functions that aren't made for what your project specifically needs. Wagtail also doesn't rely on or require a specific frontend framework, so you have the freedom to pair it with any frontend technology you prefer.
Wordpress is optimised for blogging. You can adapt the code and customise it to do other things, but you'll often have to work around infrastructure that wasn't meant to support the new features that you've added. Because Wordpress was designed to be a low-code solution, it also comes with a frontend built into it already that most people adapt through Wordpress themes. Customising the frontend often requires creating a custom theme.
If your project is mostly content-focused and you don't need a completely customised visual design, then Wordpress could be a good fit for your project. If you need more control over how your data is organised, want a customized site structure, or you want more control over the visual appearance of your project, then Wagtail would be the better option for you.
How secure are Wagtail and Wordpress?
Wagtail incorporates the advanced security features that are included in the Django web framework. These features protect against many common attacks, including cross site scripting, cross site request forgery, and SQL injection. The way Wagtail and packages that extend Wagtail interact with the database makes it a lot harder for malicious actors to target your website and steal data.
Wordpress is quite secure on its own. However, plugins can introduce vulnerabilities if they aren't up to date, aren't written well or aren't created with security in mind. The popularity of Wordpress also makes it a common and relatively easy target for hackers.
If you aren't planning to collect large amounts of data from users or to collect sensitive data like financial information or health information, then Wordpress could work well for you. After all, if you're just planning to publish articles about orchids, it's unlikely your website would be a particularly valuable target for hackers. If you are going to be collecting user information or working with sensitive data, then you'll want to choose a CMS like Wagtail that makes it more difficult for people to steal that data.
How extendable are Wagtail and Wordpress?
Both Wordpress and Wagtail can be extended fairly easily. Wordpress uses plugins, which can often be installed with one click and added to your website. There are thousands of free and paid plugins available for Wordpress. Wagtail uses packages, which need to be installed by a developer on the backend of your website. Currently, there are fewer packages available specifically for Wagtail, but many Django packages also work well with Wagtail.
One key difference between Wagtail and Wordpress is that Wagtail packages tend to continue working well as a website gets bigger and handles more traffic. Wordpress plugins, on the other hand, can often conflict with each other and have been shown to be a common source of performance issues.
If your project is relatively simple and won't require a lot of complex features powered by plugins, then Wordpress is a good choice for your project. If your project is more complex and will require a lot of additional features or if you have a large amount of website traffic, then you should consider Wagtail.
Which is a better investment for my project?
The answer to this question honestly depends on the type of project you're creating and what your timeline is. Here are the scenarios in which each CMS really shines.
Wagtail is great for:
- Organisations that produce and manage huge amounts of content
- Long-term projects that will grow steadily over time and need to support large numbers of users
- Medium to large teams that need built-in tools to organise their users and publication workflows
- Projects that need a lot of customisation or unique designs
Wordpress is great for:
- Solo projects or small teams
- Proof-of-concept projects that need to be launched really fast
- Teams without a developer
- Personal blogs or websites with relatively low amounts of traffic
Can I migrate from Wordpress to Wagtail?
Yes, you can! If you want to start out with Wordpress and eventually switch to Wagtail, that is an option for you. If you have outgrown your Wordpress site or need to change to a CMS that has more features for teams, there's a kit available to help you migrate your content. You can read more about it in our blog.