CMS or PHP Framework: Which technology is better for my business?

A business technical comparison of CMS and PHP frameworks

Four features distinguish CMS from PHP frameworks. When setting out to build a website for a company, having the client understand these differences will make for a smoother road in development and website maintenance.

CMS and PHP Frameworks: Defined

CMS stands for Content Management System. As the name implies, CMS gives you, the business owner, the ability to manage the content of your website. Once the website is built you can login and access any functions. You can change text on a specific page, run an eCommerce store, add new products, manage inventory, change pricing and perform any number of functions once you get into the back-end of your CMS-based website. Then you do not have to completely rely on your developers to make changes to the website. The most popular CMS options include WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

A framework is a user-written, custom code within a predefined set of rules. This allows developers to develop modules and applications using core library functions, with PHP as the primary programming language. It can also consist of other frameworks to add support for various features. Working with frameworks, developers can build a more customized website, but the site must be designed and maintained exclusively by the IT team. The actual users of frameworks are technical users. A non-technical user would get lost in the programming language and functions of the website. Popular PHP frameworks include Laravel, CodeIgniter and Zend Framework.

Four Differences in Features

To further understand whether to choose a CMS or PHP framework, consider four important features in building and maintaining a website:


The four functions of Security, Flexibility, Upgrades and the User Experience (UX) are managed differently in CMS and PHP frameworks..

#1.  Security
Today for an online business website or application, security is the biggest concern. Hackers try to find ways to attack a website, to destroy or to change the way the website looks. This can decrease the value of a business website.

Most CMS are open source and the code base is open to everyone. There are various communities who develop plug-ins, widgets or modules for CMS.  When developers find vulnerabilities they launch a newer version of that feature with a safe code. It is important to install a reliable plug-in on a CMS site, from trusted sources.

Websites developed using PHP frameworks are more secure in comparison to CMS. Since they use custom code, it is more difficult to breach their security. Most frameworks also have built-in functions for encrypting and protecting against common vulnerabilities including:

  • SQL Injection
  • Cross Site Scripting (XSS)
  • Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Conclusion: Well-developed PHP framework websites are more secure.

#2.  Flexibility
Based upon business requirements, your website may need to have various functions and integration with third-party applications. Sometimes you need your website to perform operations which are independent of each other and connect with various systems as well. For example:

  • Your website needs to integrate with a CRM, like Salesforce, to send contact registration data
  • Your website needs to connect with an order-processing system, like FileMaker, where your customer orders need to be processed independent of your website but the actual orders are generated from your website.

While CMS sites can have a variety of functions in applications, those applications are not very flexible. Since the applications are pre-made, creativity can sometimes be limited. A number of modules and plug-ins within a CMS website may require making a lot of custom development as well. Frameworks contain various library functions and can be easily customized based upon the requirements of the business.

Conclusion: When it comes to flexibility, PHP frameworks are ahead of CMS.

#3.  Upgrades
Getting your business website updated with the latest code functions is really important. Upgrades help with website security.

CMS has updates almost every month. The website should be updated with the latest upgrades as soon as it is available. Even if not updated, the website would function, but the site would not be as secure or user-friendly. The following are upgrades common in CMS:

  • Security patch
  • New features
  • Support for SEO
  • Support for new plug-ins

Frameworks do not have very frequent updates compared to CMS. Most PHP frameworks have updates regarding new features, but not every month. Some can go six months without updates and still be secure and functional.

Conclusion: In regard to upgrades, choosing CMS or PHP frameworks depends on the business owner’s preference regarding updates. Either choice has its benefits and drawbacks

#4.  User Experience (UX)
CMS are built with the website manager in mind. Most CMS make it very simple to manage the website content. The business owner can change information on the website without a problem. CMS mostly provides responsive themes so that any module or plug-in placed on the website functions on a mobile device as well.

A PHP framework usually does not have the default standard user interfaces, which makes CMS so user-friendly. But developers can create an interface using the available library functions.  CSS frameworks like Bootstrap or SASS can be used with PHP frameworks in order to develop a site for the best user experience. Users can develop responsive sites using these front end frameworks.

Conclusion: CMS provides the best user experience with less effort.

What’s best for your business?
So how do you choose between a PHP framework and a CMS for your business website? By now you understand the core functions of the two and have an idea about how they deal with Security, Flexibility, Upgrades and User Experience. As a business owner, you understand what is important for your business, and depending upon your business requirements, you can decide which technology is best.

The Rubico team has enough experience and the skill set to help you define the right technology tool for your business website. Our team has competent resources on popular CMS including WordPress, Drupal and Joomla as well as PHP frameworks like CodeIgniter and Laravel. We understand the pros and cons of each technology solution and are capable of defining the right fit for your business.

Contact us:
We would be happy to answer any of your questions.

We create complex web and mobile applications. We bring together expert Indian developers – ranked among the top in their field – and India-based, American relationship managers, who provide stateside context for client’s needs and expectations. This combination creates a new kind of contracted development that doesn’t trade quality for cost.